New Zealand v British and Irish Lions betting tips: Third Test preview

Israel Dagg

Steve Bramley has four tips for Saturday's deciding Test between New Zealand and the British & Irish Lions.

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2pts NZ to win by 11-20 points at 13/5 – New Zealand have only failed to win by a double digit margin once in the last 11 Tests at Eden Park

1pt NZ to lead by 1-5 points at half-time at 7/2 – only five points separated the sides at the break in the first Test while the second was all square

1pt Israel Dagg to score the first try at 9/1 – crossed in two of the last three matches at Eden Park and a point to prove after disappointing in Wellington

1pt Anthony Watson to score a try anytime at 7/2 - pace and opportunism makes him dangerous

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The British and Irish Lions have the opportunity to stamp their names into rugby folklore with victory over New Zealand on Saturday.

Last week’s 24-21 triumph for the Lions in Wellington set-up a deciding Test in Auckland few would have expected after the world champions' dominant victory at Eden Park seven days earlier.

Not since 1998 have the All Blacks lost back-to-back Tests on home soil, surely this Lions’ side can’t do the impossible, or can they?

Again the bookies don’t give the Lions much hope and, although it hurts me to say it, I have to agree.

New Zealand, 2/9 (general) to wrap up the series, have won their last 38 matches at Eden Park stretching back to 1994 and outplayed and outclassed the Lions in the first Test.

But Warren Gatland’s side turned the tables at the Westpac Stadium and are now a best-price 4/1 (BoyleSports, BetStars) to do what few predicted, and clinch their first series win over the All Blacks since 1971.

Gatland, who has retained the same 23-man squad for the decider, was portrayed as a clown in the New Zealand press in the build-up to last week's game but turned into a magician as his decision to play Johnny Sexton instead of Ben Te’o at centre, alongside Owen Farrell, was well and truly vindicated.

The Lions did just about deserve their victory. Obviously, Sonny Bill Williams’ dismissal was a crucial factor in their success, but the fact that the All Blacks failed to score a try for the first time in 39 games was significant and proved that Gatland had got his tactics spot on.

His side were also aided by Beauden Barrett having an off-day. The All Blacks’ No 10, who was flawless in the first Test, seemed to feel the pressure and missed three relatively straightforward kicks at goal, which proved crucial and meant his side were never able to kill off the Lions.

Even with the man advantage, and Barrett’s misfiring boot, the Lions did their best to hand victory to the All Blacks as their lack of discipline resulted in 13 penalties. A similar lack of control this week will almost certainly cost them dear, particularly with Barrett’s younger brother, Jordie, who is making his Test debut, providing another kicking option from full-back.

But it’s not just a lack of discipline that worries me - it’s the reaction we can expect from the All Blacks at fortress Eden Park.

France were the last team to win there 23 years ago and since then the hosts have crushed all before them. Last week’s reverse will have hurt New Zealand deeply and we have to expect a response.

Under Steve Hansen, they have won all 11 matches played in Auckland, and only one of those victories was by a single-figure margin - that came against England in 2014.

In that spell the All Blacks have won by an average of 25 points and only failed to top 30 themselves on two occasions.

I’m not predicting such a margin this time as the Lions have already proved they can ruffle the feathers of their rivals, but do expect the hosts to end all hope the Lions have of making history.

The handicap line of 12 points looks just about right, if a little low, and I prefer the added value of a winning margin of 11-20 points at 5/2 (Ladbrokes, Coral and Betfair).

There’s also value to be had in backing a closely-fought first half. New Zealand edged it by only five points in the first Test and the draw returned in Wellington at around 14/1. 

To back that up, six of last 11 games at Eden Park, New Zealand have led by a single-figure margin at the break so take the 1-5 point first-half margin at 3/1 with BetVictor.

All we know about New Zealand tells us that they will do their best work after the break, so let's try to profit by backing things to be fairly tight at half-time, before the hosts edge to an ultimately comfortable success.

The All Blacks may have failed to cross the whitewash last week but I expect them to put that right on Saturday.

Israel Dagg came in for some flak after an indifferent performance at full-back but returns to his favoured position on the right wing, with the prolific Julian Savea replacing the ill Rieko Ioane on the left.

Dagg has crossed in two of the last three matches at Eden Park and at 9/1 to score first looks great value to me.

That said, the Lions have so far outscored the All Blacks four tries to two in this series so there is every reason to think they can add to their tally on Saturday.

Last week I selected Anthony Watson and I’m sticking by my guns. The England wing went close in Wellington and it’s his pace and opportunism that could be crucial if the Lions are to get in behind the hosts.

He’s worth a small investment at 7/2 to cross anytime.

Where to watch on TV: Sky Sports

Posted at 1555 BST on 06/07/17.

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