Horwill hailed for leadership and decision-making qualities
Refusing three points and opting for attacking scrum a defining moment
Wallabies captain James Horwill reacts as team-mate Sekope Kepu celebrates with him after beating the Lions in Melbourne. Photograph: David Gray/Reuters
The Australian rugby community likened it to their Justin Harrison moment, when on his debut in the third Test a dozen years ago Harrison had the temerity to snaffle a close-range line-out from the one eyebrow ogre that is Martin Johnson.
Liam Gill, with a little help from Ben Mowen, repeated the trick when the Lions were poised for a match-winning score in the Etihad Stadium on Saturday night, but it was the call to eschew a three-pointer minutes before and take an attacking scrum which is rightly being hailed as a potentially defining moment in the series.
For that James Horwill is being hailed, although clearly it was in consultation with Will Genia, who is the George Gregan-like brains in the Wallabies trust.
In any event, the series decider could hinge on the outcome of today’s IRB appeal into last week’s judicial hearing which cleared Horwill of any foul play when seeming to stamp on Alun Wyn Jones. More than ever, Horwill has become to the Wallabies what Paul O’Connell had been to the Lions.
“He’s a great man, a great leader,” said Kurtley Beale at an early morning press conference after the Wallabies victory the night before.
Leads by example
“He leads by example in all facets of the game. He had his own distraction in the week and the way he played was outstanding. Full credit to him for bouncing back and for continuing on with his role within the team. He’s very inspirational and can say the right words at the right time to really get the boys up for the occasion. He’s a great man and a great leader within the group and he’s really well respected.”
Beale also confirmed the impression, ala Speargate in 2005, that the IRB’s appeal had contrived to unify the Wallabies squad, adding: “He was always on his role within the team and did his job very well. I guess that’s what opened it up for Ashley-Cooper’s try out wide. Without the piggies (the forwards) running those nice tight lines and making the yardage up front it would have been impossible for James (O’Connor) and Coops (Adam Ashley-Cooper) to do their job.”
Pending Horwill’s hearing, Robbie Deans said: “When I started my career as a coach, I didn’t realise I was going to need a legal background as well but I’ve done an awful lot of it! It’s not something that excites you greatly but it is part of the game, and it’s an important part of the game. We’ve got a responsibility to the game itself and to the viewing public. It will run its course and then we’ll get on with the stuff that really excites these blokes.”
The Wallabies had played a riskier, ball-in-hand, counter-attacking, high-tempo game, to which Deans smiled and said: “”Well, you’ve got to push the envelope in order to win. We’ll never beat a side as able and experienced as this Lions side without chancing our arm. So those are the decisions that the players make in the moment. There’s a tipping point as well. While we make errors early we also ask a lot early and some of those demands are the point of difference at the far end.”