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

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.

The IRB appointed a second judicial officer who will run the hearing via video conference from Canada. No wonder Horwill was in tears after the game.

Despite all of this and with nine minutes remaining, Horwill had the tactical sense to decline three points and attack. Horwill was brave enough to roll the dice. Now all of you who abused Jamie Heaslip for doing the same thing in the Six Nations take note. A captain's bravery in decision making is only as good as his team's execution. O'Connor, who was poor all night, butchered the chance. But the men in gold persisted.

Mortgage on passion
On Australian TV Scott Quinnell and Will Greenwood did a piece on the passion of the Lions. It was extremely patronising. So much so, that I expect it will be replayed to motivate the Wallabies. It suggested the Lions had a mortgage on passion. The fact is the Lions did not deserve to win the series in Melbourne.

Not since John Eales kicked a late penalty to win a Bledisloe Cup more than a decade ago has a goal kick had more importance to Australian rugby. Christian Lealiifano ignored the staggering pressure and his conversion of Adam Ashley-Cooper's try was more than match-winning.

It injected life into both the Lions series and Australian rugby. After two tests of the Lions 2013 tour, unexpectedly the Wallabies have been the better team. This is beyond the wildest expectations of Australian rugby supporters.

For all the pundits’ bluff, the Lions peaked two weeks ago. They look and are acting jaded. They need their few days of rest in beautiful Noosa Heads.

Then the cavernous expanses of the Sydney Olympic stadium and the city's stunning physical beauty will embrace the Lions and their vast hordes of wonderful supporters. Horwill will face a judicial hearing. James O'Connor is no outhalf. Sam Warburton has a serious leg injury. Brian O'Driscoll may captain the Lions in his last Lions match.

I have being telling you this for several months, and the last two matches has proved it, there is not much between these teams. Both teams have passion. The Tom Richards Trophy will go to the team that is tactically superior and right now that is not the Lions.