Belfast Telegraph

Lions' bid for history in New Zealand is all tied up

On the Box: Billy Weir

Twelve years of waiting, many months of build-up, eight weeks of touring and it came down to one game, the decider, the All Blacks versus the British and Irish Lions. Oh, and a Frenchman who decided the outcome.

"History is beckoning for the Lions of 2017, they are only 80 minutes away from winning a Test series in New Zealand for only the second time in 129 years," Sky's Alex Payne told us as the waiting wasn't quite over.

Now, I studied history, occasionally, at university, and from what little I remember, to me it seemed that history was the first to do something, hence why no one knows who Ernst Schmied is.

For those not in the know, he led the second expedition to successfully conquer Mount Everest, and when he got to the top, in Sky terms, he made history by being the first man to do so. Apart from Sherpa Tensing and Edmund Hillary, the latter incidentally from New Zealand, and that brings us back neatly to matters at hand.

"One giant last step for those chosen today and they will conquer rugby's biggest mountain," continued Payne, mixing up his historical metaphors a tad, but stopping short of arguing that Pete Conrad, the third man to walk on the moon, was in fact the first.

On the sidelines, a man who has walked the walk, Sir Ian McGeechan, was thankfully returned to rude health after missing out last week, and beside him Rory Best, who has been the Michael Collins of the Lions tour, looking on as the likes of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had all the fun.

Resident space cadet Scott Quinnell was there too, boldly going where others fear to tread, with Payne making another bold prediction.

"For the Lions it is either sporting greatness or it's a whole heap of despair, there is nothing in between," he declared, conveniently overlooking that there could be a draw, but there was more chance of me climbing Everest or walking on the moon than that happening.

"There is nothing better in this life than creating history, we saw some of the legends of the game from 1971, these guys have an opportunity to be mentioned in the same breath, and when they win tonight it is going to be one of THE great nights, do not go anywhere because you will always want to tell people I was here, I watched this game, this is going to be one of the greatest games of your life," hinted Quinnell in his final address to the nation.

"It is now or never for the 2017 British and Irish Lions, the history books are open, it is up to them as to what goes in the final chapter," concluded Payne, before the action finally got under way.

An epic clash ensued, commentator Miles Harrison couldn't have been more excited had Adam and Eve dandered across Eden Park, or Darren and Sharon, the second couple to walk through the garden but cruelly overlooked by the first history book.

He told us that the Lions were "shaking hands with history", there was a "special page in rugby history waiting for this match" and, after they drew 15-15, concluded that "it will be forever engraved in rugby and in sporting history".

Indeed they will, thanks to a Frenchman, and when anyone asks what the Romains did for us you can check back in the history books to find out that Monsieur Poite didn't award what seemed a blatant penalty in the dying seconds.

The final words, though, of the match and the tour belong to a man who delivered many over the last few weeks, Graham Simmons (left), pitchside reporter, legend and a man who makes Quinnell seem calm and rational, who asked Lions captain Warburton, "Sam, they call it kissing your sister for a very good reason, how does it feel?"

Probably a bit like not being the first to do something, but a chance to join the ranks of Schmied, Conrad, Darren and Sharon will come around again in 12 years' time, just enough time to bring Quinnell and Simmons back down to earth.

The good, the bad and the ugly

THE GOOD: Great to see Johanna Konta make it through to the semi-finals at Wimbledon, becoming the first British woman to reach this stage since Virginia Wade in 1978. She is also the first Australian to make it this far since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980…

THE BAD: If you want drama then there’s no better place to hold a race than somewhere called Spielberg, but the Austrian Grand Prix sadly didn’t read the script with no close encounters and the only hope of any excitement was Lewis Hamilton calling Sebastian Vettel a BFG and offering him into the Jurassic car park, watched by Channel Four presenter Indiana, sorry, Steve Jones.

THE UGLY: But if it’s an Austrian fight you want then it was to be found in Portstewart of all places, the last day of the Irish Open golf seeing Jon Rahm hold off Daniel Im and co. to take the win, or as Sky’s Wayne Riley commented, “It’s like Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting against Danny DeVito”, clearly forgetting they are twins…

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