Rugby Union: Saracens six suffer first Test defeat with British & Irish Lions against New Zealand
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Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, George Kruis, Owen Farrell, Liam Williams and Maro Itoje all featured in loss to All Blacks in Auckland
The Saracens six of Mako Vunipola, Jamie George, George Kruis, Owen Farrell, Liam Williams and Maro Itoje were unable to prevent the British & Irish Lions from losing 30-15 to New Zealand in the first Test in Auckland.
All but Itoje, who came on in the second half, started the match, but a series of handling errors and moments of inattention proved costly for the tourists.
It looked to be going well early on as with less than five minutes on the clock, Farrell unpicked the All Blacks defence with a deft pass to set Welsh centre Jonathan Davies away through the middle.
Davies in turn found Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray, who was tackled near the line, but when the ball was recycled, England international Elliot Daly was taken into touch by Israel Dagg.
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It was New Zealand who gained first blood with a penalty from Beauden Barrett in the 13th minute.
Four minutes later, the All Blacks crossed for the opening try, taking a quick tap penalty near the line with hooker Codie Taylor crossing and Barrett adding the extras.
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Owen Farrell, trying his best to replicate the maverick skills of Barrett, set Elliot Daly away with a crosskick in the 28th minute, but the Wasps back later spilled the ball in the tackle.
Thankfully, referee Jaco Peyper brought it back for a Lions penalty, which Farrell kicked to touch, leading to another infringement from the hosts.
That in turn gave the 25-year-old his first opportunity from the tee, which he took in the 30th minute to make it 10-3.
However, Barrett kicked another from the tee to restore the All Blacks’ 10-point cushion just three minutes later.
What New Zealand were not banking on, though, was one of the great Lions tries of all times with five minutes left in the half.
Welsh back Williams set off at pace from his own 22, beating three tacklers before offloading to Davies on halfway, with the ball eventually finding Irish flanker Sean O’Brien, who crossed.
The teams headed into half time with the All Blacks ahead 13-8, but Williams almost put the Lions in with another mazy run early in the second half, only for the home defence to cope well, with Itoje introduced to the action soon after.
However, it was New Zealand who scored first in the second half, with Rieko Ioane crossing in the corner for a converted score.
As good as Williams had been for the Lions in attack, he was at fault in the 70th minute as he failed to collect a box kick, with Ioane taking full advantage to run in his second try which was converted to all but end the Test.
There was time for a second Lions try, with replacement scrum half Rhys Webb crossing for a converted score with the final play of the game, but in truth it was nothing short of a consolation try.
And the defeat means the Lions must triumph in Wellington next Saturday if they are to avoid a series defeat in New Zealand.