Best of the reactions to the Lions victory in Wellington


Best of the reactions to the Lions victory in Wellington

The Lions squared the Test series with New Zealand thanks to a 24-21 success in Wellington that understandably drew plenty of praise both at home and abroad.

Tries from Taulupe Faletau and Conor Murray, along with 14 points from the boot of Owen Farrell, were enough to see the Lions overturn a second-half deficit to claim victory.

Attention now turns to the third Test in Auckland, but before we get to Saturday, we’ve taken a look at some of the reactions from pundits and former players to the win.

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First up is Lions legend Sir Ian McGeechan, who spent the game in hospital because of a bug he had picked up. That meant he was unable to follow the game as planned, but he quickly reassured fans in his Telegraph column.

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He said: “Following the second Test from a hospital bed in Wellington via updates on social media was certainly a strange experience but the Lions’ victory was the best tonic I could have wished for.”

Similarly in the Telegraph, Brian Moore remembered the last time the Lions found themselves level after two Tests in New Zealand, in 1993, urging the current team to stay grounded after the win.

He said: “This feat puts the Lions in a similar position to that of their 1993 counterparts, of which I was one. We squared the series in Wellington with one of the best Lions performances in New Zealand, and went to Eden Park with high hope of taking the series.

“As it happened, despite getting an early lead, we were eventually dispatched with disappointing ease and by 30–13.

“Looking back, I think we were a little too pleased with our second-Test win. We had physically beaten the All Blacks and the margin of victory was one of the highest recorded by the Lions.

“I do not think we displayed the desperation that we had done in Wellington, when we faced ignominy had we lost.”

Ireland No 8 Jamie Heaslip, a two-time tourist, spoke on Off the Ball, and was particularly impressed with the performance of Leinster teammate Sean O’Brien.

He said: “It doesn’t take a lot to get that kid going. His game is such that he can shine in all sorts of conditions. So, if it’s a game where it’s dry and it’s open, he’ll get his hands on the ball and he’ll play. He’s so strong and his centre of gravity is so low…just the bulk, you know what I mean? He’s bloody hard to tackle. Trust me, I’ve been training with the man for the last ten years – I know all about it! And he’s got skills as well to play and offload.

“But then when it’s a wet game, he’s in there – he’s like a groundhog on the ball, like. And when he gets on it he’s like a tick, man. He’s dug in. He’s not coming out.

“So he’s able to adapt his game no matter what. I’d say he’s very happy with how he’s playing!”

Gavin Hastings was part of that team with Moore in 1993, he was back in Wellington and thrilled to be part of the occasion.

He said: “That final whistle will be a moment that will live with everyone who was there for a very long time.

“We are all supporters. To share in that joy of victory was amazing.”

Gavin Hastings and Sean Fitzpatrick were the two captains the last time the Lions played a deciding Test against New Zealand in 1993

Jeremy Guscott was the hero in the second Test in 1997 against South Africa, and the centre highlighted the partnership of Johnny Sexton and Owen Farrell in the 10-12 axis as one of the keys to the win.

In his BBC column he said: “The big talking point before kick-off was Gatland’s selection of Owen Farrell at 12 to provide a second playmaking option alongside Johnny Sexton at fly-half.

“Ultimately, on balance, that selection was justified.

“Farrell and Sexton do not knock people back and the All Blacks made yardage down that 10-12 channel.

“But that vulnerability is the price you pay for having the two best readers of the game on the pitch at the same time and sharpening the tourists’ attacking edge.

“Their run-around play – combined with quick hands from Elliot Daly and Liam Williams – sprung Anthony Watson down the right wing before they cannily used the space created on the opposite side to put Taulupe Faletau in.

“For Conor Murray’s score, it was a deft pop from Sexton to put Jamie George into space and a crafty clear-out of TJ Perenara from Farrell to open the way to the line for the scrum half.”

From a New Zealand perspective, Nick Evans has tipped the All Blacks to produce a reaction in Auckland, but was very impressed by the Lions.

The former fly half, who played against the Lions in 2005, said in his Guardian column: “The first thing we can expect from the All Blacks is a reaction. We got one from the Lions after the first Test and I am sure there will be one from New Zealand.

“Listening to Wyatt Crockett after the match he said there was 10 to 15 minutes of disappointment, as there should be after a game like that, but then the senior players spoke and the attention turned to preparations for next week.

“It is a winner-take-all, it is a pressure‑cooker situation, just like the week leading into the World Cup final in 2011.

“And Auckland is going to be buzzing. On Thursday there is a parade for the America’s Cup – there is going to be huge excitement for that – and then the sea of red will start coming in from Wellington.”

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