TV View: True believers or Archbishops of Banterbury?
Not infallible, not immortal, but plenty for the Sky boys to get excited about
Sam Warburton laughs at CJ Stander as he is startled by the fire works at the trophy presentation. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
No more than the players on the pitch at the end, Sky didn’t know what to be doing with themselves. Immortality, they’d told us, was beckoning, so they’d prepared for either (a) it being sealed or (b) it being cruelly snatched from the Lions’ claws at Eden Park. They hadn’t bargained on the sight of (c) Kieran Read and Sam Warburton getting a handle each of the trophy, so they were left to ponder whether (d) you can be half immortal?
Graham Simmons informed Sam come full-time that “they call it kissing your sister for a very good reason”, the Lions captain not looking all that convinced that the sharing of the series was akin to sibling-snogging, but it was an analogy Steve Hansen also used when he arrived for his chat with Graham a bit later, so that was that settled.
But perhaps the person who northern hemisphere folk most wanted to smooch when it was done and dusted was Romain Poite, those five magical words of his now 110 per cent immortal: “It was an accidental offside.” Even if he’d said ‘you have won the Lotto’, he wouldn’t have risked being smothered in any more kisses.
Alex Payne had welcomed us to Auckland by telling us that “it’s either sporting greatness, or a whole heap of despair - there is nothing in between”, so he got that entirely wrong, all concerned having a distinctly in-betweeny feeling when Romain ended the contest.
“At times it was like Joshua v Klitschko,” he said to a nodding Ian McGeechan and Rory Best, which was a reasonable comparison. When Anthony and Wladimir fought in Wembley earlier this year there was a spell in the bout when it looked like they’d knock each other out, leaving the referee with divil an arm to raise - and that’s pretty much what happened in Auckland.
An occasion this big doesn’t need to be hyped up too much, you don’t want to be too over the top about it
Ian and Rory, incidentally, were the two changes to the Sky line-up for The Decider, Ian returning after illness, Rory called up possibly to bring some composure to the team. “An occasion this big doesn’t need to be hyped up too much, you don’t want to be too over the top about it,” he said. Alex agreed wholeheartedly and then handed over to Scott Quinnell down on the pitch.
“THERE IS NOTHING BETTER IN THIS LIFE THAN CREATING HISTORY! DO NOT GO ANYWHERE BECAUSE YOU WILL ALWAYS WANT TO TELL PEOPLE ‘I WAS THERE’, ‘I WATCHED THIS GAME’! THIS IS GOING TO BE ONE OF THE GREATEST GAMES OF YOUR LIFE!”
Rory’s face said something like, ‘shoot me now’.
Scott then located Sean O’Brien’s nephews in the crowd, the clue to their identity on their banner (‘Go Uncle Sean’), but his chinwag with them didn’t go without a hitch, the nephews possibly thinking Scott was speaking Maori.
Scott to Nephew No 1: “Argh yooOOoou enjooOOooying the tooOOoour?”
Nephew No 1: “What?”
Scott to Nephew No 2: “Is uuUUuuncle SeeEEeean gooOOooing to win toniiIIiight for the LiooooOOOooons?”
Nephew No 2: “Ha?”
Will Greenwood, meanwhile, spun around in circles on the pitch while giving his pre-match address, enough to almost make you lose your boiled egg and soldiers, and the queasy feeling didn’t abate when Miles Harrison told us that this time around there would be 15 All Blacks on the field.
Stuart Barnes brutally observing that he’d, eh, been less than “infallible”
They made good use of a full team, too, we hadn’t even hit 10 minutes on the clock when a decidedly downcast Scott was talking about the need for Warren Gatland to empty his bench. Owen Farrell looked a likely contender to be placed on the bench, the lad having a ‘mare in the opening stages, Stuart Barnes brutally observing that he’d, eh, been less than “infallible”.
Somehow, though, and we’re talking water-to-wine stuff here, the Lions only trailed by six points at half-time, their hosts hospitably knocking the ball in a forward direction on most occasions they come close to scoring.
Second half. True, it was only rugby, but it was mighty. “Could. You. Ask. For. Any. More,” said Miles when Owen made it 12-12, Rory, over in Sky’s pitchside gazebo, pleading for calm. And then Scott grabbed the microphone. “DO. WE. BELIEVE. WE. CAN. WIN. THIS. TEST. SERIES? WE. HAVE. TO. BELIEVE. WE. CAN. WIN. THIS. TEST. SERIES.”
But then Stuart reminded us that he was still playing the last time the All Blacks lost in Eden Park, so that was a measure of the task, and with that Beauden Barrett popped a kick over and immortality was on its knees. It was up again, though. Farrell, 15-15. The boy is infallible. “The Lions are still shaking hands with history here,” Miles bellowed, but there was silence from Scott, the fella by now possibly stretched.
For that, some might argue, the All Blacks should have been awarded the series
Apart from the accidental offside moment, that was that. Even the fireworks seemed a little subdued. Not Scott, though. He was back on his feet, hugging and kissing Jonathan Davies like he was his sister, and generally accosting every passing Lion on the pitch. Will Greenwood, too. He seized James Haskell and dubbed him “the Archbishop of Banterbury”. For that, some might argue, the All Blacks should have been awarded the series.
Semi-immortality, then. Only 12 years to wait for another go at acquiring the full thing.