You can't always get what you want
July 7, 2013
Lions fans paid homage to Brian O'Driscoll © Getty Images
Walking into ANZ Stadium with the English, Welsh, Irish and Scottish hordes surging all around me, singing, laughing and generally treating their well-dressed, rugged-up, green-and-gold opponents with the reckless abandonment that could not be matched by the home fans, I was struck by an ominous feeling as the Rolling Stones' You Can't Always Get What You Want kicked in through my headphones.
Was it a sign? A cold touch from fate? Here I was on home turf, surrounded by the enemy already acting as if the series were won, and this English anthem suddenly bursts like a wave from my own device! Surely not? No, like the song says "but if you try sometimes well you might find, you get what you need". And the Wallabies had been trying their very hardest. That was it, a good omen, a sign of great things to come for Australia.
The uneasiness grew as I took my place among the capacity crowd. The red of the British & Irish Lions supporters grew like a sea of blood, rich and vibrant while the gold safari hats, handed outside by the thousands, lit up like a golden sun setting on the Wallabies chances of continuing the Lions' miserable touring record.
But just as I was resigning myself to those demons of loss and misery, the Australian anthem boomed around the stadium. The Wallabies' shoulder-to-shoulder mentality embraced as Australians stood and sang as one. Nothing like a rousing national anthem to get those good feelings cursing through the body!
However, that can easily be negated by a poor start from your team, and the Wallabies chose this moment to exercise arguably their worst start to a Test match; before the chorus of Advance Australia Fair had even the chance to float to the heavens, the Lions had taken a 7-0 lead and that dreaded tune, a sting to all Australian hearts, Swing Slow, Sweet Chariot, bored its way through the crowd.
The destruction on the field was the visitiors' scrum, pummeling the Wallabies into submission at every engagement, while giving the laser-like boot of Leigh Halfpenny chance after chance to extend their lead. But in the stands, it was the rising voice of the Red fanatics that was causing the damage, the screams of "Li … ons, Li … ons, Li … ons" breaking the will of even the sturdiest Australian heart. Where was the defiant response? There was none. Not the cherished rendition of Waltzing Matilda or even that regular call to arms of "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie … Oi, Oi, Oi".
Lions fans had plenty to enjoy in Sydney © Getty Images
Alun-Wyn Jones enjoys a reflective moment © Getty Images
"That's a game changer," bemoaned a proud Lions supporter as James O'Connor crossed just before the break, bringing the Wallabies back within reach at 19-10 and reigniting hope that my earlier gloom of a golden sunset was, in fact, a bright sunrise. And so it seemed as the Wallabies stormed within three points at the start of the second half.
But the visiting fans never lost their voice. The rise and fall of noise never lost its twang of the mother isles. And their heroes reacted in kind.
Much of the rest of the second half was a blur of red dominance, speckled by a glint, and then a dulled hue, of gold. Looking back on my notes, the list charters endless entries of 'PEN' and 'TRY' as the score line rocketed towards the visitors. And around the 68th minute, the first of the shell-shocked home support made their way for the exits, a sobering ride home awaiting behind the cauldron now swelling with Lions pride.
Even later, deep below the Lions lair, as the wounded Wallabies and roaring Lions took their place in front of the world media, you could still hear the singing rising in the night air. And as Lions captain Alun-Wyn Jones offered the apology for using the old cliche of the away support being the '16th man', somewhere above, fittingly, You'll Never Walk Alone cried out one final time.
As I finally made my way home, I took out my headphones, pressed play and looked for solace somewhere in my world of music. But like a slap in an already beaten face, Jagger crooned to life. "You can't always get what you want …"
Yes I know, "but if you try sometimes well you might find, the Lions will get what they need".
The Lions overpowred the Wallabies at ANZ Stadium (video available only in Australia)
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
The Heineken Cup proved once again just why it is the best domestic rugby competition in the world at the weekend and Monday Maul picks out some of the key talking points
The latest Week in Pictures brings you a selection of the best snaps from around the rugby world with scantily clad ladies, O'Driscoll and snow all featuring
"If I miss the first kick of the match, it shouldn't have any impact on the second. They are different entities." Tom Hamilton talks to Northampton Saints' Stephen Myler
It's time for those running Welsh rugby to stop trying to prevent its players heading to France and to start planning a future without them, writes Martin Williamson