All Blacks share Lions Series spoils
REPORT: New Zealand and the British and Irish Lions had to settle for a share of the spoils after the final Test ended in a controversial 15-15 draw at Eden Park
The All Blacks scored two tries in the first half and in the dying seconds, they were awarded a penalty well within kicking range only for the decision to be overruled after a video review.
It left the series tied at one win each and a draw, the first such result in the Lions' 129-year history and only the second time in 12 visits that they have not lost a series to New Zealand.
But neither side appeared satisfied by the result. For the All Blacks, it was the first time in 39 games they have failed to win at Eden Park.
Fullback Jordie Barrett, in his first Test start, set up Ngani Laumape for a try and then scored another, with his brother Beauden Barrett kicking a conversion and one penalty. The Lions' points all came from penalties, with four by Owen Farrell and one giant effort by Elliot Daly just after half-time.
The All Blacks' gamble in starting rookies Jordie Barrett and Laumape paid off in the first half, with both scoring tries when the hosts were dominant.
By half-time the All Blacks were up 12-6, but the Lions struck back with two second-half penalties to level the scores at 12-12.
In a frantic final 20 minutes, the All Blacks regained the lead after Wyatt Crockett forced a Lions scrum collapse, allowing Beauden Barrett to put them ahead 15-12 with the penalty.
But their slim lead evaporated on 77 minutes when Farrell - also the Lions' hero in last week's 24-21 victory when he kicked the winning points - landed a penalty from 48 metres.
The All Blacks were clearly stung by losing the second Test last week in Wellington and they hit back with a vengeance in the first half. The Lions were considered underdogs and the tour's schedule was labelled "suicidal" before it began, but in the end they proved their critics wrong.
After a helter-skelter opening 10 minutes, Daly beat Israel Dagg in the air to take the Lions up to the New Zealand line, only for the two rookie All Blacks to turn defence into points. An intercept by Jordie Barrett set Laumape racing 80 metres where he was cut down from behind by Jonathan Davies.
From a resulting scrum, Beauden Barrett kicked across field for Jordie Barrett to leap high and instinctively palm the ball back to Laumape for the opening try.
The Lions replied with a penalty to Owen Farrell, but their time in All Blacks territory was limited and it was only poor handling by the New Zealanders that eased the pressure on the tourists.
When the Lions got within striking range, they made it count. With Farrell adding a second penalty to close within one point before Jordie Barrett was back in the action with the All Blacks' second try.
In the countdown to half-time, Brodie Retallick won an untidy line-out and the All Blacks went wide for Barrett to score in space on the right.
A third penalty to the Lions, this time a 52-metre shot from Daly, lifted the Lions at the start of the second half and Farrell's third successful kick, also from distance, drew the Lions level with 20 minutes remaining.
Barrett stroked the All Blacks back in front 15-12 with 13 minutes left, before Farrell levelled the scores for the final time on 77 minutes.
In the final minute, the All Blacks won a penalty within range for a Ken Owens offside, only for referee Romain Poite to rule the offence accidental and reduce the punishment to a scrum.
Man of the match: Maro Itoje proved the quality he possesses while Anthony Watson showed how much of an attacking threat he can be - especially under the high ball. Conor Murray backed up his performance with another solid performance. Jordie Barrett's awareness and the manner in which he read the game bodes well for his international future. Julian Savea looked for work and remained a threat when he had the ball while Beauden Barrett ran hard lines to compliment his well-executed tactical kicking. Our award though goes to a player who had his hand in both his side's tries - another player to keep an eye on for the future - Ngani Laumape.
Moment of the match: While either of the All Blacks' tries, as well as Jerome Kaino's yellow card, was in contention, a lot rode on Romain Poite's decision to change a last-minute call from offside to accidental offside against Ken Owens. His initial decision awarded the All Blacks a kickable penalty but after consulting TMO George Ayoub, Poite changed his initial call to award the All Blacks an attacking scrum.
Villain of the match: With so much on the line, the players kept their emotions in check, however, there were a few calls by referee Romain Poite that left the players bemused.
For New Zealand:
Tries: Laumape, J Barrett
Con: B Barrett
Pen: B Barrett
For the British & Irish Lions:
Pens: Farrell 4, Daly
Yellow card: Jerome Kaino (New Zealand, 50; dangerous play - swinging arm)
New Zealand: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Israel Dagg, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody.
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 Thomas Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Malakai Fekitoa.
British & Irish Lions: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Sam Warburton (captain), 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 Christiaan Stander, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Ben Te'o, 23 Jack Nowell.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Jérôme Garcès (France), Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)