New Zealand v British & Irish Lions: Underdogs can keep it close in epic decider

The British & Irish Lions set up a series decider after their gripping win in Wellington
The British & Irish Lions set up a series decider after their gripping win in Wellington
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Simon Mail previews the third Test at Eden Park with everything on the line after the British & Irish Lions' dramatic win last weekend...


"The Lions have given themselves a chance of a historic success in New Zealand although the odds are not stacked in their favour. New Zealand have not lost at Eden Park for 23 years and it will take an exceptional effort, better than last week's performance, for the Lions to topple them this time."

New Zealand v British & Irish Lions
Saturday, 08:35
Live on Sky Sports 1

The British & Irish Lions' series against New Zealand has lived up to all the hype and buildup with everything resting on this weekend's decider. For much of the second Test, it did not look as if there would be much at stake in the third game. But Warren Gatland's side eventually took advantage of the extra man against the All Blacks to give the series the finale it undoubtedly deserves.

New Zealand have been heavy favourites throughout the series and this remains the case despite the Lions drawing level last week. The hosts will return to Eden Park - the scene of their opening victory - for this weekend's hugely anticipated showdown. The All Blacks claimed a 30-15 victory in Auckland last month and will have every confidence of a repeat which would deny the Lions a second series triumph in New Zealand.

The Lions' 24-21 win in Wellington ensured a thrilling conclusion to the series but New Zealand will rightly feel the defeat was significantly affected by the first-half red card for Sonny Bill Williams. The extra man eventually told although a lack of discipline almost cost the visitors as they trailed 18-9. But tries from Taulupe Faletau and Conor Murray turned the game around and enabled Owen Farrell's penalty to send the All Blacks to a first home defeat for eight years.

Gatland has resisted the chance to make changes with the Lions fielding exactly the same XV in consecutive Tests for the first time since 1993. The players, led by captain Sam Warburton, have been rewarded for their comeback victory last weekend and it means no Scottish player will feature in the three Tests.

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has made several significant decisions opting to hand 20-year-old full-back Jordie Barrett his first Test start. Israel Dagg switches to the wing alongside the recalled Julian Savea. Ngani Laumape starts at inside centre after impressing as a replacement last weekend with Williams banned following his dismissal.

The Lions have given themselves a chance of a historic success in New Zealand although the odds are not stacked in their favour. New Zealand have not lost at Eden Park for 23 years and it will take an exceptional effort, better than last week's performance, for the Lions to topple them this time. The All Blacks have not lost successive games for six years.

But if Gatland's team can improve their discipline and limit the number of penalties conceded then they should be in with a chance. The handicap margin gives them an 11-point advantage and looks worth taking in a contest which could go the distance. Wet conditions may make it an attritional affair and the visitors are fancied to stay within the handicap even if a remarkable series victory proves a step beyond them.

It would be no surprise if most of the points came from penalties particularly in the early stages with so much at stake. Difficult weather conditions may limit scoring opportunities and the first two Tests have both seen more tries in the second half of each game. As the decider goes on, the desperation for a potential series winning score will intensify and it is well worth backing the second half to feature the most tries.


Recommended Bets

Back British & Irish Lions +11.5 to win at [2.06]
Back second half to have the most tries @ 10/11 (Sportsbook)


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2016/17 Rugby P/L

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