8 Jul 2017

All Blacks v Lions: Three minutes that shook the rugby world

11:04 pm on 8 July 2017

OPINION: It's pretty tricky right now being a journalist, but also an All Blacks fan. What follows is a finely balanced look at the climax of a test that ended up nowhere near what most predicted it would be - and one that Kiwi fans will have every right to feel somewhat aggrieved at.

Referee Roman Porte talks to captains Sam Warburton and Kieran Read before changing his ruling from an ABs penalty to a scrum in the dying moments.

Referee Roman Porte talks to captains Sam Warburton and Kieran Read before changing his ruling from an ABs penalty to a scrum in the dying moments. Photo: PhotoSport

Let's just recap the last three minutes. With the All Blacks up 15-12, the Lions were awarded a penalty 47m out from the sticks. All Black fans exhaled strongly. Owen Farrell wasn't going to miss this. The ice-cold Englishman tantalizingly dropped it just over the bar, right in front of a completely red eastern terrace stand.

But they barely had enough time to sit down before referee Roman Poite blew another penalty. This time the black fans rose. Straight off the kickoff, centurion Kieran Read ran into a Lions player - blast on the whistle, and before you know it Beauden Barrett is stepping up to snatch the game back.

Barrett actually had the ball on the tee when Poite decided to have another look at it. In an unprecedented move, he downgraded the penalty to a scrum after he deemed it to be accidentally offside.

Watch match highlights here:

You could hear the howls of emotion from Scotland even over the din at Eden Park. Two years ago in the Rugby World Cup quarter final, they were pinged for basically the same offence against the Wallabies.

Bang, three points. The game, and an unlikely upset was gone.

That day, ref Craig Joubert stuck to his guns and literally had to run off the field to escape. The Scots have been crying about it ever since, so to see the Lions earn a little bit of justice would've been somewhat satisfying - in fact it'll probably make up for the fact that they had no players in the test squad.

But even then, it wasn't over. A scrum turnover saw the Lions move down to halfway after TJ Perenara spent too much time flapping his arms and not enough time tackling. Unbelievably, the ball was lost forward and the All Blacks had one last shot from 50m out.

Malakai Fekitoa broke them over the 22, and it was looking likely as Jordie Barrett cruised through a gap before being hauled down. It all looked likely for a slow, painful death for the Lions from then on in: the All Blacks were priming for a series of pick and drives that would either yield a try or kickable penalty.

But it never happened.

In fact, it was the complete anti-climax: the ball was bundled into touch and everyone looked at each other wondering what would happen next.

The crowd, which had been so volcanic in its participation up until that point, went flatter than a pancake. Deflated, dejected, instantly disjointed.

While the Lions can definitely take the moral victory here - no one at all, including their own press corps, believed they would get anywhere close to the All Blacks - they will be gutted at having glory slip through their fingers. A couple of not-straight lineout throws here, a couple of crucial knock=ons there, and the win that seemed so impossible flashed before them.

Talking points out of this one will most definitely be an overhaul of the rule that Poite decided to enforce at the end, but also whether this is the dawn of a new era of All Blacks rugby - one where victories can't be taken for granted.

Read the full match report here, find out Max Towle's player ratings here, and see how it all went down with Jamie Wall's live blog here.

Jamie Wall grew up in Wellington and enjoyed a stunningly mediocre rugby career in which the single highlight was a seat on the bench for his club's premier side. He's enjoyed far more success spouting his viewpoints on the game, and other topics, to anyone who'll care to listen.

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