Planet Rugby

The British & Irish Lions


Magnificent Lions win the series

06th July 2013 12:57


Lions with trophy 2013

Winners: 2013 Lions

An outstanding performance from the British and Irish Lions sealed a rampant 41-16 victory over Australia to win the Test series 2-1.

Australia were simply unable to live with the Lions in the second half, with the tourists unleashing a triple punch of tries from Jonathan Sexton, George North and Jamie Roberts - inspired by the brilliance of Leigh Halfpenny.

So much talk about whether the Lions had picked the right side was instantly banished by Alex Corbisiero's second-minute score.

The tourists could not have asked for a better start. Omitting Brian O'Driscoll had stolen plenty of headlines, but the return of Corbisiero was proving paramount as the England loosehead combined with Richard Hibbard and Adam Jones to cause havoc at the scrum.

Ben Alexander's sin-binning was inevitable, but in a way it momentarily swung in the Wallabies favour. With Sekope Kepu shoring up the tighthead side Australia plugged a hole and stopped their ship from sinking, leading the way for a comeback from 19-3 to 19-16 just after the interval.

Sexton's try gave the Lions daylight, before North hammered the nail into the Wallabies coffin. By the time Roberts cantered over, the Test was already being written into the history books.

For the Lions it was the perfect start, Corbisiero rolling his way over after a rampant burst from the kick-off. The hunger that was missing in Melbourne was alive in Sydney after only a minute.

George Smith's return to Test rugby then had the light switch punched out after only four minutes, a collision with Hibbard sending ripples around the Olympic Stadium. Somehow he returned.

Turning down the three points cost the Wallabies as Halfpenny enlarged the gap from seven points to ten, a monster from the halfway line disposing of any lingering doubts from the second Test over his ability from long-range.

Leali'ifano responded with three points of his own to put the Wallabies on the board and stem the tourists' early momentum, but the Lions scrum dictated - a second and third penalty leaving Halfpenny to stretch the lead to 16-3 with the Lions scoring more points than the number of minutes passed.

An issue for Australia turned into a calamity with Ben Alexander sent to the bin, the Wallabies revisiting some of their darkest scrummaging memories as Halfpenny's fourth penalty sailed over.

Folau shortly followed Alexander off the field, with a hamstring injury rather than for an offence.

There were golden moments for Australia, a burst from replacement Jesse Mogg cut down by a brilliant tap tackle from Geoff Parling, but their tails were firmly up as they pummeled away at the Lions line towards the end of the first half.

It paid dividends - O'Connor skipping and slicing his way in the tiniest box of space to bring the Wallabies back into the game, trailing 19-10 at half-time.

A pair of Leali'ifano penalties after the break shortened the gap to just three - that early Lions gap wiped out.

Kepu's introduction may have alleviated the pressure momentarily, but Jones remained a threat on the other side and earned the tourists another penalty, Halfpenny's fifth of the night.

The Lions then delivered a try straight into Lions folklore. Patience from Davies with the pass released Halfpenny down the wing, timing his pass to Sexton just right on his inside to open up a thirteen-point lead and a chasm of daylight.

Opting against taking crucial penalty chances was bold in theory but idiotic in execution from the Wallabies. North then made them pay.

More brilliance from Halfpenny, jinking his way upfield and searing past Genia, fed the giant Welsh wing for the try that sealed not just the third Test, but the series.

Bread of Heaven and Swing Low, Sweet Chariot filled the ground as the clock counted down, with Lions hearts and minds already soaking up every minute and feeling something missed since 1997.

For the Wallabies and Robbie Deans, uncertainty lies ahead after finishing so far behind in a series that at times appeared was there for them to win.

For the Lions, it is immortality.

Man of the Match: Alex Corbisiero deserves a ton of praise, but impossible to look past the Player of the Series - Leigh Halfpenny.

Moment of the Match: The Wallabies had fought and clawed their back into the match before Jonathan Sexton cantered under the posts and stopped the fightback.

The scorers:

For Australia:
Try: O'Connor
Con: Leali'ifano
Pens: Leali'ifano 3
Yellow Card: Alexander

For British and Irish Lions:
Tries: Corbisiero, Sexton, North, Roberts
Cons: Halfpenny 3
Pens: Halfpenny 5

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Lealiifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 George Smith, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 James Horwill (captain), 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 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 (c), 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)

by Ben Coles