Roger Alton Roger Alton

The keys to the kingdom await

Also: Who doesn’t love Joe Root?

Give them all peerages as far as I’m concerned: if you can pick up a gong for bunging a few quid to a political party, you surely deserve something if Sonny Bill Williams practically tears your head off. This marvellous, heroic British and Irish Lions tour of New Zealand has been one for the ages, whatever happens on Saturday. It’s the much maligned North going head to head with the cocky champions of the South — and holding our own. It says to all those snippy Kiwis: stop dissing the Six Nations (and how much can we look forward to that now!) What is so heartening about that victory last weekend to level the series was quite how badly we played in some areas. To give away ten kickable penalties and have Liam Williams flapping at the high ball as if it were made of soap would normally have resulted in a bucketful of points against. And yet we kept the All Blacks tryless.

It was a staggering effort and a triumph for that other Farrell, whose bearded, granite visage is ever-present in the coaches’ box. All hail Andy
Farrell and his defensive coaching. He has good form against New Zealand — he was defensive coach when Ireland beat them in Chicago last year, and for England when Chris Robshaw’s men won at Twickenham in 2012. Just do it one more time on Saturday, Andy, and the keys to the kingdom are yours.

They are easy to admire these All Blacks, less easy to love. French referees, though: how great are they? When the heroic Jerome Garces sent off Sonny Bill, you could see that weed Jaco Peyper trying to challenge him. But thank heaven someone at last had the guts to stop the All Blacks cheating.

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