What started out as a promising and physically uncomprimising display from the British and Irish Lions turned into a match where the All Blacks dominated possession and territory, despite sustaining early injuries to Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty.
After Elliot Daly was stopped at the corner by a strong Israel Dagg tackle, the All Blacks raced to a 13-point lead through a Codie Taylor try and the boot of Beauden Barrett. Liam Williams sparked a possible Lions revival with a mazy and pacey run, which compiled with some slick offloads led to a Sean O’Brien try before halftime.
A positive start to the second half by the Lions was quickly scuppered, and the All Blacks dominated possession with Rieko Ioane grabbing an impressive double to give New Zealand a 30-8 lead. Rhys Webb made the most of his brief appearance by grabbing a consolation try at the death, showcasing his sniping abilities and making his case for a starting berth in the second Test.
The All Blacks managed to effectively shut the Lions out for large periods of this match through some hard-hitting and resilient defence, a solid scrum and seemingly superior fitness levels. They dominated the Lions in terms of carries made and highlighted why New Zealand is regarded as being the best rugby union playing nation by leaps and bounds (despite having a population half that of London).
New Zealand were much, much stronger than the Lions in almost every facet of the game. That said, all is not lost as we look forward to the rest of the series.
The teams go to Wellington for the second Test next Saturday, while seven days after that, it’s back to Auckland for the third and final Test. Lions fans will be hoping that it will be the decider, however, on today’s evidence, it could very well be New Zealand ooking for a whitewash.
Graham Manditsch, Pundit Arena