The All Blacks are a super team, which is not to be confused with being a Super Rugby team.
The British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland will forever rue describing the All Blacks as not different to playing the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises.
His players will tell him that these All Blacks are no Super Rugby opposition and that this was a Test like nothing they had experienced.
The world’s best hammered a team being talked up as the world’s best.
The All Blacks won 30-15 but a 15-point differential could easily have been a 50 pointer given the second half dominance.
The Lions scored seven points after the final buzzer and one of the great tries against the All Blacks in New Zealand.
The last team the All Blacks were torn to shreds on the counter attack was in 1994 when France scored a try described as being from the ‘end of the earth’ to beat the All Blacks at Eden Park and win a series. It was the last time a team has beaten the All Blacks at Eden Park.
The Lions scored a try as good but didn’t ever look like getting a winning result.
The Lions get another chance against the All Blacks at Eden Park in a fortnight but the series will be New Zealand’s by then and the 15 points differential of the first Test may well be closer to 50.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said his players had the edge he’d witnessed in the week before the 2015 World Cup final at Twickenham. He said the Lions were a class outfit and that they had the respect of the All Blacks.
The Lions, in contrast, were complimentary of New Zealand rugby but not as effusive about the All Blacks.
Gatland, a Kiwi by birth and an All Black in his playing days, said the All Blacks wouldn’t be much different to playing any of the New Zealand Super Rugby sides.
Gatland’s players will tell him otherwise because what they experienced at Eden Park was intensity, physicality and skill level they’d not fronted in the six matches leading into the Series opener.
The All Blacks scrum was supposedly a weakness and the goal kicking of Beauden Barrett was also spoken of as a potential vulnerability. Barrett kicked 100 percent and was always an attacking presence, despite playing the last 50 minutes at fullback.
The All Blacks lost Ben Smith and Ryan Crotty to injury in the first half but a completely rejigged backline operated as if they’d trained as the run on back seven.
The All Blacks pack was immense, individually and as a collective. Barrett’s 15 points and left winger Rieko Ioane’s two tries will get the headlines, but captain Kieran Read and his hard men up front will get all the plaudits from within the All Blacks inner sanctum.
Read, who hasn’t played a competitive match for eight weeks because of broken thumb, was colossal and his locking duo of Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock very big in everything they did.
It would be inaccurate to focus on individuals when describing how the emphatic victory was fashioned. This was a collective, from 23 players, and a coaching staff. Hansen outthought Gatland on this occasion and the All Blacks outplayed the Lions.
The Lions were paraded as the most ferocious and feared squad picked in the professional rugby but even the combination of four countries proved inadequate to mix it for 80 minutes with a team that consistently delivers in the game’s biggest moments and on the biggest occasions.