A late Owen Farrell penalty saw the Lions home 24-21 to send the series to a decider in Auckland next week. The match will doubtless also be remembered for Sonny Bill Williams becoming just the third All Black to be sent off in a Test.
The All Blacks were forced to make two changes from last week due to injury. Israel Dagg moved from wing to fullback in place of Ben Smith (concussion, his third for the year), and Anton Lienert-Brown starting at centre after coming on to replace Ryan Crotty (hamstring) in Auckland. Powerful midfielder Ngani Laumape was rewarded for a big Super Rugby season with a call up to the 23, possibly sealed by his barnstorming performance against the Lions on Tuesday night.
The Lions meanwhile made three changes to their starting XV, and a further three to the bench. Tour captain Sam Warburton took the reins and the seven shirt with Johnny Sexton starting at flyhalf, and Maro Itoje at lock. Onto the bench came loose forward CJ Stander, lock Courtney Lawes, and outside back Jack Nowell. Ben Te’o dropped to the bench to accommodate Owen Farrell at 12.
New Zealand: 15 Israel Dagg, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Anton Lienert-Brown, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Joe Moody. Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Ardie Savea, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Aaron Cruden, 23 Ngani Laumape.
British & Irish Lions: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Sam Warburton (c), 5 Alun Wyn Jones, 4 Maro Itoje, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Jamie George, 1 Mako Vunipola. Replacements: 16 Ken Owens, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Kyle Sinckler, 19 Courtney Lawes, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Ben Te’o, 23 Jack Nowell.
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France). Assistant Referees: Romain Poite (France), Jaco Peyper (South Africa). TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)
As with last week the Lions had the better of territory and possession early and created the first scoring opportunity but were unable to capitalise. The All Blacks also had some half-chances but they, too, weren’t able to turn those into points until a Barrett penalty in the 20th minute. Farrell replied after 23 minutes.
In the 25th minute Lions wing Anthony Watson took the ball into contact, the contact being between his face and Sonny Bill Williams’ shoulder. TMO Ayoub immediately alerted referee Garces, and after a brief review the inevitable Red card was shown. Fortunately Watson was able to continue after passing a HIA.
Somewhat surprisingly the All Blacks chose to bring on midfield back Ngani Laumape in Williams’ place, taking flanker Jerome Kaino off and playing the rest of the match with just seven forwards and centre Anton Liernert-Brown packing down in several scrums.
Barrett and Farrell traded further penalties in the 32nd, 34th, 37th and 39th minutes to bring the half to a tryless conclusion.
Half time: 9-9.
The All Blacks made the early running after the break, a promising movement brought to an end with a high shot on Lienert-Brown that Barrett converted into three points. Penalties continued to flow the All Blacks way, Barrett missing one in the 50th minute before extending the lead to 15-9 in the 52nd and 18-9 in the 58th.
Lions prop Mako Vunipola was din-binned in the 56th minute for putting his shoulder into a prone Barrett, TMO Ayoub’s attempt to re-engage Garces suggesting he thought a Yellow was insufficient.
With an hour gone the Lions were finally able to exploit their one-man advantage, No. 8 Taulupe Faletau scoring out wide after some good leadup work by the backs. Farrell was unable to convert. Barrett, though, was on target shortly after to restore the lead to two scores.
The first of those scores came in the 69th minute, hooker Jamie George making a clean break and being well backed up by his halfback Conor Murray. Murray then got the ball back from a ruck and surprised the defence by running instead of kicking. Farrell converted to level the scores with 10 minutes remaining.
An 11-phase All Black assault was repelled and the Lions swung back onto attack, seemingly looking to set up either Farrell or Sexton for a match-winning drop goal. In the event they won a penalty instead, All Blacks prop Charlie Faumuina guilty of tackling a player in the air. To be fair the player jumped to take a too-high pass but Garces was unswayed and Farrell did the rest.
A desperate last-gasp Barrett attack showed some promise but ended with the ball in touch and the Lions celebrating an epic win.
British and Irish Lions 24 (Taulupe Faletau, Conor Murray tries; Owen Farrell 4 pen, 2 con) New Zealand 21 (Beauden Barrett 7 pen). HT: 9-9.
The third and now deciding Test is at Eden Park on Saturday, kickoff at 17:35 AEST. There is no midweek match.