Lions shred Wallabies in first series win since 1997
Gerry Thornley reports from Sydney
Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll hold the Tom Richards Cup aloft after the Lions won the final test match against Australia in Sydney to secure the first series victory in 16 years. Photograph: Getty
Date: 6 July, 2013
Venue: ANZ Stadium Sydney
The conditions were also fabulous, but such was the noise level that the Wallabies appeared to suffer a breakdown in communications when Sexton kicked off deep to the right and Will Genia, expecting Kane Douglas to claim the ball, fumbled, thereby granting the Lions an attacking scrum immediately. Although this merely led to an indirect Lions penalty for early engagement, Phillips tapped and went blind to Bowe, thereby setting up good ruck ball with the width of the pitch to play with.
O’Brien and Alun-Wyn Jones drove the ball up in turn in little pods of the opening Lions power play before Corbisiero spun through Benn Robinson’s tackle to score by the posts. After a thunderous roar died down, Halfpenny tagged on the conversion.
James Horwill elected for one of Kurtley Beale’s undercooked penalties up the line rather than have a shot at goal, but the returning icon, George Smith, spilled the ball and was briefly concussed when colliding heads with Hibbard. Worse was to come for the Wallabies, when Joe Tomane countered up the middle, he was felled by the tree-chopping Lydiate, and O’Brien was quickly in for the turnover penalty, which Halfpenny landed unerringly from the kick-off spot.
From the restart by Beale to Faletau, referee Romain Poite correctly called both Hibbard and Alun-Wyn Jones for obstruction and Christian Leali’ifano opened the Wallabies’ account. This time Wycliff Palu couldn’t gather the restart which, for the first time in the series, Sexton kicked short to the left for the chase. Cue scrum, cue Lions penalty, cue Halfpenny three-pointer from outside the 10-metre line and wide to the left.
Within three minutes, another scrum, another Lions penalty and you can guess the rest – 16-3 to the Lions we were still in the first quarter. Sexton, Davies and Hibbard effected a choke tackle, Faletau made big yards off the back of the scrum and Beale, who had a poor series, lost out badly in a kicking duel with Halfpenny.
After an O’Brien intercept, Bowe spilled a tough pass from Hibbard with the Lions well placed, but thanks to their scrum knock-ons were a weapon, and this time Alexander was binned when again failing to cope with the pressure coming from Corbiisiero before Halfpenny made it 19-3.
The stunned Aussies also lost Israel Folau when extending his hamstring from a huge punt by Sexton in behind him, and the Wallabies were surviving on their wits, but to their credit they withstood the 10 minutes and Horwill repeatedly told Beale to kick penalties up the line nearing half-time.
In overtime, this was rewarded from an attacking five metre scrum, James O’Connor dancing through as first receiver when badly missed by Sexton and O’Brien before taking Phillips tackle to score by the posts.
Within two minutes of the restart it was a one-score game when Leali’ifa now kicked a penalty when Lydiate didn’t roll away after the tackle, and then he made it a three-point game when Hibbard came in from the side. Ben Mowen was living offside with impunity, and the Lions lineout, which was again taking an age without Paul O’Connell calling it, coughed up a fine attacking platform. And when they came knocking again, not for the first time on the night, Mowen knocked on an attempted intercept from an offside position.
It seemed the game might be slipping away from them but they simply upped the ante further while making pro-active use of their bench. Faletau won an important turnover, and Sexton chipped from inside the 22 delicately for George North, that big play forcing a lineout in Aussie territory.