New Zealand media reaction as the Lions beat the All Blacks.
Owen Farrell’s 78th minute penalty is what ultimately settled this titanic struggle with the All Blacks but it was a moment of madness from Sonny Bill Williams that was the biggest talking point.
The All Black centre’s reckless shoulder charge to the head of Anthony Watson was given the appropriate sanction by Jerome Garces. Even with the numerical advantage the Lions ill-discipline almost cost them the game and with it the series.
Had Barrett been better off the tee, next week’s game in Auckland would certainly be a dead rubber. The New Zealand media reaction has been stinging to say the least with Williams taking the brunt of their ire.
Mark Geenty, writing for Stuff.co.nz, was especially critical of the All Blacks centre.
SBW. Sonny Bill Williams, New Zealand’s best known and most polarising sportsman. Insert variations here, and thousands did in the aftermath: B for blundering, maybe even brainless; W for, well, take your pick.
What was he thinking? In one of the biggest tests of his and his team-mates’ careers? That they went on to lose 24-21?
That kind of Sonny Bill shoulder charge used to bring Bulldogs or Roosters National Rugby League fans to their feet as he launched like a 100kg missile, smashed the ball carrier around the chest with no arms and stood over him like a colossus. Team-mates would run from everywhere to back slap him.
Just after 8pm last night who knows what kind of slapping his All Blacks team-mates or coach Steve Hansen had in mind.
Fellow Stuff.co.nz writer Mark Reason cited Williams’ rugby league past in his stinging criticism of the former Bulldogs and Roosters NRL player.
‘It was the tackle of a man who still hasn’t got the violent stupidity of rugby league out of his system.’
Can it really be 50 years, half a century, since an All Black got a red card, not that they had red cards back in 1967? They hadn’t even put a man on the moon then. Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy were crooning somethin’ stupid.
Half of New Zealand, the SBW haters, will also now be chanting ‘somethin stupid’. But the Lions will just be thankful. This moment of madness has rescued their tour. It may even have preserved the future of Lions tours in New Zealand. Who would have thought that SBW would be the man who saved Lions rugby.
The New Zealand Herald‘s Gregor Paul said the All Blacks management could have no qualms with the colour of the card handed out by Garces.
There can’t be any complaint with the colour of the card. The head is sacrosanct and accidental, deliberate, clumsy, badly timed, unlucky…doesn’t matter the nature of the contact.
The image was undeniable: Williams’ shoulder connected with Anthony Watson’s head and there weren’t a lot of arms to at least soften the impression it looked like something straight out of the NRL.
On a more positive note for the Lions, Conor Murray and Sean O’Brien both received eights in Stuff.co.nz‘s player ratings. Garryowen and Munster’s Conor Murray was once again lauded as the best scrum-half in the world.
The world’s best halfback scored the all-important second try. Belted one box kick into touch and cost the Lions three points for a high tackle. Showed his vision and almost conjured a late first half try with his swirling crossfield kick from a penalty.
Leinster’s Sean O’Brien’s contribution was also highlighted. The back rower put in another huge shift and was excellent in both defence and attack, constantly breaking the gain line while shunting All Black ball carriers back on their heels.
One of the Lions’ best all series, a damaging ball carrier and abrasive in the tackle. Consistent performer. Had a great honours-even battle with Sam Cane.
Liam Napier of the New Zealand Herald said the Lions pack was a different animal to last week’s ‘imposters’.
The Lions were exponentially better in several areas in Wellington.
Cast your mind back one week and we can now safely say their forward pack that turned up at Eden Park were imposters. They sure left embarrassed after their tight five was brutally exposed time and time again.
Wet and windy, this was their kind of night. This display is what we had come to expect from the Lions. Aggressive. Physical. Combative.
The Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell selection gamble was not a deal breaker but having two playmakers on the pitch helped decision making.
All in all the Lions management will be delighted that the series will be going to a winner takes all decider next week. The might have huffed and puffed but they eventually broke down the door and got the levelling win.
A solid week of training, cut out the ill discipline and the Lions will be well prepared to go to battle next week in Auckland.