No chance of Lions striking a knockout blow with this ‘rope a dope’
The visitors did nothing in an attacking sense, helping Australia to a massive win
Australian Wallabies captain James Horwill and prop Sekope Kepu show how much victory meant against the British and Irish Lions . Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images
Pressure in sport causes people to do strange things. Their thinking becomes confused and clouded. They act in ways that they would never do under normal circumstances. Just ask the Lions.
Why the Lions decided to radically change their lineout systems that has provided such high quality ball to their “go forward” is a mystery.
I feel that the rugby people in Ireland underestimate what an extraordinary player Paul O’Connell is. The last time Paul was absent from a Lions Test team was the last Lions Test against Australia in 2001. He is a Lions institution.
Before the game I predicted an Australian win. Not because Australia were better, but because without Paul, the Lions were considerably weaker. What I did not predict was that the successful Lions lineout philosophy would depart with him.
The Lions’ lineout generals were guilty of conducting fast inaccurate lineouts, overly complicated movements and simply throwing the ball to where Australia were organised in defence. They looked to have panicked.
Once again scrum time was a shambles. Scrums are no longer an attacking platform to restart the game, they are a bound mass waiting for a penalty and there is no referee who loves to give a scrum penalty more than Mr Joubert. He contributed greatly to a stuttering match that was dramatic, but well below the standard of the first Test.
What little ball that did come to the Lions backs was abruptly kicked back to the waiting Wallaby back three. Tactical madness.
Fortunately for the Lions the Wallabies dropped a lot of ball and the Lions’ breakdown work was vastly more accurate than the first Test. Sam Warbuton was excellent on the ball as was Brian O’Driscoll.
Frustration must be massive
I am glad I can mention Brian’s name here because, except for a between-the-legs flick pass that he has been rehearsing at training since the late 1990s and he finally got to show it off, I would not be mentioning his name. Brian’s frustration must be massive.
The Lions simply did not attack. Like Muhammad Ali in the “Rumble in the Jungle” the Lions relied on their defence and lay back on the ropes and took the best shots the Australians could throw.
The men in gold could not punch like big George Foreman. With James O’Connor at outhalf they fumbled and stuttered in attack. As poor as the Lions tactics were, the “rope a dope” almost worked . . . but not quite.
Leadership is an intangible quality, until the leader brings it to bear on those under their command. Individually James Horwill had been under massive pressure. He was the captain of a team who should have won the first Test. He was cited and cleared. Then, for the first time in the history of the IRB, the IRB itself appealed the “not guilty” decision from their own IRB judicial officer.