EDEN PARK, New Zealand -- The All Blacks' 80-minute management is unrivalled, fortress Eden Park remains secure, formidable and a place synonymous with New Zealand victory.
After the British & Irish Lions threw just about everything Warren Gatland had up his sleeve at the All Blacks, the men in black absorbed it and then returned fire with a try of such breathtaking skill that there was little you could do but sit back and admire it.
The score was poised at 13-8 to the All Blacks as Wyatt Crockett got stuck into Tadhg Furlong and as the Lions' scrum was moving backwards, Kieran Read's no-look offload found a rampaging group of teammates and Rieko Ioane crossed in the corner. A 12-point lead was established, and one the Lions could not pin back. Advantage New Zealand.
This was rugby a level above anything we have seen this year. The pace was relentless, handling astonishing, technical expertise to make a rugby aficionado beam, and an occasion to rival any in sport. All day Auckland had been painted red. The bars were packed, songs hung on the New Zealand air, weather reports constantly checked to see if we'd have rain or just wind.
Then there was suddenly a gravitational pull towards Eden Park. The fan walk saw them head on the hour-long stroll from the harbour to the stadium; supporters wearing red and black walked alongside one another, celebrating their passion for the sport. Banners were unveiled, with one the self-appointed 'Kyle Sinckler Fan Club'. The rain held off -- until the second half at least -- and the teams ran out on the pitch, prompting involuntary smiles and glances to one another that you were hugely privileged to be there.
It needed a game to match the excitement. And for those who have spent hard-earned money to travel from thousands of miles away, they were rewarded with a spectacular game. Some of the attacking running was beyond belief, the offloads ridiculous. And it was capped with one of the greatest tries in Lions history.
The try was a thing of unrivalled beauty. It's the sort where you realise you haven't taken a breath from the split-second it looked like there was an opportunity to witness something truly remarkable. Liam Williams dodged Kieran Read, handed off Aaron Curden and darted past Sonny Bill Williams, while constantly turning his head left and right looking for support runners; the eyes of the 48,181 folk inside Eden Park had their eyes trained on him, scanning for the men in red sprinting on his shoulder.
The try's roots were in west Wales, as his former Scarlets teammate Jonathan Davies played the link man perfectly, as he teed up Elliot Daly, then took the return pass to put Sean O'Brien over the line. Boring, boring Lions, they said.
But again they squandered opportunities. There were two of the finest last-ditch tackles you will see to prevent the Lions scoring early on. First Aaron Smith's tap-tackle on Conor Murray who was tearing towards the try line and then Israel Dagg on Daly to prevent him opening the scoring as seats in the stadium were still cold with the fans only just getting comfortable.
The Lions had chances to make this match a closer contest. After Daly's early effort, they squandered two brilliant opportunities in the early stages of the second-half to get the lead. Then they kicked to the corner, instead of taking points when they would have reduced the deficit to two. Then when they had the attacking lineout with 12 minutes left, Sam Whitelock pinched the ball off Ken Owens' first throw. Missed opportunities proved costly.
The All Blacks displayed some unrivalled handling with Beauden Barrett -- who ended up at fullback after 27 minutes due to Ben Smith suffering a head knock -- and Codie Taylor both scooping balls off the damp Eden Park turf with such ease, it was as if they had magnetic powers.
But at the heart of their triumph were Brodie Retallick and Read. Both put in sublime performances. This was Read's first action for nearly two months; if this was him coming into a Test match cold, then once he's warmed up it will be truly scary to see him in action. And then there was Retallick. He's a big old unit, but he manages to get over the ball like a fetcher, and can pilfer ball with similar skill.
And it was their ability to play off first-phase rugby which remains their unique skill. They are ruthless and the pace they get on the ball causes scrambling, and leaves hands grasping at thin air. The bench also had a big impact on the match while Ioane repaid Steve Hansen's faith to score twice, showing a lethal ability to score off broken play.
The Lions played well in spells, but this All Blacks team proved why they are regarded in this part of the world -- by those who have worn the famous silver fern -- as one of the greatest groups to ever pull on the black jersey.
For Gatland's men, they need to fine-tune their discipline as they fell on the wrong side of Jaco Peyper. The penalty count of 11 was too high and their ability to take chances when they have a sniff needs to improve ahead of the second Test.
There are still legs in this series, the Lions will believe they can equal the series in Wellington, but the All Blacks have sent a reminder of why they are able to turn the world oval.