Last Word on Rugby Contributors End of Tour ‘Lions Series Wrap’ 2

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New Zealand v British & Irish Lions
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 01: A general view of the International Test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions at Westpac Stadium on July 1, 2017 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

The DHL Lions Series has concluded, with a drawn series after the 15-15 result on Saturday. The All Blacks have been held from their ambition of holding back the best of Britain. And with this second Lions series wrap it is time to reflect on the highlights and best combined starting XV.

Over the course of the British and Irish Lions tour, many Last Word on Rugby contributing writers have covered this highly popular series. From the squad selection in April, our team has analysed and followed the action on the field, and off, right up to July 8.

To finalize our LWOR coverage, each writer has been asked to provide a ‘Top moment’ and to list their starting XV from a combination of New Zealand and British and Irish Lions players. The second in our end of Lions series wrap begins with Senior Editor, Steve Kendall.

Humour Has It’s Place Among the ‘Slings and Arrows’ of Sport

For me, the moment of the tour came after the final test had finished. The trophy presentations had been completed, speeches made and families reunited. As the players and management entered the tunnel, there was the remaining formalities of the post match press conference. And it was here that my ‘moment of humour’ happened.

After being criticized over selection, lambasted for his so-called devaluation of the shirt in the call up of the ‘geography-six’ and having to watch the team he was coaching go up against a side containing his own son, Warren Gatland was able to answer his harshest detractors in emphatic fashion and also take the moral high-ground.

New Zealand Press Show Poor Form on Tour

The New Zealand press have not let up in their derision of the Lions’ head coach. Indeed, the whole of the rugby world has been treated to the delights of the NZ Herald, inclusive of some of the worst sports journalism imaginable.

This culminated in the Michael Cheika-esque treatment of Gatland, where the Herald cartoonist mocked him in the run up to the third test, illustrated as a clown.

However, unlike the over-reaction that the Australian coach exhibited when challenging the same Herald treatment, it was Gatland who had the last laugh. Once the series had been settled, with honours even, he was ready to face his critics.

As the members of the press assembled post-game, ready to talk about the final crucial minutes that decided the series, Gatland entered the room wearing…..you guessed it…..a red nose!

It was an act that reminded us what these tours are really about. Despite the professionalism and marketing involved these days, this is still a coming together of cultures within a sport that we all love. It was, for me, the ultimate example of good sportsmanship and good humour, and long may it continue in Rugby.

Steve’s Combined DHL Lions Series Starting XV

  1. Mako Vunipola
  2. Codie Taylor
  3. Tadhg Furlong
  4. Maro Itoje
  5. Brodie Retallick
  6. Sean O Brien
  7. Sam Cane
  8. Taulupe Faletau
  9. Aaron Smith
  10. Jonny Sexton
  11. Julian Savea
  12. Ngani Laumape
  13. Jonathon Davies
  14. Rieko Ioane
  15. Anthony Watson
On Balance – 7 All Blacks/8 Lions

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The second ‘Top moment’ of this Lions series wrap is from contributor Alistair Stokes.

20 Meter Line Break Confirms Kyle Sinckler’s Reputation

First half red cards, length of the field tries, a series decider and penalty kicks to win in the dying minutes. As far as entertainment goes, you couldn’t have asked for much more of the British and Irish Lions tour. And, with that high excitement, I’m not sure my heart could have coped with anymore than three tests!

From this Lions fan, my top 10 moment came from the young, excitable, English prop Kyle Sinckler. He was one of the men who began this tour with a huge reputation. And to his credit, he reinforced that–especially in the fourth game of the tour.

Highlanders v British and Irish Lions

The match might well have ended in defeat, but in the 35th minute, Kyle Sinckler made his mark on this reporter. He did it with a 20-meter line break, blasting through the Highlanders defense. Throwing a sumptuous wide pass, that was unfortunately knocked on by former Super Rugby player Jared Payne.

His skills are usually unheard of from a frontrower, and a northern hemisphere one at that!

Note: Video only available in selected regions. Credit: Lions YouTube page.

For me, this summed up the series for the Lions; creating enthralling attacking opportunities only to fail to capitalize on them. During the Highlanders match, you have to commend an eight test capped tight-head to (a) hit a gap at pace and (b) execute a 10-meter wide pass on the run.

Sinckler displayed a skill many centers would do well to pay attention to. If the Lions had finished these chances off with efficiency that New Zealand sides often demonstrated, the series result could have been very, very different. His cameo role was worthy of a place in our Lions series wrap.

Alistair’s Combined DHL Lions Series Starting XV

  1. Mako Vunipola
  2. Jamie George
  3. Tadgh Furlong
  4. Brodie Retallick
  5. Maro Itoje
  6. Taulupe Faletau
  7. Sean O’Brien
  8. Kieran Reid
  9. Aaron Smith
  10. Jonathan Sexton
  11. Anthony Watson
  12. Owen Farrell
  13. Jonathan Davies
  14. Rieko Ioane
  15. Liam Williams
On Balance – 4 All Blacks/11 Lions

Notable mentions: Sam Cane, Beauden Barrett, Conor Murray, Sam Warburton, and of course Kyle Sinckler. Many of these names will secure places off the bench.

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The third ‘Top moment’ of this Lions series wrap is from contributor Scott MacLean.

Westpac Stadium Resumes It’s Place as Center of Attention

After the relatively comfortable All Blacks win in the opening test, the stakes and hype were high for the second match in Wellington. The thrilling midweek 31-all draw with the Hurricanes only added to that, and with so much attention, it was natural that all the bars in the capital were full.

25 minutes into the Westpac Stadium test (see main picture), with the score poised at 3-3, then came the pivotal moment of; not just the match, but the Series as well. Lions wing Anthony Watson fielded the ball, stepped out of one tackle and took the ball upfield. There he ran into a pair of All Black tacklers – Waisake Naholo and Sonny Bill Williams.

Immediately a number of Lions players appealed and raised their arms in the air. A cry rang out from the crowd and Watson lay linp on the ground. Once referee Jerome Garces stopped play and consulted with TMO George Ayoub, it became clear why.

Pivotal Moment of Second Test, and Lions Series Wrap

Naholo’s challenge was legal, while Williams’ was not; he tucked his arm and leading with his shoulder that made contact directly with Watson’s head. There was no doubt in the French whistlers mind, Williams was shown a straight red card. [Just the third All Black ever] Williams was ordered off, to the delight of the thousands of Lions fans.

The Lions would eventually make that man advantage tell, coming back from 18-9 down to win 24-21 and send it to a decider. And Williams added another chapter in his record, as one of New Zealand sports most polarizing figures.

It truly was a moment that will be recalled in Pub Quiz nights, for many years to come!

Scott’s Combined DHL Lions Series Starting XV

  1. Mako Vunipola
  2. Codie Taylor
  3. Owen Franks
  4. Brodie Retallick
  5. Maro Itoje
  6. Sam Warburton
  7. Sean O’Brien
  8. Kieran Read
  9. Conor Murray
  10. Beauden Barrett
  11. Elliot Daly
  12. Ngani Laumape
  13. Jonathan Davies
  14. Anthony Watson
  15. Jordie Barrett
On Balance – 7 All Blacks/8 Lions

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Read our first Lions series wrap feature here.

There we have it, but what are your thoughts? Leave a comment and share with your rugby mates, to have your say on our contributors teams selections.

“Main photo credit”

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