The Lions Tour: The best and worst of international rugby

Massive’s resident sports jockey, Adam Pearse, tackles the sporting quandaries of our time with the skill of Saville, the daring of Devillin, and the vibrancy of Veitchy (forgetting his history with stairways). From cricket to croquet and everything in between, these are the Yarns from Pitch Five.

Let me take you back to that moment. The moment when scores were tied and the game was on a knife edge. All that was needed was one moment of brilliance, one piece of magic. However, in the most unprecedented turn of events, the ball is bundled out over the touchline and the game is over. What came next for four and a half million New Zealanders was probably that strangest feeling ever felt after an All Blacks match; total, utter confusion. The whole thing just felt empty. It almost didn’t seem real. As Monsieur Poite blew the final whistle, I remember thinking; ‘Well that can’t be the end? Surely not’.

But alas, after years of preparation, weeks of hype from the media, hours of banter between Shag and the Queen’s favourite Jester, all we get is a fucking draw. Dear Christ. I would call it the biggest let-down if international sport if I hadn’t been privy to the 2015 Cricket World Cup and the 2007 Rugby World Cup quarter-final but this debacle sure ranks highly among sport’s best deliveries of a shit sandwich. Now, if I was able to let go my bitter disappointment, I might have said that this was the greatest exponent of world rugby we have ever seen, that an atmosphere was created by traveling fans, the like of which New Zealand has never seen before, and that a cutthroat and cunning Lions team risked toppling the best team in the world by using their own tactics against them and reminding us how powerful Northern Hemisphere Rugby actually is. However, I’m a one-eyed All Blacks supporter who still feel the idea of a draw to be as palatable as haggis that’s been left out in a Scottish winter.

The only thing stopping me from needing mental health advice from John Kirwan is that fact that the result was probably fair. Out of three tests, the Lions, lost, won, and drew. Out of five Super Rugby opponents, they won two, lost two, and drew one. Throw in a Barbarians game that could have gone either way and you’ve got yourself a fair dinkum split series. Against the Super sides, the Lions brought with them a swagger rarely seen in European teams that nullified any advantage the New Zealand teams held. Against the All Blacks, a combination of incredible line speed, ruthless defence, and a good chunk of bloody team spirit led to what was almost the upset of the decade. This was the first time I had ever seen an All Black team so unsure of themselves. Their nerves got the better of them as they couldn’t add that signature finishing touch the All Blacks have become so used to doing. This was because the Lions brought with them something that no Southern Hemisphere team has brought in years; belief that they can beat the All Blacks. And with as big of a touring party as the Lions had, why wouldn’t you believe you can beat the best in the world. When was the last time the home captain received less applause than the away captain, let alone it being an overseas tour and the All Blacks? It’s absolutely unheard of.

All in all, I’d say we were lucky to escape the Lion’s den. Enveloped by a sea of red, our boys were able to hold it together and give the public a hell of series that left us feeling not happy but still bloody relieved we didn’t lose to those posh wankers. However, today’s rugby fans will not forget the contest that has occurred and by the time 2029 rolls around, the competition will be as fierce as ever. I just hope by then we’ve clarified whether an offside is accidental or not because I refuse to be fucked over by that again.

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