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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

So that's how it feels to kiss your sister - Kiwi Tony gutted with how it ended

The All Blacks vs Lions 2017 series is over and we're no closer to knowing the winner, because there wasn't one. Ardent ABs fan Tony is back to give us his thoughts on the anti-climax that was the third Test in Auckland. Like any good tale, there's a [relatively] happy ending.

A draw. They say it’s like kissing your sister. The thought of kissing my sister is enough to make me vomit (no offence Em). Can you imagine how awkward Christmas would be after that? How would you look each other in the eye after your best Cersei and Jaime Lannister impersonation? I’d rather lose a game of footy thanks.

The same was true over the weekend. I would have rather lost. At least it would have given both sets of fans some level of closure. It was like the last episode of Lost, plenty of twists and turns, drama and mystery and an incredible anti-climatic ending leaving everyone confused.

I was at Auckland waterfront sports bar, The Fox. It was heaving. It was more chocka than a TAB on dole day. The atmosphere was electric, the Lions fans were full of banter and the usually reserved All Blacks fans were rubbing their hands together in anticipation of what was guaranteed to be a memorable game.

CATCHUP: NZ vs LIONS MATCH HIGHLIGHTS

A lot is made of how important Rugby is to New Zealand and this was the biggest game since the 2011 World Cup final.

Kick off, sweaty palms, beers spilt, hands in the air in celebration and later, faces in hands in anguish.

At the end of it all, the most crucial person on the field was the referee.

Romain Poite had a hard job, but he wasn’t up to it. He was like a possum in the headlights towards the end of the game. He lost his cool and let his emotion and instincts take over.

His cognitive abilities to engage in rational thought and execute reasonable judgement took a one-way trip to his happy place and both sets of fans got the raw end of the stick in my book. A sad way for the two best teams in the world to finish a series.

I took a lot of crap from the measured and restraint public forum that is the Facebook comments section after my last article. I am an unapologetic All Black fan. This guides my view of every AB game. So with that in mind, here it is.

According to the Northern media, it was a great match. It was an important game with plenty of drama and intrigue. But was it a great game? Hell no!

A great game flows freely and above all else, a good game is a quick game. This is the All Blacks strength, to play fast and to go where no other team can follow them. The first half had moments like this while other opportunities were squandered.

Fair play to the Lions. They knew what they needed to do. Slow things down. The amount of chat to the referee, slow scrums and lineouts and group discussions about God knows what, really stunted the AB’s game plan.

Hats off to Warren Gatland and his pragmatic approach. It made it a tough watch which ultimately led to a Lions draw. I call it a Lions draw because not losing to the All Blacks is certainly some sort of victory. Like after a visit to the casino when you’re happy you came out even (after putting the kid's school tuition on red).

The All Blacks did themselves no favours and despite a dominant first half kept the Lions in it through ill-discipline. One of the other key strengths of all All Blacks is being able to execute basic skills. Catch and pass, CATCH AND PASS. At times, they looked like they had the bumbling Sean Spicer as their skills coach.

Once again, credit to the Lions. They shut down the AB’s time and space. Despite this, they needed to do a better job hanging on to pill, especially during the big moments.

I’m a huge Beauden Barrett fan. The guy is a freak! Unfortunately, he never really hit his straps in this series. Watching his performance felt like insisting your friends watch a movie because it’s a classic. Then after they reluctantly agree, you suddenly realise it wasn’t as good as you remember.

It also must be said, missing 8 points in this game and 9 points the week before, was the difference between 3 nil and a drawn series. For the first time, we really missed the reliable boot of DC.

Finally, what else has cost us the game....?

The f#cken Referee. The final moments of the game were a mess and the Penalty, in a kickable position, even for Beaudy, was downgraded even after the TMO agreed with Poite’s original decision.

It was a moment of madness that brought the game to a terrible end. It was like meeting the girl of your dreams on Tinder, getting along like a house on fire, having a snog and then finding out she’s your Dad’s secret biological daughter. You kissed your sister!! Oh, now I get the saying.

The outcome wasn’t only due to that terrible call, but due to a number of reasons (credit where it’s due). The Lions didn’t deserve to lose either.

After the game Lions and AB fans didn’t know what to do with themselves. It was a weird vibe. It didn’t last long though as everyone decided to do what fans do best, drink.

It was a great tour at the end of the day. Why? The Lions fans - such great people. Each one I met was friendly, jovial and up for a good time. I can’t express how great it is to have that lot in the country once every 12 years to bring us out of our stuck at the bottom of the world shells.

We may all have our own bias’s and views, but in the right spirit, it’s just a bit of banter.

- Tony O'Sullivan @Tones88

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