Hurricanes 31-31 Lions: Honours even in thriller at the Westpac

The British and Irish Lions were forced to settle for a draw versus the Hurricanes, as the hosts came back from 14-point second half deficit, in an enthralling encounter at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

In an ebb and flow clash, the Lions had the upper hand for most of the game with a brace from Tommy Seymour, before Iain Henderson's late sin-bin, saw the 'canes score two tries inside five minutes in a thrilling finale in 'Wellywood'.

In what has come to be known as 'the midweek team' on this tour of New Zealand, Warren Gatland freshened up his troops. After a defeat that saw his Lions side out-classed and out-muscled over the weekend by the All Blacks, places were perhaps more widely up for grabs with the second test at the same venue, a matter of hours away.

Irish hooker Rory Best came in to captain the side, with Joe Marler and Dan Cole in the front row. George North, having been left out of the matchday squad in Auckland, returned to the wing, with Jack Nowell - who scored a brace versus the Chiefs a week ago - returning to the centre.

For the Hurricanes, coach Chris Boyd's Super Rugby champions named an XV awash with talent that would grace any All Black line-up.

The Kiwi side were themselves skippered by Brad Shields, as Nehe Milner-Skudder and Julian Savea took their respective spots on the flanks.

'Canes indiscipline

The early play was littered with indiscipline, conceding five penalties in the opening 12 minutes, which saw Dan Biggar open the scoring from the Welshman's boot.

Having failed to threaten the 'canes tryline however, the counter attack of Milner Skudder et al began to show its teeth. Amidst the intensity, Robbie Henshaw was forced off with a shoulder injury which could spell the end of his tour, as Leigh Halfpenny came on, as the tourists reshuffled.

With the Hurricanes piling forward however, a stray pass was intercepted by Greg Laidlaw as the fly-half raced to the other end of the field. His hand off at the tackle found fellow Scot Tommy Seymour, who coasted in for the opening score of the evening.

Hurricanes hit back; North extends

With the score at 0-10, the Lions threatened to run away with the game before the break. But as the dominant Lions sensed further blood, the Hurricanes bit back.

Again the pace of the hosts' pack was telling. With the battle at the whitewash again, Callum Gibbins touched down as referee Romain Poite ruled the ball over the line.

Still the Hurricanes continued to struggle at the breakdown, as Biggar further extended the lead for the Lions with further penalties. Then, with the half-time hooter in sight, George North made a statement of his own to race under the posts after another clever breakaway.

Gatland's men held off late pressure in the dying seconds of the half, as Rory Best led his men off with a comfortable lead at 23-7.

Tourists respond

With a significant deficit to battle, the Hurricanes exploded at the re-start. Ngani Lauampe found space wide on the right, as the Kiwi powered through Biggar to score inside a minute. Jordie Barrett kicked the conversion and after the Lions conceded a penalty, tens points had been scored within ten minutes. The momentum began to shift inside the Biscuit Tin in the capital.

Just as the Hurricane wind blew however, the Lions gained the advantage. Te Toiroa-Tahuriorangi was binned for a high tackle on Nowell. Biggar kicked another three points, which was followed by another rampage forward by the tourists, pinpointed by Seymour's second try of the night, at the touchline. The tide had again shifted back with a 31-17 lead.

Henderson binned; see-saw second period

After North was denied his own second of the game - after his foot sneaked outside the touch line - the game took yet another swing. Iain Henderson, who had had another sterling outing was found guilty of lifting dangerously in the tackle, as it was the Hurricanes who were given the power-play.

Within a minutes the match had swung again, only this time firmly in the way of the hosts. Wes Goosen was left all alone on the right wing to score. At the restart, Barrett kicked 60 yards to touch. With the pressure under the posts, Vaea Fifita dived under the Lions pack to score a second try in just five minutes. Barrett kicked the conversion to level the scores at 31-31.

Rousing climax

In what had been a pulsating encounter in the New Zealand capital, Henderson returned to the pitch with honours even. With tired minds and bodies across the field, both sides looked to the ruck to tip the final balance.

In the end however, it came down to the boot of Biggar. In scenes reminiscent - and largely a rarity in Lions internationals - the Welshman went for a drop goal. The 'canes raced out at the scrum and a flailing hand was enough, as Biggar's deflected kick drop inches short of the post, as the rebound went into touch to end the game all square.

After a sensational 80 minutes of rugby, both XVs will have made their respective head coaches think twice ahead of the second Test on Saturday.