Lions rewarded for what they have brought to Australian rugby
Tour has been an outstanding success in every way
It is the concept of the team being greater than the individual, that we have lost from the game since professionalism.
Last week, Sydney was a very special place. The sun shone down as 50,000 Lions fans hit the harbour city. The locals were saying they had not felt atmosphere like it since the Olympics.
Before the match, in the old Irish convict precinct of the Rocks, the good -natured humanity was dripping from restaurants and pubs. The crowds were outrageously dressed, jovial and beyond friendly. Five different nations mixed, all liberally sprinkled with good Australian beer and wine and not a cross word. It was a privilege to be part of it.
I thought the Lions would lose. So did every other rugby person I spoke to including some Lions tourists. I based that decision on what I had closely observed and the evidence of the recent matches. I don’t care that I was wrong, because the game of rugby got it very right.
I don’t like the way the Lions use scrums as a means to get a penalty but on Saturday the Lions did more than scrummage, they ran the ball. Running was missing in the match plan of the first two Tests. The Lions ran simple direct plays,that created a nightmare for the Wallaby defence.
Tommy Bowe and George North, both saw no ball in the second Test. On Saturday they were used to great effect. The back row of Dan Lydiate, Sean O’Brien and Toby Faletau carried the ball and dominated the breakdown. I could not help but feel for Brian O’Driscoll who saw no ball in his two Tests. He would have revelled in the play.
To the victor go the spoils. Warren Gatland’s tough decisions were vindicated. He has coached teams to win the Heineken Cup, a Six Nations Grand Slam and a Lions series. Not bad.
The loser pays the price. Robbie Deans looks set to be replaced. Gatland has effectively knocked Deans out of the running as a future New Zealand coaching candidate. A good night’s work.
Destiny was on the Lions’ side and the Lions not only deserved the victory, they created it.
The Lions have given deeply to Australian rugby and in giving so greatly to the game, in turn they have been richly rewarded.
Despite the doubters and the cynics, the Lions will continue with their unique rugby culture that has been passed down the generations. The win will secure the Lions’ future. The playing of the Lions series has saved Australian rugby.
Rusty Richards would be very pleased.