The Lions have beaten the All Blacks only one series out of 11. This year Woodward's pride lost the Test series 3-0 and were outscored by 12 tries to three and 107 points to 40 by a rampant, brilliant All Blacks side.
At Eden Park, the Lions battled bravely but the match was always out of reach once the All Blacks had surged ahead with quick-fire tries from Conrad Smith and Ali Williams when Tana Umaga was in the sin-bin.
The Lions tried to cling on and Stephen Jones kicked four first-half penalties but Umaga broke their resilience with New Zealand's third try for a 24-12 lead at the interval.
Umaga crashed over for another immediately after the interval and although Lewis Moody burrowed over for the Lions, Rico Gear's intercept try in the last minute rounded off the series for New Zealand.
Woodward's final act in rugby before moving on to his new career as technical director of Southampton football club ended in defeat.
Both sides entered the match seriously hampered by injury. The All Blacks had to make five changes from their second Test XV but uncovered another gem in Luke McAlister, the 19-year-old debutant fly-half who stood in so confidently for the injured Daniel Carter.
The Lions also had to absorb five changes but still made another passionate start, exerting early authority up front to drive the All Blacks backwards and Jones slotted a fourth minute penalty.
Josh Lewsey and Gethin Jenkins then sparked an attack down the left wing before the Lions worked a four-on-one overlap - but the try-scoring opportunity was wasted. Donncha O'Callaghan ignored those outside him and charged to the line. The Irishman was stopped short and the Lions had to settle for another three points after Tana Umaga killed the ball.
Umaga was sin-binned for the professional foul but the Lions' profligacy was immediately and devastatingly punished as the short-handed All Blacks stormed into the lead. Smith ran a brilliant line and brushed off Geordan Murphy's feeble tackle to score the first. McAlister's conversion put the 14-man All Blacks one point ahead.
Moments later Dwayne Peel spilled a grubber kick on his own line. The Welsh scrum-half was hampered by Rodney So'oialo as he attempted to recover the mistake and Williams dived on the loose ball. The Lions' early pressure had been punctured. Umaga returned to the fray with his side 14-6 ahead. Jones slotted two more penalties, either side of one from McAlister, to keep the Lions in the hunt but with half-time approaching the next score was critical.
Umaga almost picked off an interception from Thomas' spinning pass and Jones hit the post with a penalty. Then it came. McAlister popped a pass out of the tackle and found Umaga rampaging through for New Zealand's third try just before the break.
And it took the All Blacks captain just seven minutes to repeat the trick after half-time as he ran through Paul O'Connell on the crash ball for his second score. Woodward began to ring the changes with Matt Dawson, Graham Rowntree and Shane Horgan all called into action, with the Irishman replacing captain Thomas in midfield.
The Lions were saved when Sitiveni Sivivatu had a try chalked off because Jerry Collins had been guilty of a late hit on Jones. The All Black blind-side flanker was sin-binned and this time the Lions worked the man-advantage in their favour.
Josh Lewsey was driven over but denied a try when the television replays proved inconclusive but they retained the pressure Lewis Moody touched down from another powerful drive. But Gear rounded off the match, the tour and the series with a breakaway score in the final minute but the Lions' fate had been long sealed.
|Tana Umaga (capt)||2||10|