RUGBY: After the phoney war ends All Blacks were too strong for British Lions in first real battle

New Zealand's Beauden Barrett is tackled by British and Irish Lions' Taulupe Faletau
New Zealand's Beauden Barrett is tackled by British and Irish Lions' Taulupe Faletau
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When the trash talking finally stopped, the All Blacks wrecked the British and Irish Lions’ scrum to dump the tourists’ first Test chances in the dustbin.

Lions boss Warren Gatland had called for an end to the pre-Test series slanging match between the tourists and New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen, demanding the rugby take centre stage.

British and Irish Lions' Sam Warburton is dejected after the final whistle

British and Irish Lions' Sam Warburton is dejected after the final whistle

But when that phoney war did finally stop, a major expected strength of the Lions crumbled at the crux of the Lions’ 30-15 defeat at Eden Park - to hand New Zealand control in the three-Test series.

The All Blacks bulldozed the Lions scrum in the visitors’ 22, Kieran Read flicked masterfully to Aaron Smith, and Rieko Ioane powered into the left corner.

With more than a quarter of the match to play, the back-to-back world champions had already sealed victory - extending their unbeaten run at the Eden Park stronghold to 39 matches.

The Crusaders and the Highlanders had spent their battles with the Lions constantly telling the officials that they had scrum dominance. Their claims could be heard time and again over the referee mics.

The Lions rejected those insistences out of hand, with head coach Gatland even claiming to be unfazed by what was regarded as little more than a campaign to influence refereeing decisions.

Well, New Zealand needed no help whatsoever from the officials when blitzing the Lions not only off the ball - but also out of the match.

The hosts also totally dominated the lineout, and many of the tight exchanges.

Gatland kept on talking about “suffocating” the All Blacks in the build-up, as the Lions had managed in the 12-3 Crusaders win and the 32-10 victory over the Maori.

But the All Blacks were too strong up front, and the Lions curiously blunted.

The Lions conjured some stunning counter-attacking - just as assistant coach Rob Howley had pledged - only to be undone by failing to lay solid tight-game foundations.

Gatland had insisted All Blacks boss Hansen was only talking so much about the tourists because he was “worried” by their threats.

After the home side forced so much dominance up front here, it is the tourists who must be concerned heading into the second Test.RUGBY