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Ruthless New Zealand dominate British and Irish Lions in opening Test in Auckland

New Zealand provided an emphatic reminder of why they are the best side in rugby after securing a thrilling win over the British and Irish Lions in the opening Test in Auckland.

A spellbinding Lions try finished off by Sean O'Brien provided hope for Warren Gatland's side after Codie Taylor's opener, but the irresistible power of the world champions, aided by a string of frustrating errors from the visitors, came through in the second half with Steve Hansen's side securing a 30-15 victory at Eden Park.

The Lions must now win in Wellington next week to keep alive any hopes of claiming only their second series win in 13 attempts in New Zealand and a first since 1971.

It was first blood to the hosts after Beauden Barrett's penalty, with their dominance evident from the early stages as they gained meters with every phase of play. An opening try for the home side came with a sense of inevitability, coming after George Kruis' slip was pounced upon by Aaron Smith, freeing Israel Dagg whose weighted pass was collected by Codie Taylor.

After that blistering start from the hosts, the overriding message was clear; the Lions, hanging on for dear life at times, needed to be braver. They eventually did, encapsulated by Liam Williams who superbly broke from deep, stepping past Kieran Read inside his own 22 before leaving Sonny Bill Williams for dead.

Eliot Daly and Jonathan Davy both provided superb supporting runs but it was O'Brien's wonderful surge that was picked out, thrusting the Lions back into the contest – although Owen Farrell was unable to add to their tally from the penalty spot.

It was a shift in momentum the visitors needed, with Williams justifying Gatland's decision to select him by sparking the counter that led to one of the best tries you will see from a Lions side.

Inside that opening half, the All Blacks lost both Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty to injury, with Smith substituted in the 26th minute after taking a blow to the head. Crotty joined him on the sidelines after appearing to suffer a hamstring injury five minutes later.

After that exhilarating try, the Lions sensed a fightback in the early stages of the second half. There was even the sight of an All Blacks backline looking momentarily rattled as Anthony Watson drove his way past three before finally being halted.

That fightback was firmly stamped out just after the 50-minute mark, however, with Smith the orchestrator once again with Rieko Iaone diving over the line at the corner.


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