Campo's Corner still haunting Australians
June 17, 2013
Waratahs fans imbibed the spirit of Duncan McRae © Getty Images
There is only one spot in Sydney to watch a British & Irish Lions match: down in Campo's Corner. The Sydney Football Stadium, now known as Allianz Stadium, only get its occasional major international match these days, but it is still remembered as the venue for one of Australian rugby's most diabolical and heavily debated moments. And for the Lions, it is hallowed turf as it was where they enjoyed their latest series triumph over Australia.
Even 24 years on, the Campo's Corner moment is excruciating viewing. Australia were leading 12-9 in the third Test when David Campese caught a Rob Andrew field-goal attempt, which had flown to the right of the posts. Logic demanded the ball be grounded or kicked into touch, but he opted to run towards the left wing, and hearing a call from his fullback Greg Martin threw a wild pass towards him - which was fumbled. Lions winger Ieuan Evans gleefully jumped on the fumbled ball for the softest of tries. The Lions went on to win 19-18 and Campese took some time to move on from the moment having been castigated by his teammates, the Australian media and the public for the error.
So there we were on Saturday night, at the Paddington end just down the fence from Campo's Corner surrounded by Lions-supporting "Good Time Charlies" all wearing pith helmets, wondering if we would be first-hand observers for more voodoo moments. Unfortunately, no. But it was still a region of the field where the Waratahs appeared to lose the plot on more than one occasion.
One can sympathise with the Lions, and their after-match bleat that several players were unfairly targeted, especially when New South Wales Waratahs hooker John Ulugia was lucky not to be sent to the sin-bin for a ridiculous late charge on their winger Simon Zebo in front of us. And there was some intriguing goings on at the bottom of the ruck, with No.10 Jonathan Sexton unceremoniously roughened up by several Waratahs shortly after Tom Carter had scored his second try. No wonder one of the Lions water attendants, when standing right on the spot of Campo's indiscretion, began berating those around him, including loud-mouthed Waratahs supporters who had obviously given him some lip, when the argy-bargy was ignored by match officials.
The Waratahs got stuck into Jonny Sexton © Getty Images
Maybe the Waratahs and their supporters had been fired up by the match program which included an article entitled "Magic and Mayhem" that chronicled wild moments from previous Lions tours of Australia. Stories retold included John Hipwell having his teeth kicked out by a Lions forward when playing for NSW Country in 1966; Nick Farr-Jones being battered in the first Test of the 1989 series; and how the SFS was a battlefield in 2001 when Duncan McRae used Ronan O'Gara's face as a punching bag. The "99" retaliation call used by the Lions on past tours also got another airing.
There were occasional signs the match could get fiery, but it all petered out because the Waratahs eventually ran out of oxygen. The inclusion of Dave Dennis, Bernard Foley and Rob Horne provided the Waratahs with much needed backbone, but there were still too many novices in the line-up, which stopped the home team from really having an impact. Also the Lions knew exactly when to bring on all the reinforcements to end any hope of the Waratahs getting their second wind.
While the Lions were scratchy early, they improved dramatically in the second half, limiting their mistakes and taking their chances to turn the match into a no-contest.
And so the Lions left Campo's Corner with a genuine advantage over their opponents. They may be losing players, but they have the depth to cover it, as shown by the left-field but refreshing selection of Shane Williams for the Brumbies match in Canberra on Tuesday night. The Lions are also getting match hardened, unlike the key Wallabies, who for the past few weeks have been placed in quarantine on the Sunshine Coast. Playing in a deep and meaningful game - even if it involves a bit of pushing and shoving - is certainly more beneficial than attending another team training run.
The Lions looked good against the Waratahs (video available only in Australia)
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