All Blacks, Lions look forward after thrilling 1st test
The All Blacks and British and Irish Lions allowed themselves only a little time to savor or regret the outcome of the first test at Eden Park on Saturday before turning their attention to the second test at Wellington on which the series now hangs.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was emphatic that his players should take time to celebrate their 30-15 win in an extraordinary test – their first against the Lions in 12 years – because of the many hours of hard work that had gone in to its achievement.
Lions coach Warren Gatland was equally adamant that his team should dwell for a short time in the moment, savoring their contribution to an epic match, before concentrating on achieving the improvements needed to win next weekend’s test and to keep the three-match series alive.
The coaches and captains of both teams were adamant the series is far from over.
While the All Blacks are likely to improve rapidly on their performance in Auckland, in only their second test of the season, they expected the Lions also to target areas of improvement which will make Saturday’s second test equally competitive.
”The job isn’t done,” Hansen said. ”It’s a three-match series and to win it you’ve got to win two of them. Winning one gives us an advantage, but so many times in sport the winning team gets knocked over next week.
”This team always worked on the mantra that we want to be better and we don’t always achieve that, but that’s what we strive to do. So we’ll enjoy this because we should. Test matches are special occasions and there’s a lot of hard work went in to get that win and then we’ll come together again in the morning and start our preparation for next week.”
Hansen said sound preparation would be vital in determining the outcome of the second test and deciding whether the series is forced to a decider in two weeks at Eden Park, where New Zealand is unbeaten since 1994.
”They’re a very good team so if we don’t prepare properly we’ll get second, then its one all and we come back here to try to win the thing,” he said. ”We’ve got to make sure we give ourselves every chance of winning the thing in Wellington and that means preparing with no stone unturned.”
All Blacks captain Kieran Read, who was singled out by Hansen as one of the major contributors to New Zealand’s win, said his teammates would have no trouble refocusing on Wellington after Saturday’s success.
”We’re super excited about this series, and it showed from our performance,” he said.
”You can’t assume too many things but we’ll certainly be talking about (improvement). As coaches and leaders we’ll figure out what we need to do. We’ll turn up next week just as excited.”
The Lions have not won a test series from 1-0 down in 28 years. Gatland said they would be able to take a number of positives from their first test performance, then eliminate the lapses in discipline or minor errors which cost them in a test that was closer than the scoreline suggested.
”We played some lovely rugby and scored a couple of nice tries which was hugely positive,” he said.
”I’m disappointed that there were a couple of golden moments to score that we could have taken and others when we just switched off for a couple of moments.
”For me (the Lions’ mistakes) are all fixable. The All Blacks haven’t played champagne rugby in throwing the ball all over the place. They were very direct up front, so we have to make sure we’re better in terms of combating them for next week.”
Lions captain Peter O’Mahony, who left the field in the second half with a minor shoulder injury, agreed the Lions would heed lessons from Eden Park.
”We were put under pressure by one of the best teams in the world, but as Warren said we got the opportunity to score first off in the first half and again in the second half and we didn’t convert two other chances,” he said. ”If you’re going to make mistakes like that you’re going to struggle against a team of the quality of New Zealand. So there’s a huge amount of positives to take, and there are a couple of easy fixes as well.”