Rugby Union Expert & Columnist
Stuart Barnes' talking points: British and Irish Lions and New Zealand share the spoils
Last Updated: 03/08/17 2:24pm
Stuart Barnes on reflects on the third Test, picks his moments of the tour and looks at the performance of Romain Poite.
1. I can't believe it is over. Sitting in an airport lounge waiting to leave New Zealand after six weeks in this rugby mad land. The airport is packed with people in red.
The usual collective state of hangover is not its usual all pervasive self. I think this has everything to do with the draw. Like kissing your sister as Graham Simmons likes to describe it.
There was a strange sense of limbo in the stadium on Saturday night. The New Zealand fans were definitely deflated while the red hordes weren't quite sure whether it was a case of so near or so far.....considering the fact that they only led the series for three minutes (Gail Davis SSN is the source) and the All Blacks haven't lost at Eden Park since I was still playing, I reckon the Lions have more right to feel pride in their achievements.
In time this squad will recognise what an achievement a drawn series in New Zealand actually is.
2. Or maybe the All Black aura has been shattered.
A loss in Wellington, a draw in Auckland and instead of averaging something like five tries a game as they have been doing in the last few seasons, they managed five total in three games.
One of the great tricks of New Zealand rugby has been the ability to project themselves as something other....the Haka plays an intrinsic part in this little game.
Since England beat New Zealand in the early Stuart Lancaster days, only Ireland have beaten them in Chicago.
Just look at the British record against them, amateur, professional; all eras. It is pathetic. Maybe a win and a draw will give Wales some belief when they face their nemesis in black.
3. It was a good tour for the Northern Hemisphere in terms of player development. Sam Warburton, Alun Wyn Jones, Jonathan Davies all broke a jinx as did Rob Howley and a certain Warren Gatland for that matter.
The black shirt may not look quite as intimidating as it did to these individuals.
4. Andy Farrell has wins against them with England, Ireland and now the Lions.
Joe Schmidt will be delighted to think that one of his coaching staff has the measure of the All Blacks.
There was a twenty minute period when the All Blacks outflanked the extreme rush defence of the Lions and caused chaos in the wide channels.
The Barrett brothers threatened to derail the visitors but an unusual amount of unforced handling errors came to the aid of the Farrell Massive.
5. It was a good tour for Eddie Jones. The mighty Maro Itoje took another giant step towards whatever rugby planet he is striving for.
By full time the name Brodie Retallick was on the lips of few people. To eclipse this outstanding lock forward on his home patch was an incredible effort.
His Lions team mates hold him in the highest esteem. I hate to use the word `great' but the Saracen lock seems locked on course for it.
Next stop the England captaincy?
6. A lesson learned for New Zealand. Against a high calibre team, five tries a game are far from guaranteed. For this reason a goal kicker is needed.
It seemed as if Steve Hansen was rewriting the rules of the international game but the kicking conundrum that Beauden Barrett brings to the plot leaves Hansen in need of a rethink ahead of the World Cup.
A high quality kicker remains an imperative.
7. A word for the Lions fans. If I have mentioned them before I apologise but their commitment to the Lions cause has been magnificent.
It may have been a drawn series on the field but in the stadiums of New Zealand the Lions have beaten their Kiwi counterparts out of sight.
A Lions tour without the fans would be like a European Champions Cup without the colour of the Irish contingent.
8. Flip flop....back to the match and Monsieur Poite.
In the infamous Scotland versus Australia World Cup quarter final, Craig Joubert awarded Australia a penalty for what was a case of accidental offside when the ball ricocheted forwards into a Scottish body.
There was no time to get out the way.
On Saturday, Ken Owens had the time to cup his hands in a catching motion as the ball went forwards off Liam Williams.
The speed with which the Scarlet's hooker removed his hands from the ball touching incident tells you he knew what he had done. The French referee signalled correctly for the penalty before changing his mind.
New Zealand has a new Wayne Barnes type figure to curse through the long years. Beauden Barrett would probably have missed the last minute penalty anyway.
9. Luckily for New Zealand they won the America's Cup.
For those of you who, like me, believe the ocean belongs to fish, it is some sort of super rich man's yacht race in which New Zealand has a happy knack of beating the USA.
Its like us and rowing come the Olympics, we pretend we are all water sorts. Still, the press were deeply peeved to draw the rugby, good on the yachties.
10. A few final Kiwi thoughts.....the tour was such a major commercial enterprise we missed out on those magical days the Lions bring when they tour.
One of the happiest few hours of the tour were spent in Whangarei watching friends and families come together in the centre of town before the rugby.
Looking back on that day the rugby feels like a bit of an afterthought ... being part of the 7,700 people who entered the Guinness Book of Records for the largest Haka was a bit of fun.
I would have watched it like a reticent Pom were it not for Wayne Shelford telling me it was time to find my Maori roots ... the food and fun on Cuba Street Wellington ... the generous hospitality shown to me by Chris Boyd and the Hurricanes executive who `kidnapped' me the night before the second Test and took me to a regular haunt; great company ... Conor Murray's second Test try, Owen Farrell's third Test kicking ... Jamie George pile driving Rieko Ioane backwards in the second Test ... the Maori Portrait room in the Auckland Art Gallery and the first night with a crazy friend in The Depot where we fought off jet lag at the cost of the King of all hangovers ... seeing old friends, making a few new ones ... long live the Lions.