World rugby has a series decider every bit as big as a World Cup final after the British and Irish Lions leveled the series against the All Blacks in Wellington.

It is also the result every neutral wanted.

If not in Wellington, given the match circumstances, then never for the Lions.

The Lions played 15 versus 14 for 50 minutes after Sonny Bill Williams was correctly red carded in the first quarter and outscored the All Blacks two tries to nil.

It was the most uncharacteristic implosion of stupidity from Williams and the punishment was his team lost.

Somehow it seemed the world champion All Blacks would survive Williams’s departure because of a combination of their class and the Lions collective disregard for discipline.

Beauden Barrett kicked seven penalties but he also missed three that would have shut out the Lions and won New Zealand the series.

Barrett is a magnificent athlete and a revelation in the game but as a Test flyhalf he is still second best to Dan Carter’s decade of genius.

Barrett’s goalkicking career accuracy is 71 percent and it needed 80 percent from him to fashion an unlikely All Blacks win.

The Lions discipline was diabolical in the opening quarter of the second half and they gave Barrett five opportunities to seal a series win. His goalkicking wasn’t good enough and his two misses kept the match in the balance.

The Lions in the final 10 minutes were controlled and composed and it is in this period that they did enough to secure a famous win.

The All Blacks must be applauded for how they fronted with just 14 players and how they competed given the reshuffles in the backs and forwards, but the Lions players would never have recovered mentally had they lost a game with such a decided advantage.

The decider in Auckland will be brutal and if the All Blacks keep 15 players on the field for the entire match I believe they will win emphatically. For now they lost and the accolades go to the visitors who refused to surrender when trailing 18-9 and 21-14.

All Blacks captain Kieran Read complimented the Lions defence and quality of play in the final 10 minutes. Read said they shut down the All Blacks attack and deserved the result.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said the commitment of his players was exceptional but the discipline and accuracy were not. He congratulated the Lions, acknowledged they deserved the victory and said his team would come back stronger in Auckland for the series decider.

Lions captain Sam Warburton was quick to point out the significance of the one-man advantage for such a lengthy period, but equally he savoured the quality of the win and the fight, spirit and class of his players.

The Lions in the final 10 minutes were better than New Zealand. They looked the more likely to score tries and break the 21-all deadlock.

The Jonny Sexton/Owen Farrell No 10 and No 12 combination unlocked a New Zealand defence that was always in trouble the moment Williams was red carded.

The Lions defence was also magnificent to keep the All Blacks tryless, but the All Blacks lost their attacking potency when they lost Williams.

The limpness of the All Blacks attack was further exposed when Aaron Cruden played flyhalf for the last 15 minutes and Barrett was moved to fullback.

Cruden’s decision-making was poor and his cross kick option with 90 seconds on the clock was just a bad choice. The All Blacks trailed by three points but they had the field position and most importantly the possession. It was the meekest of surrenders to what had been a heroic team effort with the one player disadvantage.

The Lions, unlike most Test teams, had the quality of player to close out the game once they finally got ahead on 76 minutes.

The send off of Williams added to the drama of the occasion and there was uncertainty about the winner until the 79th minute. The rugby was tough without being terrific, but there’s no denying just how terrific the result is for the Lions, the neutral and international rugby.

*How the NZHerald rated the players

*Kiwi Rugby Writer Liam Napier’s view

*The British view from Independent

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  • Drewster

    I would love the Lions to beat the All Blacks in the series, as it would do wonders for World Rugby. It would be nice if the All Blacks could be reduced to mere mortals again, where we actually might have a chance of beating them.

    In my opinion the score in the first test flattered the All Blacks a bit although they deserved the win, it might have been a bit different if the Lions has finished their chances like they did in the second test.

    Looking forward to the game

  • It would be a great result for the world game but we’ll agree to disagree on the first Test scoreline being flattering to All Blacks. They hammered them in first Test and were leading 21-14 (with 14 men) until late in the 2nd Test. I believe the #AllBlacks will win comfortably in the series decider.

  • Drewster

    Was a tight game and you were proven wrong with the comfortable #AllBlacks win. I think this proves that they aren’t quite as strong as we thought any more.

  • Indeed I was wrong, but I think it is a more a case of the Lions being a lot stronger than many (myself included) thought. Garland pre tour said this was the strongest Lions side assembled in the professional era. Up against back to back world champions and over three Tests nothing (but a French referee) separated them. The All Blacks are as strong as they have been in the last seven years and they’ll prove that again when playing one nation and not the combination of four (in the Lions).

    Credit to the Lions. They deserve every bit of applause. They were superb to draw the series.

  • cab

    I think that ABs pack is not fantastic. No AB pack is every weak but I think they can be overcome. No 7 cane, unbelievable good in 3rd test. Guy is over and into everything. That is how a 7 should play.

    The AB backline is another matter entirely. Untouchable, tho Hansen has picked and played v ordinary. That’s where it should’ve been won in 2nd test, put the cubs to bed already then and there.

    I’m definitely reckon Boks got a sniff if we pitch and play positive (proper Gauteng Lions) rugby looking for tries for 80 mins. Take it to the ABs. Always been the way of best Bok sides