Rugby fans were rubbing their bleary eyes in disbelief at events in Wellington yesterday morning: a red card for New Zealand!?
Sonny Bill Williams became only the third New Zealand player in history - and the first in 50 (!) years - to be sent off in a Test match, for barging his shoulder into Anthony Watson's head. Here's the incident:
The Sunday Times' esteemed rugby journalist, Stephen Jones, writes about the incident in the paper today. It's a typically well-written piece by Jones, in which he says that a red card for an All Black player has been "overdue forever", and ponders whether this could be the rugby equivalent of the "Berlin Wall". But his reaction to the tackle itself is hysterical:
It was illegal from every viewpoint, and precisely the sort of tackle that rugby authorities have been trying to outlaw, in the battle against the dread spectre of concussion. Williams is said by many to be a thoroughly decent individual, but this was an awful blow and if he had committed it in the street he would have been arrested.
There is an issue with that last line: if you were to walk down the street, and launch yourself into an unsuspecting passer-by with the most legal of rugby tackles....you'd still be arrested.
This was pointed out by plenty, including the excellent Munster site Three Red Kings:
News flash for Stephen Jones - the safest tackle you've ever seen on a rugby pitch would be illegal on a street. https://t.co/ODtpms83uf
— Three Red Kings (@threeredkings) July 2, 2017
Elsewhere in the same paper, Shane Horgan believes that Mako Vunipola will be dropped for his indiscipline, but the most interesting aspect of his column is the intro:
Sonny Bill Williams’ dismissal aside, this game was won in roughly the first 15 minutes of the second half. That might sound paradoxical when you note that New Zealand won that period 9-0 but I believe they used up so much energy going for the kill that they left themselves vulnerable in the closing stages.
Going for the kill was definitely what the All Blacks had in mind when they came out after half-time. They upped the tempo hugely. Once set, the ball came in at the lineout quickly and they were sending it out flat and fast for their ball carriers to attack the gainline. Sure, they built a lead but they were running on empty after that.
In the Observer, Gerard Meagher points out the irony of yesterday's Test match:
It is a delicious irony of this Test series that the Lions are catching the eye with the tries they are scoring while New Zealand get the upper hand at the scrum. Similarly, New Zealand’s most dangerous weapon was the debutant Ngani Laumape – a wrecking ball of a No12 continually crashing over the gainline in a manner synonymous with Warrenball.
In the Telegraph, Ian McGeechan relays the experience of following the game from his hospital bed, having taken ill before the game.
Following the second Test from a hospital bed in Wellington via updates on social media was certainly a strange experience but the Lions’ victory was the best tonic I could have wished for.
I would like to thank all the well-wishers and to all those who provided brilliant care both at the stadium and at Wellington hospital. A special mention needs to go to a producer from Sky Sports, who accompanied me to the hospital while there was such a huge game going on.
He sat by my bed relaying all the updates from the game.
In the same paper, Austin Healey looks at what needs to be done in the third Test, with an improvement from kicking out of hand mentioned:
If you look at the second half, the All Blacks had 68 per cent territory and possession.A large reason for that was that the Lions’ kicking from hand was generally poor. Conor Murray’s box kicking was reasonable but you saw a few times the Lions failing to find touch or kicking out behind the dead-ball line.