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5 Things Learnt from the Lions v Wallabies Match, Melbourne.

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By Al Baxter


  1. The Lions’ work at the breakdown was superb:
    The influence of a NZ coach on this Lions’ team is becoming more and more evident as the series progresses and none more so than their work at the breakdown. Gatland revealed his intentions in this area by his selection of 3 hard on the ball backrowers and they didn’t let him down – in particular captain Sam Warburton was brilliant rising to the occasion with a close to man-of-the-match performance (and his best performance so far in Australia). He will be sorely missed for the final game if his hamstring injury prevents him from playing.

  2. The Lions’ were brilliant in defence (again!)
    The Lions’ defensive systems, speed off the line and one-on-one tackling technique was outstanding once again. This is one of the great strengths of this team, particularly the forwards, and forced O’Connor further and further back in attack until at one point he was starting backline plays 20m behind the advantage line. However, this is also one of the Lions’ weaknesses as their forwards seem more focused on defence than attack and did not show as much purpose as the Australian forward pack who were strong in both areas.
  3. The Wallabies’ handling can be so much better
    The Wallabies won plenty of ball and looked solid building phases in attack but across the team there were far too many handling errors at the 3 phase + mark. Some of these errors can be put down to the Lions’ brutal defence but others were unforced. If this area can be addressed for next week’s match then the Wallabies’ attack will be even more dangerous.

  4. The Wallabies’ kicking was world class
    Leali’ifano’s goal kicking won the game and O’Connor’s kicking in general play prevented a loss. Leali’ifano’s kicking in particular was extraordinary and once again proved that Test matches are won on goal kicking – his debut this week (as it’s tough to count last week as a debut!) was as good as Israel Folau’s was last week and had as much if not more bearing on the final outcome of the game. O’Connor also was great with the boot, with the exception of the 79th minute where he kicked the ball out on the full, but that kick aside, he kicked the Wallabies out of trouble from deep within their half on a number of occasions. This was critical in preventing the Lions from scoring points either through Halfpenny’s boot or their powerful maul.
  5. The scrum battle was outstanding.
    On the occasion of Ben Alexander’s 50th Test it was only fitting that one of the best battles in the game was fought up-front. The Wallabies looked as if they had the ascendancy early but the Lions fought back wonderfully putting the pressure right back on the Wallabies through the centre part of the game. However, once again the momentum changed with the Wallabies finishing the game with some strong scrums on the Lions’ own line. It will be fascinating seeing Gatland’s selections for the Lions’ front row next week as it will a strong indication of the mindset that the Lions will be taking into the series decider – will it be an attacking team trying to win the game or a defensive team trying not to lose the game and the series?

Whatever the case, this series has lived up to all its promise and hype and the stage is now set for a magnificent finale in Sydney next Saturday night! Go the Wallabies!!