Lions rout Wallabies for series glory
July 6, 2013
Lions prop Alex Corbisiero burrows over for a try
© Getty Images
The British & Irish Lions claimed a first series victory since for 16 years with a 41-16 victory over Australia at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday night.
Match Analysis by ESPNscrum's Graham Jenkins
An awesome display of scrummaging power built an unshakeable victory foundation, with England prop Alex Corbisiero scoring an early try, fly-half Jonathan Sexton, wing George North and centre Jamie Roberts also touching down and brilliant full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicking 21 points.
Australia, 19-3 behind just before half-time, rallied to within three points six minutes into the second period courtesy of a James O'Connor try and 11 points from goalkicking centre Christian Leali'ifano. But the Lions were not to be denied as they took the series 2-1, savouring a triumph they last experienced against South Africa in 1997.
Halfpenny finished the Tests with a Lions record 49 points, beating the mark of 41 set by his kicking mentor Neil Jenkins during those Springboks games, and it appears a formality he will be named Lions man of the series tomorrow.
The Lions knew they had to perform today, especially given the fact their next tour in four years' time is to New Zealand, and their response at times was breathtaking. They dominated the Wallabies in every critical area, setting a tone in the scrums and never looking back. For head coach Warren Gatland, he now adds a Lions series success to three Six Nations titles and a World Cup semi-final appearance achieved with Wales.
Lions fans among a record crowd for the ground of just under 84,000 screamed their approval, breaking into song throughout the game as they memorably underpinned arguably world rugby's biggest brand.
Almost 400,000 people watched the Lions' nine games in Australia, but victory on the pitch was all that really mattered, and how Gatland's team - inspired by 10 Welshmen - delivered.
The Lions could not have scripted a better opening 90 seconds if they had tried as Australia were reeling from a nightmare start. Will Genia knocked on Sexton's kick-off, handing the Lions a scrum, and after wing Tommy Bowe was tackled short skipper Alun-Wyn Jones charged to within inches of Australia's line. And with the Wallabies defence spread-eagled, Corbisiero ploughed over from close range for a try that Halfpenny converted.
Flanker George Smith, recalled by Wallabies coach Robbie Deans at the age of 32 for his first Test start in almost four years, then needed treatment following a crunching collision with Lions hooker Richard Hibbard. Smith was able to return shortly afterwards, but the Lions maintained their dominance through two Halfpenny penalties either side of a Leali'ifano strike.
Australia, unlike in the opening two Tests, had no answer to the Lions' scrummaging power as Corbisiero, Hibbard and Adam Jones tore into their opposite numbers, gaining a 16th-minute penalty that Halfpenny kicked. It was relentless rugby by the Lions, brilliant in terms of its execution and underpinned by wonderful set-piece control, and Australia could find no way into the game.
The Wallabies were second-best in all areas, with their misery underlined by a sliced Kurtley Beale kick into touch that enabled the Lions to maintain their vice-like grip on proceedings.
French referee Romain Poite finally ran out of patience with Australia's ailing scrum, sending tighthead prop Ben Alexander to the sin-bin, and Halfpenny's resulting penalty took him into the Lions record book.
Australia just had nowhere to go, and they even saw their most dangerous attacker Israel Folau suffer a game-ending injury 13 minutes before the break when he limped off with what appeared to be a hamstring injury.
Folau's replacement Jesse Mogg, a star of the Brumbies' victory over the Lions last month, almost made a startling impact when he broke clear in midfield, but lock Geoff Parling's tap-tackle took him to ground and probably prevented a try.
Australia desperately needed something before half-time, and Mogg's arrival certainly gave them some attacking impetus. And the Wallabies delivered right on cue. The interval hooter had already sounded, but after a third re-set scrum, possession found its way to O'Connor who weaved his way over, capitalising on weak defensive work from opposite number Sexton.
Leali'ifano added the conversion, and Australia were suddenly back in contention, trooping off 19-10 adrift. And their momentum continued early in the second period as the Lions conceded two poor technical penalties around their 22-metre line, which Leali'ifano punished them for on both occasions.
A 16-point advantage one minute before the break had been reduced to just three after 46 minutes, and Australia looked a different team as Gatland made his first change, sending on Tom Youngs for Hibbard.
Further switches followed, and the Lions regained their composure as Halfpenny booted his fifth penalty before turning try-maker as his break set up Sexton for a potentially decisive 57th-minute touchdown.
It was the score that broke Australia's back, and the final quarter proved a triumphant procession for the Lions as North and Roberts administered final try-scoring blows and the celebrations could begin.
Lions fly-half Jonathan Sexton delights in scoring in Sydney © Getty Images
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