WELLINGTON, July 1 (Reuters) - All Blacks coach Steve Hansen declared “losing sucks” after his 14-man side were outclassed 24-21 in the second test by the British and Irish Lions on Saturday to level the test series at 1-1.
“It doesn’t make it any easier to swallow the defeat that we were down to 14. Losing sucks if you have 15, 14 or 25 or two. We have to take it on the chin,” he told reporters after his side played 55 minutes with a man down following Sonny Bill Williams’s dismissal for a dangerous shoulder charge.
“Congratulations to the Lions, they worked their way back into the game and got in front in the final 10 minutes.”
Despite being outnumbered for almost three-quarters of the match at Wellington Regional Stadium, Hansen had several positive factors to take out of the encounter.
The All Blacks dominated many of the game’s key statistics and they could have also won the game had flyhalf Beauden Barrett been as accurate off the tee as he had been last week, when he did not miss a kick at goal.
Barrett missed three penalty kicks in swirling winds and persistent rain showers on his home ground, which could have given his side a 30-14 lead with about 10 minutes to go.
The Lions, however, finally wore the world champions down and scrumhalf Conor Murray scored his side’s second try with a little over 10 minutes remaining before Owen Farrell landed his fourth penalty in the 78th-minute to give them the victory.
“I am extremely proud of our blokes. 14 men against a very good side,” Hansen said.
“We got beaten by a team that played better than we did and we have to accept that.”
The forwards also comfortably handled the Lions pack, despite having being reduced to seven men as Hansen replaced Jerome Kaino with centre Ngani Laumape, who was making his test debut, to fill the gaps in midfield.
Centre Anton Lienert-Brown packed in the scrum on the All Blacks’ feed.
”I was very comfortable with how the forwards were going to cope with seven men,“ Hansen said. ”If we had left a forward on they may have scored more tries in the backs.
“(So) we rolled the dice. Did it work? We lost so I suppose we can say it didn‘t.”
Despite suffering their first loss in New Zealand in almost eight years, Hansen said he was excited about the series decider at Eden Park. “We can head to Auckland one each and get excited about it,” Hansen said.
“We have to go away now as an All Black team, prepare better, work harder and come out to try and win the series next week.”
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury, editing by Pritha Sarkar