Rugby Union: The hosts admit to a 'stuffing'

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IT WAS, said Wayne Shelford, a 'good old-fashioned stuffing', of a kind the All Blacks are more used to administering than receiving. The former New Zealand captain, fresh from three seasons with Northampton, had warned that the Lions would be combative but he had not quite expected this, writes Steve Bale.

The tourists blearily woke yesterday to a chorus of praise in newspapers more used to disparaging them and litany of compliments from some great All Blacks of the past headed by Shelford. 'It's All Bleak]' screamed Auckland's Sunday Star. 'Easy Does It]' was the Sunday News version. 'Lions regain their pride,' said Wellington's more sober Sunday Times.

Shelford said the All Blacks 'were comprehensively beaten in every facet of the game and the Lions dumped into the Athletic Park dirt any All Black that moved'. John Graham, a former All Black prop and now one of the Auckland coaches, said: 'This was a total team performance by the Lions. It was a coaching triumph. The tactical approach was brilliant.'

Doug Bruce, a former New Zealand centre, said: 'The Lions had more fire and purpose up front, they were committed to going forward and were well supported by the backs. The All Blacks might have had the desire but they were totally outplayed so it didn't show.' Who ever would have imagined a New Zealander saying such things about the All Blacks?

Of the newspaper correspondents, Trevor McKewen called it 'an outstanding performance from the Lions side coming off three recent defeats' in the Sunday News, while in the Sunday Star Duncan Johnstone turned his fire on his own team. 'Laurie Mains's All Blacks are in trouble,' he wrote. 'Devoid of imagination, they face a severe test of character and strategy if they are to secure the series after being humbled in the second Test.'

Lindsay Knight went for an old cliche in the Sunday Times. 'Just as a week in politics can be a long time, so too, in international rugby, as the Lions proved with their emphatic win over the All Blacks. The Lions, written off after consecutive defeats to Auckland and Hawke's Bay, saved their tour and gave themselves an excellent chance of taking the series by outplaying the All Blacks in all departments.'

These, incidentally, are among the men who did the writing-off. If past experience is anything to go by, they and through their good offices Laurie Mains, the New Zealand coach, will now turn their heat on the excellent French referee, Patrick Robin.