Belfast Telegraph

Great Scott can't make Lions roar against All Blacks

By Billy Weir - On The Box

You know it's a big event on Sky when the Jim White Perpetual Countdown Clock is wheeled out and it duly arrived late on Friday evening with only one more sleep until the British and Irish Lions got down to business against the All Blacks.

Never mind the fact that we have had about four elections since the tourists left these shores, we were finally down to hours in the build-up of all build-ups before the time had finally ticked off on Saturday morning.

"They say to be a Lion is the greatest honour, to be a victorious Lion, well, that defines you, but to be a victorious Lion in New Zealand, that is the ultimate. Win and a new breed of legends will be born," pronounced presenter Alex Payne at the off.

I think on the evidence of the first Test, the legends won't have to budge up the bed anytime soon, though that could all change - but only if they put Scott Quinnell straight into the starting XV. I would say put him on the bench but that would be a waste of time given Warren Gatland's aversion to substitutions.

Quinnell (above) is Sky Sport's rabble-rouser and he was transported some time ago in his Fan Van to basically annoy the locals, so he was glad of a bit of red backing ahead of Saturday morning's kick-off in Auckland.

"It's bouncing in and around the stadium," he said and he hasn't been as excited since his own numbers came up in the Postcode Lottery, while pitchside interviewer Graeme Simmons was in equally good form, remarking to Gatland that "rugby doesn't get much more giddy than this".

He was at it again when Gatland's nemesis, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, was asked "how unique a tingle is this?" and I was scared to look up at the screen in case I saw something I didn't want to see so early on a Saturday morning.

No such qualms for Stephen Ferris, the only Ulsterman getting much of a look-in on the tour, joining Sir Ian McGeechan and Sean Fitzpatrick on Sky's line-up and filling us in on a lunch date with Sean O'Brien earlier in the week.

"He rocked up in a pair of shorts and his legs are like tree trunks and he has two boulders," he said, delaying slightly before adding that they were "on his pipes on his arms". Phew.

Whether your tingle or pipes were ready, or you were just a bit giddy, Payne felt the need for Quinnell to "make the doubters believe".

"It's not only going to be 15, it's not only going to be 23, there are going to be 30,000 British and Irish Lions, our Lions will roar. The Lions are here for victory and I believe and you should believe, this is going to be epic," he bellowed and I went all tingly and giddy and raced to the freezer and sacrificed a New Zealand leg of lamb forthwith.

Things didn't go exactly according to plan as the terrified All Blacks ran in an early try.

"The Lions said they would have to stay switched on for 80 minutes," warned Stuart Barnes in the commentary box at Eden Park.

"At some time in the eighth minute they switched off," he added and we settled back fearing the worst, and I regretted my lamb attack.

What we got was the best though, a wonderful try for the Lions, started off in Wales by Liam Williams and finished trunks, pipes and all by O'Brien.

The All Blacks, party-poopers that they are, scored early again, making the score 20-8 and commentator Miles Harrison put things in perspective.

"This would be some comeback for the Lions, it would sit alongside anything they have achieved," he said, although there was more likelihood of Lazarus joining Elvis on stage having arrived on Shergar ridden by Lord Lucan, or as likely as winning the Postcode Lottery.

In the end it finished 30-15, an evenly poised tennis game perhaps but in rugby terms, it was no contest, and Barnes put things in perspective.

"There are so many question marks about taking on New Zealand, there are so many exclamation marks about the All Blacks," he said while a pained Payne admitted that "it is the hope that kills you".

Outside, Quinnell was probably sobbing inside his van, in his JPR Williams pyjamas on top of his Willie John McBride bedspread, but he was needed for one more task.

"Unfortunately, it hasn't gone how we'd hoped," concluded Payne. "We'll send chief morale officer Scott Quinnell for a couple of big bear hugs to get them all smiling again and back on their toes."

Or at least enough to make them giddy or tingle.

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