All Blacks outmuscle B&I Lions
LIONS TOUR MATCH REPORT: New Zealand's 30-15 win over British and Irish Lions at Eden Park on Saturday just emphasised why they are simply the best team in the world.
The All Blacks outscored the Lions three tries to two, to maintain their 24-year unbeaten record at Eden Park.
After a fevered build-up to the game, the All Blacks made their mark early on with a penalty and Codie Taylor's converted try to lead 10-0, and they were ahead 13-8 at half-time.
But they were struggling to build on that lead in the second half before Rieko Ioane, selected ahead of prolific try-scorer Julian Savea, exploded into action.
Twelve years since the Lions were 'blackwashed' on their last visit to New Zealand, the game turned on a brutal scrum by the All Blacks.
It led to Ioane's first try and the second came when the All Blacks forwards secured turnover ball.
TJ Perenara, taking a leaf from the playbook of his Lions opposite scrumhalf Conor Murray, put in a box kick which Ioane gathered and raced away to score.
As expected, the Test was a collision of two distinct styles - enterprising running and audacious offloads, against box kicks and close-quarter charges - but with a twist.
The All Blacks countered the renowned Lions' defensive line speed by employing the visitors' tactics of a direct crash-and-bash up the middle.
Murray's clever box kicks, which caused the All Blacks much discomfort in the opening 30 minutes, faded as the Lions pack started to wilt.
The convincing victory kept alive the All Blacks' phenomenal record, with 47 victories in a row on home soil since 2009 and no defeats at Eden Park since 1994.
But it was a brutal, bloody encounter with collisions that rocked the Richter scale. The All Blacks lost both fullback Ben Smith (concussion) and outside centre Ryan Crotty (hamstring) in the first 30 minutes.
After being on the backfoot for the first 10 minutes, the All Blacks gave the Lions a taste of their own medicine with a series of charges through the middle which had the tourists scrambling before they eventually conceded a penalty, which Beauden Barrett converted.
Five minutes later, from a repeat of the same direct approach, the All Blacks won another penalty close to the Lions line.
While the Lions switched off, expecting a shot at goal, the All Blacks took a quick tap which resulted in a try to Taylor in the corner.
After an exchange of penalties by Owen Farrell and Barrett the Lions launched their running game with a counter-attack by Liam Williams inside his own 22 which caught the All Blacks off guard.
He offloaded to Jonathan Davies who took play deep into All Blacks territory, where the ever-present Sean O'Brien finished off a brilliant move.
In a torrid second half in the rain, the game broke open with Ioane's tries on 54 and 70 minutes.
Rhys Webb scored the Lions' second try on full-time to give the visitors hope ahead of next week's second Test in Wellington.
Man of the match: Anthony Watson, Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams did make some noteworthy breaks, but it was purely not enough to dent the All Blacks defense. Like always Beauden Barrett was on point with his kicking and resilient attack. But, the man of the match award has to go to Sam Cane, who was his usual robust self at the breakdown which put the opposition under pressure and won his side possession in crucial areas on the park.
Moment of the match: Liam Williams' break in the 36th minute, the wing started the move inside his own 22 and it was eventually rounded of by Sean O'Brien for the visitors first try of the match.
Villain of the match: Nobody at all.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Taylor, Ioane 2
Cons: Barrett 3
Pens: Barrett 3
For British & Irish Lions:
Tries: Sean O'Brien, Webb
New Zealand: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden/Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.
British & Irish Lions: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Ben Te'o, 11 Elliot Daly,10 Owen Farrell, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Peter O'Mahony (captain), 5 George Kruis, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Johnny Sexton, 23 Leigh Halfpenny.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Jérôme Garcès (France)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)