The sun set at 5.11pm in Auckland to leave Sonny Bill Williams with just two hours and 24 minutes to prepare for kick-off.
He had spent the previous 10 hours fasting for Ramadan but few could tell as the Muslim ripped through the Lions with a touch of All Black magic.
The Lions knew what was coming but could not stop it. Williams scored a try just before half-time — holding out his hands to pray in celebration — and set up the winning score with a Hollywood offload five minutes from time.
‘He’s a monster,’ said Lions scrum-half Rhys Webb. ‘Everyone knows what he can do. He got them over the gain line. He’s got that class about him. We know he’s going to be a threat in a couple of weeks’ time so it’s good to play against him now. He’s special. A world-class individual.’
Williams’ two-year-old daughter, Imaan, joined him on the pitch at full-time and smiled for the cameras. The photos, however, will not hang on the walls of the Williams household because his beliefs dictate that eyes on the walls will ‘stop the angels from coming in’.
Close inspection will show the Bank of New Zealand logo is missing from his collar. Williams substituted a charity logo because of Islam’s stance on loans.
‘Sonny’s great for us,’ said Blues team-mate Steven Luatua. ‘For someone from a rugby league background, he reads the game so well. He’s got the pace, the power and some slick skills. He was outstanding. When you see how ripped he is you’d think he’s been fasting the whole year. He’s been complaining about his weight — trying to lose a couple of kilograms to become more agile. He’s nailed it.’
Williams could not have timed his display better. Steve Hansen names his All Blacks squad on Thursday and this ended the debate of who should wear the No 12 jersey.
Williams has not played a Test since the 2015 World Cup final because of injury and Olympic Sevens commitments, but he is sure to be back later this month.
‘We think Sonny’s going to start and we’ll need to be on the money to stop him,’ said Webb. ‘He’s a big game player and showed glimpses of what he can do. Our defence has got to be physical and we need to be alert. . . maybe get three or four people to tackle him.’
The first Test is on June 24, the final day of Ramadan. The Lions have four games to prepare and work out how to stop Williams running amok with his pace, power and ability to create space for others. ‘We’ve taken a bit of a hit but we’re not going to press the panic button,’ said Webb. ‘I’m sure the boys who haven’t played yet are going to come on Saturday and get us back to winning ways.
‘It was one that got away. The main thing was discipline. You can’t be giving a lot of penalties because they’ll punish us.’