Best of the Weekend: Advantage Lions in Australia

Lady luck shines on the Lions in Brisbane

All eyes around the rugby world were focused on Brisbane on Saturday, as the British and Irish Lions took on Australia in the first test of the series. The Lions struggled at times with referee Chris Pollock’s officiating of the breakdown, as well as the dancing feet of Australian winger Israel Folau, but rode their luck late in the game, and thanks to two crucial missed penalties from Kurtley Beale the Lions emerged victorious, 23-21. Two superb tries from George North and Alex Cuthbert, and a near perfect kicking display from Leigh Halfpenny, were enough to secure victory for the Lions in a game which could have easily gone the other way.

Along with North, the Lions pack also performed admirably, dominating at both the scrum and lineout until the replacements were brought on, with Tom Youngs in particular performing exceptionally, both at the set piece and in the loose. In the backs, both Jonathan Sexton and Brian O’Driscoll acquitted themselves well, but there were concerns over Mike Phillips performance, who struggled to cope defensively with Will Genia, and was often stifled offensively by Ben Mowen.

As if the dramatic nature of Australia’s loss wasn’t enough for the hosts to cope with, they also had to endure game-ending injuries to Christian Leali’ifano, Berrick Barnes and Pat McCabe, whilst Digby Ioane and Adam Ashley-Cooper also picked up knocks in the game, and Robbie Deans faces the prospect of a decimated backs division to select from ahead of the second test in Melbourne. Even with the potential losses of up to five of Australia’s star backs, if both Genia and Folau can replicate their form from Brisbane in Melbourne, then the home side will at least be competitive with the Lions’ back line.

Scotland clinch thrilling victory over Italy

Scotland were the last of the home nations in action over the summer, and completed a rollercoaster trip to South Africa with a dramatic 30-29 victory over Italy. Their tour started off with a disappointing loss to Samoa, but a close defeat to South Africa a week later, and optimism was slightly higher in the Scotland camp.

First half tries for Matt Scott and Sean Lamont ensured that Scotland went into the interval tied at 20-20 with the Azzurri, and although Italy were arguably the stronger of the two teams in the second half, a last minute try from Al Strokosch, and the subsequent conversion from Greig Laidlaw, meant that Scotland snuck the closest of victories. Strokosch’s try was just reward for what has been a fine tour for the flanker, whilst Scott has also shown real flashes of his ability this summer, and could be a long-term solution to fill a position which has been troublesome for Scotland in recent years.

England comeback blows away Wales in Junior World Championship

The first all-Northern Hemisphere final in the history of the Junior World Championships saw three-time runners up England take on debutant finalists Wales in a thrilling encounter. Wales capitalised on their opportunities efficiently in the first half, with Ashley Evans scoring their first try after collecting an excellently balanced cross-field kick from Sam Davies, before Evans doubled his try tally for the game, intercepting a loose pass from England and cruising in under the posts. Things then went from bad to worse for England as they had two tries disallowed, for foul play and double movement respectively, but a fantastic comeback saw Exeter Chiefs duo Jack Nowell and Sam Hill both go over for tries in the second half, and the boot of Henry Slade punished Welsh indiscretions, ensuring England lifted the trophy with a 23-15 victory.

Al Strokosch is Hero of the Week, not only for his game-winning try against Italy, but also his phenomenal work at the breakdown during Scotland’s tour of South Africa.

Try of the Week has to go to George North (with some possible British bias denying Israel Folau), whose score changed momentum in Brisbane, and was much needed after Australia took an early lead against the Lions.

Nigel Hampton, the judicial officer in charge of James Horwill’s disciplinary, is the Villain of the Week, after failing to impose any kind of ban on the Australian captain, despite what looked very much like a deliberate stamp to the head of Alun-Wyn Jones.

by Alex Shaw (@alexshawsport)

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

3 thoughts on “Best of the Weekend: Advantage Lions in Australia

  1. Cue the usual ‘Scotland turning a corner’ drum beating which follows a win (albeit narrow) against Italy……….

    1. Being a very cynical man I always think much the same. Some good performances from new players though is promising.

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