Only two British & Lions squads have won a series after losing the first Test
New Zealand v Lions - Saturday: 8.35, Sky Sports 1
The All Blacks have lost only two of their 21 Tests at the Westpac Stadium and none of 16 since England won 15-13 in Wellington in 2003, with this victory-streak including a 48-18 second Test hammering of the 2005 British & Irish Lions.
Last Saturday in the first Test at Eden Park, New Zealand dominated the breakdown, contact area and set-pieces with a tight gameplan that meant they scored two tries from first-phase play and Rieko Ioane could come alive for an opportunistic second try from a spilled clearance kick. The champagne rugby moves were left in the locker room..
Apart from conceding Sean O'Brien's breathtaking breakout try just before the break and Rhys Webb's last-minute consolation five-pointer, the All Blacks defence looked water-tight and was remarkably disciplined, conceding minimal penalties.
Only two British & Lions squads have won a series after losing the first Test.
Lions Head Coach Warren Gatland clearly feels he has no option but to jettison his first Test captain Peter O'Mahony and Lock George Kruis after their first subdued performances of the tour and employ the two Fly-Half Johnny Sexton-Owen Farrell midfield axis that he was adamant for so long that he wasn't going to use. More breakdown presence in tour skipper Sam Warburton and Maro Itoje and a double-sided attacking base, including territorial kicking plans, is what is being aimed for. But at what cost? Ben Te'o nullified Sonny Bill Williams at Inside Centre - can Farrell? How many times are New Zealand going to send heavyweights from the Back Row, Midfield and Wings down the channel at Sexton?
Yet it may not be all doom and gloom in the Kiwi capital for the Lions and a 14-point start looks handy..
A horrible weather forecast of driving rain and swirling winds mean that New Zealand are unlikely to suddenly change tactics and decide that open play and freestyle handling are the way to beat the Lions, especially as the Maori All Blacks tried that approach and the Lions fed off their mistakes and turnovers to power away.
The All Blacks have not blitzed the opposition by more than 20 points in their last five Tests at the Westpac. Australia lost 29-9 last August and the Lions and England have proved better outfits than the Wallabies. Wales lost 36-22 last June. South Africa lost 14-10 in September 2015.
Four years ago, after getting the rub of the green in a first Test victory and then losing the second dramatically, the Lions came out firing with brave personnel calls like the dropping of Brian O'Driscoll.
The 2009 Lions, when Gatland was Forwards Coach, also learned from a first Test defeat in South Africa to push the Springboks all the way in a brutal second Test before losing in the last minute to a long-range penalty.
Even these All Blacks wobble under pressure and Gatland's charges are more than capable of turning up the pump. The now sidelined Ben Smith, dropped a couple of kicks in Auckland, and was yellow-carded in the 2015 World Cup final allowing Australia back into the game in the second half. In the semi-final, played in atrocious conditions, against South Africa, the Springboks were stubborn and lead 12-7 at the break and Jerome Kaino was sent to the sin bin.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen and skipper Kieran Read will be livid if all the hard work of last Saturday's 30-15 success is undone by arrogant, unnecessarily extravagant passages of play. However, this does not mean that there will not be plenty of offloads, cross-kicks and inside runs to disturb the Lions' expert rush defence. And while Read did everything but score, the value Anytime Tryscorer bet is Openside Flanker Sam Cane at 4-1,
Cane was king of the breakdown at Eden Park but he is a powerful ball-carrier and excellent support-runner, not just an arch-fetcher and jackal, with a fine record of 12 tries in 42 Test appearances. And just as Hooker Codie Taylor appeared out on the wing for the All Blacks first try last Saturday, Cane is known for sneaking out wide for cross-kick knock downs as much as close-range pick-and-gos and on-shoulder short range run-ins.
New All Blacks Outside Centre Anton Lienart-Brown has to be backed for a try at 9-2 too. Lienert-Brown scored his third Test try in the rout of Samoa a fortnight ago, slotted in seamlessly for Ryan Crotty at Eden Park, and has the speed to take advantage of Sonny Bill offloads and drift onto cut-out passes from Beauden Barrett and then straighten for the line.