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Welsh rugby enveloped in its latest existential crisis

As Wayne Pivac teeters on the edge of finding new gainful employment after a series of disappointing results, the wider-lens story tells of dysfunction and frustration

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The good, the bad and the rugby – Lions Tour 2017

By Jamie Wall
(Photo by Getty Images)

The dust has barely settled on the insanity that was third and ultimately un-deciding test between the All Blacks and British & Irish Lions. While all the talk today is about the call that Roman Poite made in the dying stages, let’s not let it overshadow what has been a fascinating tour.

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The last month has captured the attention of an entire nation. Here’s some of  the highs and lows of the journey:

GOOD – The crowds. Even though the first game in Whangarei was preceded by the sort of weather that would have Noah rounding up two of every animal for a boat ride, the skies cleared and the people flocked. A full house at Okara Park set the tone for the rest of the series, with every stadium filled to the brim.

BAD – The build up for the Lions. One week together clearly wasn’t nearly enough, as evidenced in their slack start to the tour. The most annoying part about their blundering against the Barbarians and then Blues was that it meant that they completely shut up shop against the Crusaders – a win, yes, but a very turgid watch.

GOOD – The Blues. If anyone should be thanking the schedule-makers, it’s the men from Auckland. They got a disjointed Lions side in the first week of the tour and duly dispatched them in front of their biggest crowd in quite a while. Next week they go back to being the worst NZ Super Rugby team, though.

BAD – The Chiefs. Last year their B team smoked Wales, this year they couldn’t even hold onto the ball for longer than 30 seconds. Taking nothing away from the Lions, though, they treated the home team with the ruthless contempt they deserved.

GOOD – Maro Itoje. Whenever this guy does anything remotely good, we heard his own personalised chant go up. Which ended up being a great many times.

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BAD – Concussions. Courtney Lawes was knocked out cold against the Highlanders and sat out exactly 0 games in the aftermath. Alun Wyn Jones was knocked out even colder in the third test, and somehow returned to the field of play. I’m no doctor, but that doesn’t seem right?

GOOD – Ngani Laumape. After ploughing through the Lions for the Hurricanes, Laumape found himself starting his first test about half an hour before he should’ve and with one less team mate to help him. After a bulldozing performance in that game, he showed his wider skill set with a more distributing role in the third.

BAD – Gatland being called a clown. It wasn’t funny the first time, or the second. He got the last (and only) laugh out of the joke though.

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Warren Gatland hams it up in the final press conference

GOOD – The Maori All Blacks haka. Spine-tingling, especially through the cloud of mist that rolled in over Rotorua International Stadium as the teams took the field.

BAD – The Maori All Blacks. So the haka was basically the only thing they got right, afterwards they were handed a lesson in physical ball control by the Lions.

GOOD – Jonathan Davies. Not exactly a name that most NZ fans would’ve been talking about too much before the tour, but the big Welshman made linebreaks in every game he played. The road to the Lions’ ultimate successes were paved through the centre channel that he controlled – he was the best player in the test series.

GOOD/ VERY BAD – Sonny Bill Williams. Game winner at Eden Park for the Blues, shockingly stupid red card in the second test. SBW now becomes the only All Black to be sent off on NZ soil, and the first in 50 years to get his marching orders at all.

GOOD – This story isn’t finished! A drawn series for the first time ever – and now we have 12 more years to talk about what will happen next. The guys who will be playing in that series will be mostly all in their first year of high school right now, just have a think about that.

VERY GOOD – Lions fans. They’re loud and proud, but friendly and willing to take the good with the bad. No one thought their team could pull level with the mighty All Blacks, and it was their support that helped ensure the Lions can leave NZ with their heads held high.

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