Second test between Australia and the British and Irish Lions. Last kick of the game. Leigh Halfpenny has a penalty to win the game for the Lions. Just like Kurtly Beale had for Aussies last week. It’s different, much harder. 53 metres from the posts. In his own half. But he’s such a good kicker – five out of six today, and the one he missed bounced off the crossbar – that we have hope…
He runs up, strikes it straight and true. Heading for the target. But it drops agonisingly short. Doesn’t have the legs. Australia win 16-15.
So close, for the second week running. Fortunes reversed. But were the Lions unlucky? No, not really. They were 15-9 up with five minutes to go, but a six point margin is never enough. A converted try defeats you. And that is what Australia got. Adam Ashley-Cooper – dislocated shoulder last week, playing this week – storming through, after intense Aussie pressure for what, fifteen minutes? Heroic Lions defence, but in the end they cracked.
But even then they had chances. A line out near the Australian try line lost on their own throw, with an over-ambitious throw to the back. And then that penalty…
Two evenly-matched sides. Two highly entertaining, intense games. Riddled with tension and errors. But sport at its best.
It was an odd game this one. After playing with enterprising style for most of the tour, the Lions reverted to a classic Northern hemisphere game. All about the forward battle and high kicks. Not pretty. Presumably designed to douse the fire of the Aussie back line, marshalled by genius scrum half, Will Genia.
At half time the tactics seemed to be working. Australia had most of the possession, but the Lions were 12-9 up. All penalties, not a try in sight. Not even a near miss. The third quarter of the game was scoreless, a grim struggle. Then the Lions went 15-9 ahead. Halfpenny of course.
Could they hold on? The defence remained solid, but captain Warburton had to go off with a hamstring injury. Should have been no problem. The replacement was Ireland’s Sean O’Brien, a fine player.
But it was all about holding on, not striking out for the win. Australia had the territory and the possession. When the Lions did get the ball they invariably wasted it. Even the great Brian O’Driscoll kicked away good possession needlessly.
It really was fingers crossed, and it was no surprise when Australia finally created a gap and Ashley-Cooper surged through it. Christian Leali’ifano converted – a 100% kicking record, in contrast to O’Connor and Beale last weekend. (You have to wonder what would have happened last week if he hadn’t gone off injured in the first minute.)
16-15 to the Aussies, but to be honest, a ten point winning margin wouldn’t have flattered them.
So it goes down to the final test, in Sydney, next Saturday. I guess the Aussies have to be favourites, but it is bound to be close. The Lions need to come out of their shells, have faith in their attacking prowess – maybe bringing Tuilagi into the midfield – and take the Aussies on. Anything you can do, we can do better. Believe in their talent.
Play the Harlequins way!
(That won’t happen).
(Photos copied from Google Images.)