TV View: Sky falls in on Sonny Bill and the All Blacks

‘Some of us wondered when there are so many men on a rugby pitch, would one be missed?’

Beauden Barrett down injured during the game. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Beauden Barrett down injured during the game. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

Sky had done the most Sky thing ever by beginning the morning quoting Theodore Roosevelt ahead of Warren Gatland’s men entering the Wellington arena. “If he fails, at least [he] fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat,” whispered the voice over a shot of Sam Warburton staring in to the camera and looking quite determined.

Rather stirring. But come full-time the only historic quote that sprang to mind was the one containing the immortal words of Miley: ‘Well, holy God.’

When the camera panned around the crowd in the Westpac Stadium, there were grown men crying and kissing the Standard Life Investment logos on their Irish (and British) Lions jerseys.

“Now they have a chance of sporting immortality,” Miles Harrison hollered. “But New Zealand have to be favourites going in to the final test,” said Stuart Barnes in what was the wettest blanket moment in sporting history. “We know that you dipstick, just let us enjoy the bloody moment,” Miles probably came close to replying.

Until Owen Farrell kicked that penalty - and we’re assuming he did so successfully because the moment wasn’t viewable from behind the couch - the only consolation was that at least we could all have a lie-in next Saturday. Who, after all, gets up at 7:29:29 to watch live coverage of a dead rubber?

Conor Murray bursts over for his try. Photo: Anthony Phelps/Reuters
Conor Murray bursts over for his try. Photo: Anthony Phelps/Reuters

And the omens hadn’t been all that great, the Lions seemingly hell-bent on giving Beauden Barrett enough kicking opportunities to seal the series. This was especially unforgivable, Miles told us, in light of the fact that the All Blacks were a man down since the 25th minute when referee Jerome Garces put himself in line for a George Cross by sending off Sonny Bill Williams.

All Blacks 21 Lions 24 - highlights

Stuart reckoned Sonny might get a yellow for attempting to send Anthony Watson’s head in to the middle of next week, others thought it might be life without the possibility of parole, but Jerome settled for something in between, a red. He even resisted the TMO’s offer of another look, as if there’d be an angle that showed Anthony’s head only been shouldered as far as Monday.

“Well, well, well,” said Stuart. “That is a MASSIVE moment in the context of this series,” said Miles. Some of us wondered when there are so many men on a rugby pitch, would one be missed? But apparently yes, especially when it comes to the pushing and shoving parts.

Courage isn’t the absence of fear, courage is the collective triumph over that fear

To the untrained eye, though, the Lions seemed to struggle to put their extra human to good use, which frustrated the heck out of Will Greenwood and Scott Quinnell.

What we have learned over the past fortnight is that Will and Scott believe the key to success is not team selection, tactics and the like, it’s that the Lions believe. Really, really believe. And that they know that what they do in a Lions shirt will define them as men. And if, say, they think of their Mammies and those of us sitting on couches watching them, they’ll be home and hosed.

“Courage isn’t the absence of fear, courage is the collective triumph over that fear,” Will explained to us before we kicked off. “These boys will have to go deep inside themselves to overcome that fear . . . I want them to play for each other, the unbreakable Lions bond. I want them to play for that special person, the person who got them here - Mum, Dad, coach, teacher. And then I want them to play for the unknown fan, the man, the woman, the child they never meet who make this all a reality. If they do that, they’ll be ready. If they do that, they might just deliver the impossible.”

And then he clenched his fist, his soul neither cold nor timid. Eat your heart out, Theodore Roosevelt.

And just when it was odds-on that we’d get that lie-in next Saturday, the Lions began doing it for their Mammies. A couple of tries and when Farrell converted the second to make it 21-21, Scott interjected as only Scott can. “This is absolutely the eight minutes of these players’ lives . . . they need now genuinely to look each other in the eye and beliiiIIIiiieve they can win this game.”

And, would you beliiiIIIiiieve it, young Farrell stepped up again and gave the dead rubber the kiss of life.

Alarm clock set, 7:29:29, Auckland. Sporting immortality beckons, so lay off the snooze button.

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