By Simon Lewis, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
HIGHLANDERS 23 LIONS 22
Key moment: The Lions had allowed the Highlanders back into the game having gone 22-13 up early in the second half with home hooker Liam Coltman scoring a try converted by replacement fly-half Marty Banks narrowing the deficit to two points with 20 minutes to go. Yet it was a Lions scrum from which they sealed victory in the 72nd minute. Centre Teihorangi Walden had knocked on in the Lions 22 but his forwards rescued him, eking out a penalty that sparked huge celebrations from the pack and the majority of the 26,920 crowd. Those only grew louder when Banks stepped up to slot the penalty, 0 metres in from the right touchline to send the home side into a lead they would not relinquish.
Talking point: Head coach Warren Gatland will need a big performance from his near-Test selection this Saturday against the Maori to put the Lions back on the front foot ahead of the Test series against the All Blacks. Many of the men he sent out in Dunedin did little to push their own claims for a Test jersey, with Jared Payne, in particular, having a bad night at full-back when Stuart Hogg's tour-ending injury had cleared a path for him.
Key man: All Blacks wing Waisake Naholo put the Lions on notice that he will be a force to be reckoned with when the Test series gets underway on June 24.
The Highlander was in powerful form as he scored the opening try for the home side, showing deft footwork as well as athletic prowess to get over the line. For the Lions, there was an encouraging performance from captain Sam Warburton, who marked his return from an ankle strain with a try-scoring 66-minute shift that was a perfect response to Sean O'Brien's barnstorming turn at openside against the Crusaders.
Ref watch: The Kiwis did not like the way Mathieu Raynal of France handled the Crusaders game, particularly at scrum time, but they were on safer ground with Australian Angus Gardner, a much more vocal presence at the breakdown and set-piece. The Lions, having got their house in order against the Crusaders were back in double figures in the penalty count with Gardner in charge, conceding eight second-half penalties.
Penalties conceded: Highlanders 7 Lions 12
Injuries: With Stuart Hogg ruled out of the tour hours before kick off with a facial bone fracture, the Lions were given further concern when lock Courtney Lawes was forced off after a blow to the head attempting to halt Waisake Naholo's try-scoring run. He walked off the field after a lengthy spell on the floor. Rory Best did return from a first-half blood injury but in the second period the Lions lost fly-half Dan Biggar to an HIA and he also walked off limping.
Next up: It's back to the North Island of New Zealand for the rest of this 2017 tour as the Lions move on to Rotorua for Saturday's keenly anticipated meeting with the Maori All Blacks. The corresponding fixture 12 years ago took place in Hamilton and saw the Maori beat the Lions for the first time in nine attempts, while the tourists will revisit the Rotorua International Stadium, known as the “Hangi Pit” after a traditional Maori cooking area like a barbeque, for the seventh time since 1908. Last time out in 2005 they beat Bay of Plenty there in their tour opener.
Full match report below
One big scrummage toppled the British and Irish Lions for the second time in New Zealand, as the Highlanders prevailed 23-22 in Dunedin.
Jonathan Joseph, Tommy Seymour and captain Sam Warburton all ran in tries for the often-threatening Lions, but the tourists were undone late on at the coal face.
The Highlanders blasted the Lions off the ball, and Marty Banks slotted the 74th-minute penalty that wrestled the one-point lead - and eventually the result.
The Crusaders made the scrum a big talking point after the Lions defeated them 12-3 on Saturday, insisting the tourists struggled at the set-piece.
And here referee Angus Gardner certainly felt the hosts had the upper hand in the decisive skirmish.
Replacement Owen Farrell missed a routine shot at goal and Elliot Daly failed with a long-range effort, as the Highlanders joined the Blues in scalping the Lions.
Waisake Naholo and Liam Coltman claimed the tries for a Highlanders side missing nine regular starters, including All Blacks Aaron and Ben Smith.
The Lions will be left to lick the wounds of a second defeat in four matches on this tour, with Courtney Lawes a new injury doubt having suffered a nasty-looking head injury.
Both sides seized on the firm, dry track afforded by the roof in a pulsating first half.
Naholo immediately skinned Tommy Seymour, with the Scotland wing enduring a tough opening 40.
Lima Sopoaga's penalty put the hosts ahead 3-0, before Rhys Webb knocked on stretching for a try.
Dan Biggar's penalty levelled the scores, before Sopoaga dragged his second effort wide.
The Highlanders punted their next penalty to the corner, only for Warburton and Rory Best to double up for a vital turnover.
But then the home side raced in a brutal score, Malakai Fekitoa skinning Joseph before Naholo outfoxed Robbie Henshaw, bumping off Lawes en route to the line.
Northampton's England lock Lawes departed with suspected concussion, replaced by Alun Wyn Jones.
Tevita Li bamboozled Webb, only for Henshaw to conjure a fine cover tackle.
And then the Lions struck themselves. When a penalty gifted them great field position to strike from a lineout, the visitors seized the chance.
Biggar's neat delayed pass created the gap, and Joseph held his nerve to keep the ball and race over the whitewash.
Biggar's fine touchline conversion tied the scores at 10-10, and so they stayed until the break.
Seymour opened the second half with a perfectly timed high-ball take that allowed him to race home for the Lions' second try.
Kyle Sinckler's last act of an otherwise-fine night was to hand the hosts a loose penalty, rushing up for a late tackle. Sopoaga posted the penalty, with the Lions leading 15-13.
The Highlanders botched an attempted clearance to hand the Lions a five-metre attacking scrum - and the tourists struck.
Joseph and Jared Payne almost wriggled free, before Iain Henderson punched through the middle and Warburton stretched home for a good try. Biggar's conversion put the visitors 22-13 ahead.
The Highlanders came fizzing straight back after Payne dropped the restart, but Henderson blasted through a ruck to force a gritty turnover.
No sooner was the danger clear, than the Lions heaped pressure straight back on themselves.
Referee Gardner told Warburton that Jones was "miles offside" at a lineout - and the Highlanders capitalised in full.
Liam Coltman capped the driven lineout with a try, that Banks converted - to leave the Lions leading just 22-20.
Owen Farrell replaced Biggar and his first act was to drag a penalty wide, and then the Highlanders forced lock Jones into a choke tackle turnover.
That swung the momentum right back to the hosts, who then bulldozed the Lions' scrum - for Banks to slot a penalty to wrestle back the lead, 23-22.
The Lions wanted the penalty reversed amid tetchy jostling after the scrum, but TMO Marius Jonker told referee Gardner: "They were just all saying hello and goodnight to one another."
Again the Highlanders attacked, but CJ Stander pulled off a stunning turnover.
Daly tried a long-range penalty as time ticked down, but not even the Wasps flyer's howitzer boot could deliver from almost 60 metres.