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Itoje ‘a bit unsatisfied’ as Lions draw series

PUBLISHED: 12:00 08 July 2017

British & Irish Lions' Maro Itoje is tackled by New Zealand's Israel Dagg in Auckland (pic David Davies/PA)

British & Irish Lions' Maro Itoje is tackled by New Zealand's Israel Dagg in Auckland (pic David Davies/PA)

PA Wire/PA Images

We wanted to beat All Blacks says Saracens lock

Saracens lock Maro Itoje admitted to a sense of disappointment after the British & Irish Lions drew the third Test with New Zealand to ensure their series ended level.

Clubmate Owen Farrell landed a late penalty to make it 15-15, as the Lions produced another strong defensive display a week on from their 24-21 second Test win, in which Itoje had been a key man.

The home side failed to cross the whitewash in that meeting, but Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett touched down to make it 12-6 at half-time.

The Lions rallied in the second half, though, and Itoje was left wondering what might have been in Auckland.

He said: “I’m a little bit unsatisfied. We came here with hopes and intention of winning and we didn’t do that. We didn’t play our perfect game and plan exactly how we wanted to do it.

“New Zealand are a top team, we went toe-to-toe with them and hoped to get win and didn’t, but we’ll crack on.

“Our lineout could’ve worked a bit smoother. We were physical, but we could have been a bit more physical. We had an opportunity late on to win it, but it didn’t stick in the hands.”

The tour saw Itoje scale new heights on an individual level, with team-mate Taulupe Faletau claiming he was putting a marker down in world rugby after his second Test performance.

And the 22-year-old admitted it had been an unforgettable time in his career, adding: “I’m incredibly proud and honoured to be part of this team. It has been the best six/seven weeks of my life. To wear this red jersey has been a dream come true for me.

“It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what we wanted, but life goes on. We’ll roll up our sleeves and crack on.

“I can’t read the future, but I’m definitely going to try and keep on improving and getting better in my game. That’s part of the plan.”

Saracens hooker Jamie George revealed he was feeling mixed emotions, having struggled at the lineout before being replaced.

He said: “It’s a bit diappointing from a personal point of view, with two not straight throws.

“We wanted to come back with the whole trophy, but the one thing I will say is I’ve never experienced anything like this. It’s an absolute honour to wear the shirt and to all the people who travelled here and my family, thanks for the support.”

Lions captain Sam Warburton was also left scratching his head, unsure of how to feel having drawn the series.

The Welsh flanker said: “It’s a difficult one to explain. You go through all the pressure and the emotion of the week, which is geared towards winning. But it’s better than losing!

“I’m a bit speechless and not sure what to make of it, I was ready to go into extra time.

“We’ve come to the double world champions and what they’ve done the last six to eight years is incredible. We’ve got to take some credit for that. We had six to weeks to become the world’s best, so we can take some positives from taking a draw.

“Our discipline was a bit better this week, we knew it was something we had to work on, and when we had territory going through phases we put some pressure on the All Blacks.

“With three minutes to, I said to Kieran (Read) ‘this is rugby’. It was a great game to play in and there is lot of respect from both teams.”

Having led the Lions to a series win over Australia four years ago, Warburton was quick to pour praise on the party as a whole in New Zealand.

He added; “There’s no individual when you’re captain, it’s a massive team effort, a huge team effort from the 41 here, the environment, the culture, staff and management.

“We’ve all been driving for the same thing and it has been a privilege to work with them.”

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