I’d predicted a comfortable victory for the Lions in Saturday’s 2nd Test against Oz and as our ace reporter in Australia appears to be two busy answering offensive texts from his Aussie chums it now falls to me to to come on and justify my initial optimism!
I’d been expecting an open attacking game, perhaps it was wishful thinking but I genuinely believed that with Bowe, North and Halfpenny in the back three, O’Driscoll in the centre and Youngs and Sexton supplying quicker ball that things would open up and the Lions would romp home.
Unfortunately things didn’t work out that way, the Lions attack was totally toothless with the only player looking like scoring being Halfpenny and those scores were only ever going to come from the boot. The Aussies targeted Davies and O’Driscoll in the centre with their defensive efforts and both were found wanting under the pressure of restricted time and space. Fear of losing washed over this game producing a rather soggy mess, sure it was fiercely competitive and there was a tense excitement in the closing stages but the actual rugby only fizzled and sparked in fits and starts like a damp firework.
The early scrums set the tone of the game, scrappy and ineffective from both sides, the Aussies enjoyed the opening exchanges but the Lions got on top as the game progressed and it looked as though the Lions had set the platform for victory as Halfpenny’s boot put then into a 15 – 9 lead as the game approached the closing stages. With nothing to lose the Aussies sent in wave after wave, the Lions fluffed their clearances, and the dam broke on the 76th minute with Adam Ashley-Cooper crashing through to score. Christian Leali’ifano added the extras and the home side lead 16- 15.
The Lions had little time to respond but they managed to fashion a penalty chance for Halfpenny from the halfway line with time up on the clock. The attempt was short, perhaps a fitting description of the Lions efforts, and the Aussies squared the series.
Australia: Kurtley Beale, Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Leali’ifano, Joe Tomane, James O’Connor, Will Genia, Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, James Horwill, Kane Douglas, Ben Mowen, Michael Hooper, Wycliff Palu. Replacements: Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Liam Gill, Nick Phipps, Rob Horne, Jesse Mogg .
British & Irish Lions: Leigh Halfpenny, Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Jonathan Davies, George North, Jonathan Sexton, Ben Youngs, Makovina Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Geoff Parling, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Ryan Grant, Dan Cole, Tom Croft, Sean O’Brien, Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Alex Cuthbert.
And so the series goes down to the wire; I’m at that stage now where my disappointment following Saturday’s defeat is being replaced by the anticipation of the decider as the greatest franchise in the rugby world moves to Sydney for the final showdown.
The rugby has been poor and there’s been plenty to grumble about, but everything can be redeemed in this truly wonderful experience; a chance for players and supporters alike to become the stuff of legends! Lets hope our “Man in Oz” makes it!