AUCKLAND • The British and Irish Lions have exceeded most expectations on their tour of New Zealand and did so again in a thrilling third Test yesterday.
The All Blacks' proud unbeaten record in Auckland remains intact but the Lions have secured an honourable 1-1 draw in the series.
The visitors could not quite emulate their 1971 predecessors, who won their series 2-1, but it will still go down as an extraordinary effort against all the odds.
Owen Farrell slotted a 78th-minute penalty to give the Lions a 15-15 draw and ensure they tied the three-match series at Eden Park.
The match was not without some late drama, however, with referee Romain Poite overturning an All Blacks penalty in the final minute that would have given Beauden Barrett a routine kick at goal from in front.
"I don't know, it has been offside for a long time and it turned into an accidental offside," All Blacks captain Kieran Read said after Poite overturned his original decision.
"We have to cop that. It's hard to put into words, but what a series.
It's come down to the wire and we've ended up with one hand on the trophy each, which is a bit like kissing your sister.
STEVE HANSEN, All Blacks coach, reflecting after New Zealand failed to win at Eden Park for the first time in 39 games. The Lions fought back to draw 15-15.
"Both sides going hammer and tongs... and (Lions captain) Sam (Warburton), your team played some great footy, so congratulations."
The tied series is the second for the Lions after they drew with South Africa in 1955. The All Blacks won the first game 30-15 at the same Auckland venue two weeks ago, while the visitors won the second match 24-21 in Wellington last week.
New Zealand were reduced to 14 men early in the second half when Jerome Kaino was sin-binned by Poite for a high tackle on Alun Wyn Jones.
The All Blacks were far more aggressive, dominating territory and possession, but were never able to pull clear of the resilient Lions in a pulsating match.
They created numerous opportunities but were only able to turn their superiority into two first-half tries as Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett touched down to give the hosts a 12-6 half-time lead.
Elliot Daly slammed over a long-range penalty early in the second half to narrow the gap to 12-9 before Kaino was banished. And the Lions levelled when Farrell added his third penalty just before the loose forward returned.
Barrett slotted his first penalty with about 12 minutes remaining to give his side the lead after Poite penalised the Lions for collapsing a defensive scrum.
Farrell, however, then stepped up with his fourth penalty to level the game, and ultimately the series.
"I'm not sure what to make of that," Warburton said.
"It's a little bit cheesy but I guess rugby was the winner.
"It was an epic Test match, real fierce and I'm proud to have played in that."
REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN