All Blacks 21 Lions 24: Five things we learned

Sonny Bill’s rugby league roots, totemic Itoje, Barrett’s boot and Garces’ nerves of steel

Maro Itoje produced another impressive performance as the Lions beat the All Blacks 24-21 in Wellington. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty

Maro Itoje produced another impressive performance as the Lions beat the All Blacks 24-21 in Wellington. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty

 

SBW can’t shake his rugby league roots

Sonny Bill Williams is a Rugby League skin at heart. The high shot is part of his DNA. Once SBW saw the opportunity to sneak a shoulder into Anthony Watson’s face he couldn’t help himself. And in true All Black spirit, Williams couldn’t believe the decision. “It wasn’t a clumsy challenge,” said Sean Fitzpatrick, the former New Zealand captain on British television. “Uncalled for. Totally unnecessary.”

Jaco Peyper shouldn’t be let near another All Blacks Test

Loves a high tackle does Jaco. The South African referee has previous; he felt Sam Cane’s near-decapitation of Robbie Henshaw only merited an Ireland penalty while yellow sufficed for Malakai Fekitoa’s swinging forearm on Simon Zebo in Dublin last November. Here, he felt compelled to plant doubt in Jerome Garces mind after SBW’s ridiculously irresponsible shoulder charge that compressed Watson’s head into his neck. Garces had another look in slow motion and would have been forgiven for inquiring if Peyper has a holiday home in the Queenstown hills. “No choice,” the French man informed Kieran Read. “Direct charge.”

Garces showed nerves of steel, staring down Read when awarding the Owen Farrell penalty in the 77th minute. “So, next time I can jump into a tackle and get a penalty?” Read asked the French man after Charlie Faumuina tackled Kyle Sinckler.

All Blacks 21 Lions 24 - highlights

Vunipola’s moments of madness nearly cost Lions

A headless prop can cost you the series. Mako Vunipola was warned by Garces on 52 minutes to “be careful” after his late tackle on Beauden Barrett. Seconds later he had to walk for dropping his arm into Barrett, again, off the ball, while the outhalf sat on the wrong side of the ruck. Garces edged towards a penalty but the crowd, the TMO, the big screen meant a yellow was inevitable.

Itoje totemic

Never mind the two penalties after half-time, Maro Itoje must start every game Saracens, England and the Lions play until the return to New Zealand in 2029 (what will be his fourth Lions tour and third as captain). Immense and so much more to come. Also, if Alun Wyn Jones was injured or concussed in the first Test he fully recovered within seven days. And Courtney Lawes proved Warren Gatland’s locking calls were spot on. Same goes for the new 10-12 combination. Johnny Sexton, in a passing masterclass, out the back to Owen Farrell led to Toby Faletau’s try.

Barrett’s boot lets All Blacks down

Sorry Beaudie, to be the best outhalf on the planet you have to kick your goals. Especially in front of the posts. And still, Barrett was given enough shots to deliver all 21 points in a seven from ten return. That won’t win New Zealand a World Cup in Japan. Could conceivably cost them this series.

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