Auckland made an impressive start to the game although the Lions appeared keen to finish their midweek series of games on a high note. A quickly taken penalty from Matt Dawson earned the Lions decent field position after Daniel Braid had been caught offside on his own 22, Charlie Hodgson stepped forward and broke the deadlock. Many of the players on show certainly had a point to prove having been overlooked for much of the tour by Sir Clive Woodward. One of those, Martyn Williams, was into the thick of the action from referee Steve Walsh's first whistle, tackling well and supporting his fellow forwards as they launched an early bid for domination.
A lack of depth in the back division and the decision to, once again, commit too many players to the ruck was proving the tourists' Achilles Heel. However Auckland were hardly smooth in terms of their attack and the Lions looking a head if not shoulders better than their hosts. Still, with the likes of Joe Rokocoko in the Auckland side, the Lions were always likely to be tested.
Their first serious examination came on 18 minutes when Steve Devine set his backs on their way and Rokocoko dipped his shoulder and threatened the line before Geordan Murphy bundled him into touch. Three minutes later Denis Hickie had a klick charged down midway inside his own half and after Auckland threatened the Lions line, Walsh awarded a penalty which Auckland decided to run.
Their ambition almost brought its reward when prop John Afoa muscled his way over the line after a clever switch in midfield. However, despite his attempts to score, Williams somehow got his hand under the ball to prevent the score. Hodgson was forced off at that moment after being flattened by Semisi Telephoni and Ronan O'Gara came on to take his place.
Minutes later O'Gara sent a wonderful crossfield kick into the hands of Hickie, but the Irish wing, with the line at his mercy, juggled, juggled again and finally knocked on. However, when Auckland prevented quick release from a ruck a minute later, O'Gara stepped up and doubled his side's lead seven minutes before the interval.
Brent Ward took Auckland's first shot at goal, after John Hayes was penalised at a scrum and the full-back made no mistake to reduce the arrears by three. O'Gara's drop goal attempt on 37 minutes went wide, but the Lions should have gone back in front by six when Walsh awarded them a penalty in front. However, the referee reversed the penalty after an alleged punch from Ben Kay. Kay then left the field with his eye closed!
O'Gara converted a penalty on the stroke of half time to ease the Lions further ahead, but the tourists were clearly unhappy that Kay had been penalised for taking a punch in the face. A moment of brilliance from Mark Cueto then provided the Lions with a real cushion as they turned around at half time. Murphy sent out a long pass to the Sale wing who had Ben Atiga closing him down.
Seeing the Auckland centre out of the corner of his eye, Cueto allowed the ball to cross in front of him before racing forty metres to set up a ruck from which Dawson sent in Williams for his first try on tour. Not surprisingly Kay failed to appear after half time; Brent Cockbain taking his place in the second row.
The Welsh lock, not known to take any nonsense, was penalised within two minutes for punching after taking one himself from Steve Devine. However, the Lions were now on the front foot and determined not to allow this one to slip despite a number of decisions going again them. Ward did cut the gap with a second penalty on 53 minutes, but undeterred by that, the Lions struck back with a vengeance and threatened once more. Sadly, once again, the Auckland forwards were allowed to go offside and the danger was cleared.
Three minutes later, the game was back in the melting pot when O'Gara and Martin Corry missed early tackles in the Auckland half and allowed Tasesa Lavea to break. Some wonderful handling ensued and when the Lions found themselves short of numbers out wide, Isa Nacewa nipped over for Ward to convert.
Yet another penalty against the Lions provided Ward with his chance to edge Auckland in front, but the full back struck an upright and the Lions were off the hook. O'Gara provided a little respite from the pressure at the other end when he kicked a crucial penalty four minutes from time.
I Nacewa (I Toe'ava 77mins)
S Taumoepau (C Heard 67mins)
S Telfoni (J Fonokolafi 77mins)
B Mika (J Kaino 46mins)
J Collins (capt)
British & Irish Lions
W Greenwood (S Horgan 51mins)
C Hodgson (O' Gara 23mins)
G Bulloch (capt)
J Hayes (M Stevens 59mins)
B Kay (B Cockbain 40mins)
J White (M Corry 54mins)
Lions 17 Auckland 13
Penalties: Ward (2)
Penalties: Hodgson, O'Gara (3)
Referee: S Walsh (New Zealand)