Kiwis start the series on the right note
April 12, 2013
Dwayne Peel battles against the elements
© Getty Images
Every Lions tour is a chemistry experiment, mixing diverse elements from four nations, whose outcome is unclear until the first test takes place.
The first testing of Clive Woodward´s heavily English-flavoured formula was a hopeless failure as they were resoundingly beaten in the wind and rain by the All Blacks.
Certainly little went right for the Lions, the loss of captain Brian O´Driscoll within 90 seconds a grievous blow.
But they did little to merit luck, and far too many players selected more on the grounds of past achievement and the judgment of them as big-game players than on form showed that their best times were well past.
Turning round 11 points down, but with the wind and rain on a foul night in their favour, the Lions needed a good start to the second half.
Instead they fell further behind as Danny Carter landed a penalty, then the All Blacks produced the best moment of the game - a superb attack initiated by Aaron Mauger slicing past Jonny Wilkinson and finding Tana Umaga who tore into the Lions 22 and found Sitiveni Sivivatu with a superb long pass.
The elusive Fijian-born wing gave the covering Josh Lewsey no chance as he wrong-footed him and slipped past to score.
Carter added the conversion.
The Lions only points came from a Wilkinson penalty midway through the half - the decision to kick booed by some Lions fans who felt a team 21 points down needed tries rather than penalties.
After a grim first-half, the Lions could feel relieved that they were only 11 points in arrears at the break.
The start could hardly have been worse as O´Driscoll was stretchered off with a dislocated shoulder within 90 seconds and replaced by Will Greenwood.
By quarter-time they had also lost Richard Hill, caught under a pile of players after a superb tackle on charging All Blacks lock Ali Williams and replaced by the in-form Ryan Jones.
They were also reduced to 14 men when Paul O´Connell was yellow carded for coming on from the wrong side at a ruck on the Lions line.
The Lions were struggling at the line-out, with the All Blacks stealing or spoiling a succession of their throws, and having to battle into a vicious crosswind and rain.
But a mix of All Black over-elaboration and fine tackling by the Lions - with Gareth Thomas´s effort to halt the powerful Keven Mealamu at the posts immediately before the ruck that led to O´Connell´s ten-minute expulsion - meant New Zealand had only two Danny Carter penalties to show for their early dominance.
The worst appeared to have passed, with the Lions restored to full strength with the return of O´Connell, when the All Blacks crossed their line.
Their problems started when Lewsey was beaten to Steve Jones´s ambitious cross-kick from a midfield penalty.
The All Blacks counter-attacked, with Leon McDonald charging up the left.
He was halted 25 metres out and driven into touch, but the Lions line-out problems continued and Williams snatched the ball from Shane Byrne´s put-in and charged to the line.
Danny Carter failed with the conversion and the All Blacks fell just short of a score again in the 32nd minute when Sivivatu was foiled by a high bounce after just edging out Thomas in a chase after Umaga´s grubber-kick.
Wilkinson failed with a kickable penalty just before the break, but with the wind and rain set to favour them after the break all did not then seem lost for the Lions.
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