KICKING FOR GOAL
How the Aussies must wish that Christian Leali’ifano hadn’t been injured after 50 seconds of the first Test. The numbers here do not lie.
• The Lions won the first test by 2 points, and between James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale the Wallabies spurned 14. Once Lealiifano was back and kicking they didn’t miss another kick at goal.
• The second test was decided by a single point. The Lions missed 2 penalties that evening.
• In the third test, the Aussies turned down penalty kick after penalty kick in the first half. James
Horwill asked his kicker to put it in the corner 4 times instead of accumulating points. Before O’Connor went over as half-time approached, the score could have been as close as 15-19. It was, in reality, 3-19.
Leigh Halfpenny was named Man of the Series partly because he was such a reliable figure when faced with penalties and conversions – his prowess in this regard (along with Farrell in the midweek matches) set the tone throughout the tour. You give away a penalty against us, you get punished.
An important weapon and an area of no little force in the first two Tests, it became the focal point around which the Lions were able to dominate possession, and build up points and field possession in the decider. Adam Jones was incredibly strong, the selection of a massive Richard Hibbard was justified and Alex Corbisiero was an animal, even a revelation. Benn Robinson was able to just about deal with Jones but Ben Alexander was given a lesson from the English loosehead. Schooled by Corbs, and sent to the naughty step by Romain Poite, Alexander never returned – a huge psychological win for the tourists’ front row.
The locks too had a big part to play and the sight of Geoff Parling and AW Jones stuck at the hip as the Lions scrum marched forward was a thing of beauty – if you like that sort of thing. They totally outscrummaged James Horwill and Kane Douglas.
A colossus and a freak.
A winger that will go down in history as one of the finest in a long tradition of Welsh flyers.
A brilliant, brilliant player who was able to stop everyone talking about Israel Folau.
The closest thing to Jonah Lomu Britain has ever produced.
Made me think about joining Kanye West and naming my child North too.
This was always going to be skewed in the Lions favour. For all the pride Australia has in its rugby team, they are perennial over-achievers considering the lack of depth they have compared to the other top tier rugby nations. In a land where NRL and AFL are still the big deal with the majority, it is not surprising that the Wallabies’ bench is not the strongest. The Lions were able to call on players like Dan Cole, Tom Croft, Dan Lydiate, Sean O’Brien, Tom Youngs and Manu Tuilagi at various points in the Test series to bolster the on-field side. No such luxury for the home side, especially in the first test when they had to resort to using a flanker at inside centre.
There is no doubt that the Australian sporting public are fanatical, especially when facing a side from our fair shores. No matter the number of yellow mining hats, and flappy-clappy plastic thingies though, this tour, more than any before, was about the Sea of Red.
Estimates have said something like 40,000 British and Irish fans followed their heroes around that enormous country. What an impact they made. Swamping the centres of Hong Kong, Perth, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney the Lions’ players came out at each match to a roar that resonated all the way from home.
The biggest impact must have been on the Wallabies though. When you come out to an enormous crowd in your own country it must be at the least irritating and at worst genuinely frightening to hear ‘LIONS! LIONS! LIONS!’ ad infinitum.
Christian Leali’ifano maybe said it best: “The hardest thing was just trying to hear myself think. It was really, really loud, everyone was screaming, all the Lions people were trying to put me off. The atmosphere was just amazing, as amazing as anything I have ever known in my life.”
By Chris Francis (@mckrisp)