5 things we learned from the Lions' victory over New Zealand today

5 things we learned from the Lions' victory over New Zealand today

The British and Irish Lions claimed a superb Test series-levelling victory over world champions New Zealand at Westpac Stadium today.

Here's five things learned from their 24-21 win.

THE STATISTICS SCREAM FROM THE PAGE

The Lions' success not only set up a series decider in Auckland next Saturday, it gave them one of the greatest victories in their long and illustrious history.

It was the first time for 24 years - also in Wellington - that the Lions have beaten New Zealand, while the All Blacks' loss was their first on home soil since South Africa toppled them in Hamilton eight years ago, ending a 46-match unbeaten run.

If the Lions triumph at Eden Park in seven days' time, it will deliver a first series victory over New Zealand since 1971.

REFEREE JEROME GARCES PRODUCED A QUALITY PERFORMANCE UNDER PRESSURE

The French official handled the 25th-minute Sonny Bill Williams incident magnificently. Once he had seen television replays, he had no doubt intent was there from the All Blacks centre after he shoulder-charged Lions wing Anthony Watson in the face.

Even when the television match official asked Garces did he want to see it again as he walked back towards the players, Garces had already made his mind up.

It was exactly the right call, meaning Williams became the first All Blacks player to be dismissed in a Test match for 50 years.

THE LIONS GOT PHYSICAL - AND IT WORKED

Maro Itoje
Maro Itoje

Lions head coach Warren Gatland has received his fair share of criticism during the New Zealand tour, but he got it exactly right in selection and through his preparation for the second Test showdown.

Calling up flanker Sam Warburton and lock Maro Itoje proved to be exactly the right calls, while Gatland also challenged the pack to increase their level of physicality after a tame showing in the first Test.

His players responded to the rallying cry, and now it is all systems go for Eden Park, where New Zealand are unbeaten since 1994.

THE LIONS CAN EXPECT A HUGE RESPONSE FROM NEW ZEALAND

5 things we learned from the Lions' victory over New Zealand today

New Zealand do not lose many Tests, and they have not lost two in a row since 2011, so their motivation to make amends for Wellington will be off the scale.

Williams will be ruled out of the decider if, as expected, he is suspended, so head coach Steve Hansen will need to change his midfield for a third successive game after Ryan Crotty was injured in the first Test.

It promises to be another titanic tussle, but anyone considering betting against the All Blacks is probably badly advised. They are not the world's best team for nothing.

LIONS FANS ARE THE TOURISTS' 16th MAN

5 things we learned from the Lions' victory over New Zealand today

Lions supporters turned the Westpac Stadium red with a remarkable turn-out.

Not even the heavy rain could dampen their spirits, as they sang and sang from first whistle to last, almost turning it into a home game for their heroes.

There will be more of the same in Auckland next Saturday from a travelling army of supporters that underline everything good about the Lions.

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