New Zealand v British & Irish Lions
Live on Sky Sports 1
The British & Irish Lions are at the point of no return with only a win enough to take the series through to a decider. Warren Gatland's side certainly had their moments in the first Test and scored an outstanding try but were ultimately outclassed by the brilliant All Blacks. New Zealand have the upper hand but the Lions will still believe they can turn the tables in Wellington on Saturday morning.
The Lions played with plenty of ambition in last week's opener at Eden Park but were undone at crucial moments. The visitors' breathtaking try finished off by Sean O'Brien brought them within touching distance at the break. The Lions also had the All Blacks under pressure early on in the second half but their failure to take their opportunities proved costly in the 30-15 defeat.
Although it was a much-changed team for the Lions' midweek game against the Hurricanes, the way in which their healthy 14-point lead was lost hardly provided the momentum required for the second Test. Gatland's team had the win in the palm of their hands but Iain Henderson's yellow card was a turning point as the Hurricanes salvaged a 31-31 draw on Tuesday.
Gatland has opted to bring tour captain Sam Warburton into the side at blind-side flank with Peter O'Mahony missing out. Saracens forward Maro Itoje, as expected, is promoted to the team in place of George Kruis. The only other change sees Johnny Sexton starting at fly-half with Owen Farrell moving to inside centre as Ben Te'o drops to the bench. It is a bold call to go with both Sexton and Farrell with the pair playing a total of just 74 minutes together during the eight matches this summer.
New Zealand make two changes to the side which came out on top last weekend. Waisake Naholo comes into the backline with Ben Smith forced to miss out due to the concussion he suffered in the opening Test. Anton Lienert-Brown is also brought into the team at outside centre with Ryan Crotty sidelined due to a hamstring injury.
New Zealand are worthy short-priced favourites but remain virtually unbackable at 1.232/9 in the match market. The All Blacks held all the answers in the first match although the Lions can point towards a number of missed chances in the first 50 minutes of the match. It will take an outstanding performance from the visitors to level the series and it is difficult to see New Zealand dropping their standards. Again it is worth looking elsewhere for alternative bets in this clash.
The All Blacks have unleashed another huge talent after Rieko Ioane capped his first Test start with two tries against the Lions. The wing displayed exceptional pace and finishing skills as he pounced on the visitors' mistakes. The 20-year-old also scored for the Blues against the Lions and vindicated Steve Hansen's decision to start him ahead of Julian Savea. Ioane looks well worth backing to add another try in the second Test.
There is no doubt the All Blacks are at their most dangerous in the latter stages of the game. New Zealand won the second half of the opening Test by ten points and it would have been more if not for a late consolation from the Lions. Tiredness in the visitors' team will be exposed, by the relentless pace and skill of the All Blacks as the game progresses, so the hosts are again fancied to cover a seven-point handicap in the second half.
Back Rieko Ioane to score a try @ 7/5 (Sportsbook)
Back New Zealand -7 to win the second half handicap @ 5/6 (Sportsbook)
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