For those waiting 16 years for a Lions series win, this was a pretty emphatic and satisfying way to do it.
The 2013 British and Irish Lions wrote themselves into history with a victory that combined power and poise and completely banished any fears (and there were plenty of them) that Warren Gatland had picked the wrong team.
The foundations for victory were, as is the case these days, built up front, where the scrum was utterly dominant. Alex Corbisiero, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Alun-Wyn Jones and Geoff Parling comprised a front five and scrummaging unit surely as fearsome as has been seen for quite some time. They were simply too good for the Australians, whose perennial pack issues reared their head again at just the wrong time.
The saying ‘forwards win a game and the backs decide how many’ is a huge cliché in rugby, but it is so for a reason. It fit the bill perfectly in this game.
Much of the pre-game chatter (from myself included) had centered on the lack of a plan B from the Lions. They had picked a physical team, but what happened if that approach didn’t work? What else did they have up their sleeve? Without the like of O’Driscoll and Youngs did they have enough guile to unlock the Australian defence?
As it turns out, they did, but in the end it didn’t really matter. The real damage was done up front, where a brutishly physical pack dominated its Wallaby counterpart and set the foundation for victory.
With the game effectively won by the forwards, the backs did their bit and decided by how many. There was an exemplary performance from Jonathan Davies, the man inexplicably vilified for playing in place of O’Driscoll. His left boot was a constant defensive weapon for the Lions, and his beautifully fading run for the Johnny Sexton try was reminiscent of the great man himself.
Then there was Leigh Halfpenny, who added the player of the series award to his Six Nations award of the same name. Superlatives abound for his performance here, and for once it was not just his kicking that was doing the talking. He came away with two assists, including one mazy run that left both Will Genia and Joe Tomane on the turf.
So all the talk of selection can now (largely) be forgotten. Gatland can feel completely vindicated and rightly so – he pioneered the Lions to their first series win for 16 years. The fascination with this great rugby institution continues.
image: © zayzayem