In front of a new ground record crowd of 83,702 the British & Irish Lions have defeated the Qantas Wallabies 41-16 in the deciding third Test of the DHL Australia 2013 Lions Tour at ANZ Stadium in Sydney tonight.
The star studded audience included the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, the leader of the opposition, Tony Abbott, former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, the Governor-General Quentin Bryce and the Lions most high profile supporter, Daniel ‘James Bond’ Craig.
After a star studded pre-game show starring Ross Wilson, Joe Camilleri and Daryl Braithwaite, the Tom Richards Cup was carried out on to the field by Australian Women’s Sevens stars Sharni Williams and Emilee Cherry.
The two teams ran out to be greeted by a thunderous roar from the capacity crowd. The Lions had earlier won the toss and elected to kick off on a cool dry night in Sydney, perfect for Rugby.
A mix up between Will Genia and captain James Horwill saw the Wallabies knock on from the kick off and from the resulting scrum the Lions were given a short arm penalty. The Lions moved the ball quickly to wing Tommy Bowe then back to the centre of the field where prop Alex Corbisiero dove over for the opening try. Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny converted and the Lions were up 7-0 after just two minutes.
The Wallabies then poured on to attack but an accidental head clash saw the ball knocked on and returning flanker George Smith head to the blood bin. The Lions then went further ahead, through a 50 metre penalty to Halfpenny after an infringement by the Wallabies at the breakdown, the Lions leading 10-0 after eight minutes.
The Wallabies hit back with a penalty goal to Christian Leali’ifano immediately, after obstruction at the kick off by the Lions, to make it 10-3 but scrum penalties saw the Lions increase their lead to 16-3 after 15 minutes with Halfpenny successful with two penalty attempts.
With the Lions lineout working surprisingly effectively and the scrum dominant the Lions were in control and when the Wallabies scrum went down for a fifth time Brumbies prop Ben Alexander was sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements. Halfpenny was again accurate with the conversion and the Lions led 19-3 after 20 minutes.
Worse was to follow when Wallabies winger Israel Folau left the field shortly afterwards with a hamstring injury with young Brumbies fullback Jesse Mogg taking his place.
Wallabies spirits lifted though shortly after with stunning defence repelling the Lions after nearly 20 phases, forcing a missed drop goal attempt from Irish flyhalf Jonny Sexton. Mogg made a scything break soon after with only an ankle tap from English lock Geoff Parling bringing him down on the Lions’ 22.
The Wallabies then gave up numerous kickable penalties to try to put the pressure on the Lions as half time loomed. Their courage was rewarded with Rebels flyhalf James O’Connor stepping through Sexton and Irish flanker Sean O’Brien from a five-metre scrum to score next to the posts. Leali’ifano was successful with the conversion to bring the Wallabies back to 19-10 at half time.
The Wallabies began the second half exactly as they had ended the first and a penalty from another Lions breakdown infringement saw Leali’ifano bring the score back to 19-13 after 42 minutes. The young Brumbies centre then made it 19-16 with another penalty three minutes later.
The Lions then enjoyed some good field position in the Wallabies half but there was a sense that the Wallabies were finishing the stronger team, as they had done in the entire series.
Another scrum penalty saw Halfpenny increase the lead to 22-16 after 50 minutes as the Lions went to the bench with Irish scrumhalf Connor Murray on for Welshman Mike Phillips.
With superb work at the breakdown the Wallabies threw themselves at the Lions’ line with Rebels fullback Kurtley Beale and Genia making half breaks. But just when it seemed the Wallabies would burst over the Lions got a turn over and cleared through a chip kick regathered by North.
The Lions were next to score when good lead up work through Sexton and Welsh centre Jonathan Davies put Halfpenny into a half-gap. The diminutive Welsh scrumhalf then found Sexton with a return pass and the Irish flyhalf put the ball down next to the posts. The last pass was reviewed but was found to be legal and the try stood. Halfpenny converted and the Lions were out to a 29-16 lead.
The Wallabies then bombarded the Lions’ line with multiple phases, and just when it looked like they were over to score Waratahs prop Benn Robinson dropped the ball over the tryline and the Lions escaped.
And in a flash the Lions were further ahead. A poor clearing kick from Genia was fielded by Halfpenny who split the line and set up giant Welsh winger George North who sprinted over in the left hand corner. This time Halfpenny missed the conversion but the Lions were ahead 34-16 with just 16 minutes left.
It got worse for the Wallabies five minutes later when Murray put giant Welsh centre Jamie Roberts through a gap and he strode over from 25 metres out. Halfpenny, who was later named Man of the Match, converted and the Lions were out to 41-16 with 11 minutes left.
With the Welsh anthem ‘Bread of Heaven’ filling the stadium, sung by joyous Lions fans the tourists closed out the game for a famous series victory, their first in Australia since 1989 and their first anywhere in the world since 1997 in South Africa.
DHL Australia 2013 Lions Tour
Full Time Score
British & Irish Lions 41 (Alex Corbisiero, George North, Jonny Sexton and Jamie Roberts tries; Leigh Halfpenny 3 conversions, 5 penalties) defeated Qantas Wallabies 16 (James O’Connor try; Christian Leali’ifano conversion, 3 penalties) at ANZ Stadium in Sydney. (Referee: Romain Poite – France) (Crowd: 83,702 – ground record) (Half Time: Lions 19 – Wallabies 10)