3 Jul 2017

'Game on' as Lions series decider looms

10:47 am on 3 July 2017

Tension between the All Blacks and the British and Irish Lions has ratcheted up heading into the series decider, following a heated second test in Wellington in which Sonny Bill Williams became just the third All Black to be red-carded.

Sonny Bill Williams after being shown the red card by referee Jerome Garces.

Sonny Bill Williams after being shown the red card by referee Jerome Garces. Photo: Photosport

Williams was sent off and later suspended for four weeks for a shoulder charge to the head of Lions winger Anthony Watson.

And several players were involved in a post-match scuffle and again as the teams left the field.

The desire of the teams to outmuscle the other is palpable, with the legality of the physicality often borderline.

After the game, All Blacks flanker Jerome Kaino agreed there was no love lost heading into the series decider.

"They learnt from their frailties last week, and they definitely brought some edge to their physicality [in the second test].

"It's game on, and it's exciting heading into the next test.

"There's always been an edge ... but in tonight's game that amplified things, so heading into next week's going to be exciting."

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen had no qualms with the call to red-card Williams. "It was one of those ones that could have been a yellow or a red but he [the referee] chose it to be a red, and you've just got to live with that.

"There's no point whining about it and Sonny didn't use his arms so he put himself at risk and unfortunately he collected young Anthony's head and put him at risk. You don't want that and the ref deemed it a red card so, off you go boy."

Hansen said while Williams' error was dangerous, it wasn't malicious.

"He's disappointed, not disappointed for himself - he accepts that he made a mistake - but he's disappointed because he's let the team down.

"One of our biggest mantras in the team is that the team comes first and he knows he's let the team down but people make mistakes and it's a fluid game, it's a fast game and it's a physical game and unfortunately he's made a mistake."

That should have been the match over, but the hosts fought hard and were only overtaken in the final few minutes, scoring two tries to level the score before kicking a penalty in the final few minutes to snatch a 24-21 victory.

See how the match unfolded with Jamie Wall's live blog here.

Hansen said the sting in this series was there for all to see.

"One of the reasons why we love rugby is the varying natures of the game and one of those natures is the brutality of intensity that comes with it.

"You're asking people to be warriors - within the law - and that's what's happening. Is some of it close to borderline? Yes, but it always is."

This weekend's third test and the build-up now has a whole lot more tension.

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