B&I Lions' roar too loud
The B&I Lions wrapped up the series 2-1 with an impressive 41-16 demolition of Australia in Sydney on Saturday.
The British and Irish Lions wrapped up the series 2-1 with an impressive 41-16 demolition of Australia in Sydney on Saturday.
In what is their first series win since their triumph over South Africa in 1997, the Lions produced a brilliant combination of brute forward force and sublime backline play to outscore the Wallabies by four tries to one.
It is also the biggest win ever by the Lions over Australia - beating the 24-3 victories of 1959 and 1950, also in Sydney.
The victory was set up through the Lions' forward dominance - an awesome display of scrummaging power, where they won a string of penalties and the Wallabies received a yellow card, as well as the collisions.
They set their stall out early, with an Alex Corbisiero try in the opening minute - following a Will Genia mistake - and three Leigh Halfpenny penalties allowing the Lions to race into a 16-3 lead.
The Aussies worked their way back into the game - with a brilliant individual try by James O'Connor right before the half-time break, along with two Christian Lealiifano penalties, allowed the Wallabies to narrow the gap to 16-19 early in the second half.
However, the last half-an-hour belonged entirely to the Lions - tries by Jonathan Sexton, George North and Jamie Roberts putting the seal on their most commanding display of the series and indeed the tour.
B&I Lions fullback Leigh Halfpenny also broke the record for most points in a Test series for the Lions, surpassing fellow Welshman Neil Jenkins' haul of 41 points in the 1997 series against South Africa.
Coming into the third Test with 28 points from the opening two internationals, the Welsh kicker scored 21 points in Sydney to take his total to 49 points.
All of Halfpenny's points came from his radar-like right boot, with the fullback kicking 13 points in the first test in Brisbane, before scoring 15 points in last week's second test in Melbourne.
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.
Flank 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 a relentless onslaught 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 books.
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 just 10-19 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.
Man of the match: Jesse Mogg had a good debut. James O'Connor may not have been flawless, but that try just before half-time was crucial to get the Wallabies back into the game. Kurtley Beale started nervously, but became better as the game wore on. Will Genia was everything that was good about Australia - energetic, alert and always asking questions, keeping the Lions' defensive lines honest. The B&I Lions front row of Adam Jones, Richard Hibbard and Alex Corbisiero put down an early marker and then continued to dominate - eventually resulting in a yellow card to Ben Alexander in the 25th minute. They were just as dominant when they were joined by replacement hooker Tom Youngs, which won them another crucial try. However, our award goes to British and Irish Lions fullback Leigh Halfpenny. He was not just solid at the back - he returned every kick that came his way with interest - but he was involved in the two second half tries that settled the game as a contest. Then, of course, his 21 points (three conversions and five penalties) saw Halfpenny break the record for most points in a Test series for the Lions.
Moment of the match: That opening try, when prop Alex Corbisiero went over inside the first minute, was a good indication of the B&I Lions' intentions. The yellow card to Ben Alexander in the 25th minute is where the Lions got their reward for their set-piece dominance. Then there was the James O'Connor try in the 40th minute. However, the die was cast with the try by Jonathan Sexton in the 57th minute - when Jonathan Davies got on the outside of Adam Ashley-Cooper and he offloaded to Leigh Halfpenny, who gave it on the inside to Sexton for the game-changer.
Villain of the match: Not because it was nasty, but the Australian front row in its entirety was shockingly poor in the execution of its primary task. Ben Alexander's yellow card was the end product of a collective performance - or lack thereof.
Pens: Lealiifano 3
For the British and Irish Lions:
Tries: Corbisiero, Sexton, North, Roberts
Cons: Halfpenny 3
Pens: Halfpenny 5
Yellow card: Ben Alexander (Australia, 25 - repeated infringements at the scrum)
Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 George Smith, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Michael Hooper, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Jesse Mogg.
British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Alun Wyn Jones (captain), 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Richie Gray, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Manu Tuilagi.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Craig Joubert (South Africa)
TMO: Vinny Munro (New Zealand)