Well, the Lions came through the final test with a wonderful performance to win the series, 2-1. They dominated the match, scoring 4 tries to 1 and managed to beat Australia, 41-16 (scoring the highest number of points in a Lions test matchever!).
It was a terrific performance by the Lions, which silenced all doubters (including m’self) and vindicated their coach Warren Gatland. Gatland had been subjected to a lot of criticism in the week leading up to the test but he weathered it well and came out with head held high, all credit to him.
It was the best match of the tour and the Lions greatest performance of the tour. They started strongly, with prop Alex Corbisiero scoring soon after kick-off. Corbisiero had a great game and proved to be too much for his opposite number, Ben Alexander.
The Lions dominated up front and the Australian scrum was in disarray. Australia conceded a lot of penalties (which Leigh Halfpenny kicked) and Alexander was sin-binned. He was replaced and never returned to the match.
The Lions had a clear advantage going into the break and looked to have an insurmountable lead, having scored 19 points to 3. James O’Connor scored a great try, just before half-time, though, and the 1st half finished 19-10 to the Lions.
Australia started the second half strong and managed to reduce the Lions lead to 3 points, making the score 19-16. The Lions were the ones in trouble now, it seemed, and Australia looked to dominate.
The Lions responded with a brilliant try, though, to increase their lead (the try scored by Sexton after a wonderful run by Halfpenny), before the Lions finished Australia’s hopes with 2 more great scores, courtesy of George North and Jaimie Roberts.
It was a truly amazing performance by the Lions, especially considering the fact that it came on the tail-end of a gruelling tour, including 2 difficult test matches, at the end of a prolonged season. It makes the win all the more impressive.
The players rose to the challenge magnificently and proved worthy of the faith Warren Gatland had shown in them. They can now proudly take their place in the history books, as one of the winning Lions’ teams!
(One immediate result of the series win is that Robbie Deans has stepped down as Australian coach. The series against the Lions was his final chance for redemption and he failed. Ewen McKenzie replaces him.
Deans had been out of favour, both with the Australian Rugby Union and with the fans, for a while now. Though he was one of the most successful coaches at Super Ruby level, there were many who felt that the job of coaching a national side was beyond him.
Some of the negativity was due to his heritage (he’s from New Zealand, Australia’s number 1 enemy!) but his tactics and selection were criticised as well. Many felt that Deans had steered Australia way from the free-flowing, running rugby that they were known for.
Also, his non-selection of Quade Cooper was also derided. Seen as Cooper gave the Lions quite a scare when he played for them in a provincial game it seems strange that Cooper wasn’t returned to the national side.
Another factor is James O’Connor’s poor performances at out-half during the series. O’Connor is a good player, but not a good out-half. O’Connor has also suffered from the series loss as he has been let go by his provincial side.
Ewen McKenzie has about 6 weeks to get used to his new role as coach before the Rugby Championship kicks off in August. He has some good players at his disposal, especially Will Genia and James Horwill, it will just have to be seen if he can improve Australia’s fortunes.)