The All Blacks versus Lions Forwards Second Test 2017 was another good contest.
Daily Mail Player Ratings
Let’s compare the All Blacks versus Lions Forwards Second Test 2017 performances. The highest rating for a Lions forward by the Daily Mail was a 9 for Itoje who did play well. The lowest ranked, on 7, was Furlong who bettered all but 3 of the All Blacks. Sam Cane was the top ranked from NZ with 7.5. Seems odd considering that after 24 minutes it was 8 Lions forwards versus 7 All Black forwards.
I am disregarding the Daily Mail rating for Vunipola who got a 4 for ill-discipline (but it is interesting that his score was only 1 point higher than Sonny Bill Williams. Williams generously got a 3 after being shown a red card).
These ratings suggest that the Lions forwards should have been superior to the All Black forwards.
Steve Hansen’s Decision
Once Sonny Bill Williams was marched for a dangerous tackle, Steve Hansen didn’t hesitate to take Jerome Kaino, a forward, off and replace him with a back. It seemed like a surprising thing to do as Kaino could have given some good go forward. He brought on Ngani Laumape, who was making his test debut. I can only guess that Steve Hansen regarded the Lion’s backs as a greater threat than their forwards.
I dispute the Lions being better up front. For half the match, with a forward down, I thought the All Blacks had at least parity in all areas. Statistics like NZ territory and possession greater than 60% reinforce this. NZ forwards made more line breaks, and it took Kyle Sinckler, a replacement prop to make the sole line break for the Lions forwards.
Who knows what the game plan was meant to be but with 14 men there weren’t too many opportunities to score tries. The All Blacks once again played like a northern hemisphere side out of necessity.
The Lions Brand Needed This Win
Both tests have been a wonderful showcase for rugby at a time when the Lions brand is under threat by rich club owners. The Lions won this match in the last few minutes with a close 24-21 victory. Jeff Wilson, the former NZ winger, put the match in perspective straight after the game on Sky Sports by saying imagine if the Lion’s hadn’t won against 14 men. Scott Quinnell and Will Greenwood silenced him as quickly as they could, but it was a poignant statement.
I’m pleased for Warren Gatland, who hasn’t deserved the disrespect he has received in the NZ media. With the third test coming up I can only hope that rugby commentators can take their eye patches off, get a bit of perspective and show some class in victory or defeat.
The British and Irish Lions have produced running rugby and been more dangerous through their backs in this test series. The All Blacks have matched or bettered the Lions forwards in both tests even with one man less.
Follow Up Question
Will Warren Gatland follow in the footsteps of Graham Henry via Wales and The British and Irish Lions to soon be the next All Black coach?
Author: Ivan de Farias
I’m an expat kiwi living across the ditch in Melbourne. I love sport especially soccer and rugby and it’s ironic that I can’t call either of them football as over here that is Australian rules.
I spend too much time staying up watching soccer at ungodly hours and playing fantasy football which I’m improving at.