23 Jun 2017

Dear Lions, here's how to beat the All Blacks

11:33 am on 23 June 2017

Opinion - How are the Lions going to beat the All Blacks? If you listen to the British press, it'll be by grinding the world champions down and kicking penalties for a low-scoring victory.

The Lions celebrate a try scores by Lions centre Jared Payne during the Rugby Union match - Chiefs v British & Irish Lions played at FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand on Tuesday 20 June 2017.

The Lions celebrate Jared Payne's try during their winning match against the Chiefs on Tuesday. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Except, if the recent history of the All Blacks is anything to go by, that's not going to work. In fact, the last time a win of that description happened was six long seasons ago, when the Springboks kicked their way to an 18-5 win in Port Elizabeth.

Later that year the All Blacks won the World Cup. Let's have a look at the matches that the All Blacks have dropped since then and how their opponents went about doing it:

2012 - England 38, All Blacks 21

This is about as close as you can get to the All Blacks getting done by an All Blacks performance. Patiently waiting for their opportunities, the English held the All Blacks scoreless in the first half at Twickenham. The visitors managed to close within a point after scoring two tries and it looked as though it'd be business as usual, but the English hit the kill switch - three tries in five minutes. It remains England's highest score and largest winning margin against the All Blacks.

2014 - Springboks 27, All Blacks 25

In one of the greatest matches ever played, the two old heavyweights punched and counterpunched for the entire match. The Boks' enterprise saw them open the scoring with 2014's try of the year. Dane Coles looked to have scored the winner with 10 minutes to go, but a penalty as time ran out gave Pat Lambie a 53-metre chance to win the game. He did, and that's the last time the Boks have been able to walk off the field with a win against the All Blacks.

2015 - Wallabies 27, All Blacks 19

Probably the most straight up and down win of the lot went to our neighbours. Prop Sekope Kepu scored a soft try early for the Wallabies, before debutant Nehe Milner-Skudder got two back for the All Blacks. It was looking set for the All Blacks to take the match out going into the final 10, but uncharacteristic indiscipline and poor tackling let Nic White score the winner. This one has flown under the radar somewhat, given that the All Blacks won the rather more important World Cup final between the two sides later in the year.

2016 - Ireland 40, All Blacks 29

If the last loss was forgotten then this one is the polar opposite in the history pages, at least in Ireland anyway. A strong start saw the men in green open up a big lead early against an All Black side that had clearly being enjoying the sights of Chicago more than training. Even though the All Blacks made a remarkable comeback to close the gap to 32-29 at one stage, the Irish never stopped attacking broke their 111-year hoodoo.

So if the Lions are to take anything out of those results, it's that last bit of info from the Irish result. Don't stop going for it, because you can never score too many points against the All Blacks.

The common consensus is that Warren Gatland will send out a Lions team that will endeavour to keep the score low. That might mean they might not lose, but it will more likely mean they won't win. The Wallabies have managed to have two try-less draws with the All Blacks since the 2011 World Cup, however both were on Australian soil.

In fact, all of those losses were overseas too. Which makes the Lions' task even more difficult, given that two tests are at Eden Park - a venue the All Blacks haven't lost at in 23 years.

So the Lions just need to get on top early, score a ton of points, withstand the inevitable comeback and then summon the strength to get the last scoring play. Easier said than done, yes, but at least they know what the task is in front of them.

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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