The All Blacks were simply too good for the Lions in the first test in Christchurch tonight. They dominated the attacking play and only some stout defence from the tourists kept the score down.
While the All Blacks were able to seemingly run and pass at will, particularly early in the game, the Lions failed to put much together in the way of attacking rugby. The All Blacks scored two tries, the first from Ali Williams after 25 minutes.
Tana Umaga and Sitiveni Sivivatu combined to show their class for the second with eight minutes of the second half gone. Umaga broke through and threw a long pass to the winger who dodged the tackle of Wilkinson and ran in brilliantly to score.
The Lions had suffered a devastating blow in the very first minute, captain Brian O'Driscoll being stretchered off with what is thought to be a shoulder injury after a tackle on Keven Mealamu. It is understood he will miss the rest of the tour.
Both teams had made early light of the very cold, wet conditions playing running rugby from the off. Justin Marshall showed the All Blacks intent early on, when he ran a penalty given for offside. Dan Carter kicked through and Sitiveni Sivivatu came rushing on, but the ball hit the post.
In the tourists' first break of the game, Dwayne Peel adopted the Marshall approach, breaking after a penalty on the all Blacks' 10-metre line. Jonny Wilkinson grubbered through but Doug Howlett was back to collect.
It was to be one of their few meaningful attacks while the running game continued for New Zealand, with Carter opting to pass in his own 22 soon after. The All Blacks broke all the way down to the opposition 22 where a Wilkinson tackle stopped a seemingly certain try.
The Lions had more bad news on 13 minutes, when Paul O'Connell was yellow carded for a foul tackle following a period of pressure on the tourists' tryline. Dan Carter converted a second penalty of the night to give the all Blacks a 6-0 lead.
Sivivatu looked dangerous again after 17 minutes, sliding towards the corner after a long passing move. But the Lions defence held him up and the TMO confirmed there was no try.
The All Blacks were building wave after wave of passes on the edge of the 22, while the Lions put up brave defence to keep them out.
They could only hold out so long and the opening try from Williams came from driving over after a turnover at a Lions lineout. It looked like a certain second try with five minutes left in the half when a chargedown fell for All Blacks captain Tana Umaga who kicked through for Sivivatu. But under pressure from Gareth Thomas, the winger was unable to touch down and the TMO confirmed a 22 drop-out.
Wilkinson missed his first chance for points when Williams infringed on the 10-metre line, the Englishman's penalty kick falling away.
The boot of first five-eighths Stephen Jones was increasingly being used as the first half progressed, with the Lions failing to put together any dangerous rugby and going in at the break 11-0 down.
Carter opened the second half by scoring with a penalty to stretch the lead to 14-0. Umaga and Sivivatu then combined for the second try and things were looking increasingly bleak for the tourists as the very cold conditions deteriorated further with heavy rain.
Carter succeeded with the conversion to make it 21-0 and leave the Lions with no apparent route back. The tourists were slow on the attack and were blighted with the handling errors they have struggled with all tour.
Wilkinson finally got the Lions on the scoreboard on 54 minutes, kicking a penalty just inside the righthand post.
Lions coach Clive Woodward made three changes shortly afterwards, including the replacement of fullback Jason Robinson who failed to impress.
For the All Blacks, Byron Kelleher came on for Justin Marshall at halfback with 13 minutes to play. The replacements made little impression on the game, the All Blacks fully in control and the Lions lacking a way back in.
All Blacks 21 (Tries: Ali Williams, Sitiveni Sivivatu; Penalties: Dan Carter 3; Conversion: Carter) Lions 3 (Penalty: Jonny Wilkinson)