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Jim Kayes

Jim Kayes has been covering rugby since the late 1990s across print/online, radio and television with The Dominion Post, Stuff.co.nz, TV3 and Newshub, Radio Live and Radio Sport.  He's been to five World Cups, covered almost 200 All Blacks Tests and was on safari with the Lions when the British and Irish side last toured New Zealand, in 2005.

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Jim Kayes: A brutal and bruising series

Getty Images

Jim Kayes     08 Jul 2017     Getty Images

There was no euphoria. As the fans filed away from Eden Park, the All Blacks stood in a circle on the field and the Lions shooks hands with each other, slaps on the back, not so much in celebration, but because their time together was over.

They will be happy they didn’t lose the series, as will the All Blacks, but no one gets excited about a 15-15 draw.

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Sport, especially at this level, is played to win. If you keep score, you want to win. Sure, you want to play in a good spirit and fairly - and this Test, as brutal and bruising as it often was, was played fairly and in a good spirit.

But if you’re keeping score, if you’re adding up the points, well, you want to win. You want to win the game and the series.

Though many of the 48,609 fans stayed long after the final whistle - especially those wearing red who had travelled a long way to be there, it was a subdued atmosphere.

Like a bottle of beer left open overnight, there was just no fizz.

A late, brief “Lions” call started up in a small pocket of fans, but it petered out.

Both squads milled around for a while, waiting for the official stuff to finish – speeches and the presentation of the trophy – before mixing with the fans in the stand.

There was a nice moment when Lions coach Warren Gatland wandered over to congratulate Kieran Read, his baby son in his arms.

His two young daughters chased each other around the field, a game of tag where a Test match had been played just a 10 or so minutes before as they waited for Dad to be presented with his 100th test cap.

The test had finished in confusion and controversy. French referee Romain Poite overruling his own decision to give the All Blacks what might have been a match winning penalty, deciding after looking at the big screen, that the Lions off side was accidental. So scrum ball.
Then, at the end, as the All Blacks attack went into touch, Poite was unsure if the game was over, if time had ticked by on this enthralling but ultimately frustrating Test match. It had. He’d finally caught up.

But to blame Poite is unfair. Well, to blame him entirely is unfair. The All Blacks squandered too many chances in the first half. At least three tries were bombed when they had the Lions on the ropes. The game was there to be won and the All Blacks missed it, missed their chance to put the Lions away. It’s not like them.

Wearing his 100th test cap an emotional Read thanked his parents and his wife, praised the Lions, thanked the fans and his teammates.

“You lads are very special to me. I know you tried tonight and I can’t thank you enough for that.”

Gentle rain was falling and the odd umbrella was up as the officials got sorted for the trophy presentation. It was almost as if the gods were weeping for the lack of a result.

Six weeks, 10 games, three tests. That’s not meant to end in a stalemate. This isn’t chess. It’s rugby and it was played hard and fast, brutal in parts, skilful in others, full of passion on the field and in the stands.

“It’s a bitter pill to swallow that it’s a drawn series,” Read admitted before he and Sam Warburton held the trophy together.

Fireworks exploded and those left in the stands, mostly in red, cheered.

There was no real joy. No satisfaction. After six weeks, after 10 absorbing games, after three quality Test matches, no one wanted a drawn series.

Read said a draw was perhaps a fair result, an accurate reflection of the tough Test series, but he admitted it was a flat way to finish.

“It’s a bit of a hollow feeling, I guess, a draw,” Read said. “We don’t turn up for a draw or to lose, we want to win. A draw is better than a loss. I’m proud of playing 100 tests but I’d swap all of them for a win.”