British & Irish Lions 2013
Wallabies rise from the dead
Sat, 29 Jun 2013 15:25
It's all bets are off
Having stared down a series defeat in Melbourne, the Wallabies are confident of taking valuable momentum into the decider in Sydney next week.
The home side trailed the British and Irish Lions with minutes to go on Saturday, and came within minutes of losing the series before Adam Ashley-Cooper's late try snatched victory.
Skipper James Horwill, who first must overcome an International Rugby Board (IRB) appeal hearing on Monday against his not guilty stamping verdict arising from the first Test, was emotional after the Wallabies finally broke through the Lions' defences to level the series.
"It's all bets are off. It's all square now. It's now one game to win it. It's like a grand final, really," Horwill said.
"The boys worked hard for that. Not everything went right. We didn't execute as well as we could have. We found a way to win and that's the most important part."
But even after Ashley-Cooper's try, nervelessly converted from a tight angle by Christian Lealiifano, the Wallabies still had their hearts in their mouths as superboot Leigh Halfpenny had a penalty kick from halfway on the angle to pinch victory.
Halfpenny, who had slotted over five penalties in six kicks to continue his deadly tour scoring form, left it short much to the Australians' relief.
"He's hardly missed a kick all tour. Your pulse rate certainly goes up and we were disappointed we let it get to that stage where we allowed them to have a shot," Horwill said.
Of his impending appeal hearing and the possibility that he may not be available to lead the Wallabies in the decider, Horwill said: "I'm hoping not to think about that. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, if I come to it."
The IRB on Thursday said it would appeal the decision of its own appointed judicial officer to clear Horwill of stamping on Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones in last weekend's first Test, won 23-21 by the tourists in Brisbane.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans praised his players for their indomitable fighting spirit to squeeze home against the Lions.
"Very proud. It doesn't get any bigger than that. They knew the context. They knew that if they weren't successful in scoring a try and converting, the series would be done," Deans said.
"But they had enough composure to get it done. So, very proud."
Deans also had a few words for flyhalf James O'Connor, whose defence-splitting pass enabled Ashley-Cooper to cross the try-line.
"That'll be a big fillip for James, particularly the part he played and the defining moment," he said.
"It's a backline with a lot of potential. It was the first time they'd played together. But it also showed their capacity in time. More time in the saddle, a little bit more composure. They're an exciting group of players."
The Wallabies are expecting another mighty tussle with the Lions in Sydney as the tourists chase their first series in 16 years.
"I feel they'll bounce back like any quality team. They've got guys who have played a lot of Test rugby, they know what it's about. I'm expecting it to be the toughest game of the tour.
"It'll be close again next week. There'll be one or two points in it. Both teams are pretty evenly matched, we're feeling each other out and obviously we've got a bit more footage of them now and they've got a bit more footage of us."
It was an important result for Deans, whose Wallaby coaching future could hinge on the outcome of this series.
"We're getting there. We're making small steps. We didn't get our hands on the ball that much," he said.
"It was a frustrating game to watch, as it probably was to play.
"I was hoping we could get our hands on the ball in the right part of the ground, because I was confident if we could get some continuity we could ask enough to derive an outcome."
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