The Unforgiving New Zealand Media Reaction As The Lions Beat The All Blacks

The Unforgiving New Zealand Media Reaction As The Lions Beat The All Blacks

This article was originally published on July 1st, 2017


It was the 78th minute when Owen Farrell kicked the penalty which won the second Test for the Lions. It was not the decisive moment of the game, though. That had come over 50 minutes earlier when Sonny Bill Williams was sent off for a reckless shoulder charge to the head of Anthony Watson.

Even playing against 14 men, the Lions barely got over the line. Had Williams not been sent off, it's likely next Saturday's third Test in Auckland would have been a dead rubber rather than a decider.

The New Zealand media has not been kind to Williams for his moment of madness.

Writing for, Mark Geenty was especially critical of the All Blacks centre.

SBW. Sonny Bill Williams, New Zealand's best known and most polarising sportsman. Insert variations here, and thousands did in the aftermath: B for blundering, maybe even brainless; W for, well, take your pick.

What was he thinking? In one of the biggest tests of his and his team-mates' careers? That they went on to lose 24-21?

That kind of Sonny Bill shoulder charge used to bring Bulldogs or Roosters National Rugby League fans to their feet as he launched like a 100kg missile, smashed the ball carrier around the chest with no arms and stood over him like a colossus. Team-mates would run from everywhere to back slap him.

Just after 8pm last night who knows what kind of slapping his All Blacks team-mates or coach Steve Hansen had in mind.


Mark Reason, also of, also cited Williams' rugby league past: 'It was the tackle of a man who still hasn't got the violent stupidity of rugby league out of his system.'

Can it really be 50 years, half a century, since an All Black got a red card, not that they had red cards back in 1967? They hadn't even put a man on the moon then. Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy were crooning somethin' stupid.

Half of New Zealand, the SBW haters, will also now be chanting 'somethin stupid'. But the Lions will just be thankful. This moment of madness has rescued their tour. It may even have preserved the future of Lions tours in New Zealand. Who would have thought that SBW would be the man who saved Lions rugby.

The New Zealand Herald's Gregor Paul said there could be no complaint about the red card.

There can't be any complaint with the colour of the card. The head is sacrosanct and accidental, deliberate, clumsy, badly timed, unlucky...doesn't matter the nature of the contact.

The image was undeniable: Williams' shoulder connected with Anthony Watson's head and there weren't a lot of arms to at least soften the impression it looked like something straight out of the NRL.

Conor Murray and Sean O'Brien both received eights in's player ratings.

Murray was once again hailed as the best scrum-half in the world.


The world's best halfback scored the all-important second try. Belted one box kick into touch and cost the Lions three points for a high tackle. Showed his vision and almost conjured a late first half try with his swirling crossfield kick from a penalty.

Sean O'Brien's contribution so far this tour was also praised.

One of the Lions' best all series, a damaging ball carrier and abrasive in the tackle. Consistent performer. Had a great honours-even battle with Sam Cane.

Liam Napier of the New Zealand Herald said the Lions pack was impressive in comparison to last week's 'imposters'.

The Lions were exponentially better in several areas in Wellington.

Cast your mind back one week and we can now safely say their forward pack that turned up at Eden Park were imposters. They sure left embarrassed after their tight five was brutally exposed time and time again.

Wet and windy, this was their kind of night. This display is what we had come to expect from the Lions. Aggressive. Physical. Combative.

The Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell selection gamble was not a deal breaker but having two playmakers on the pitch helped decision making.

Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile


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PJ Browne
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