NOT EXACTLY NOW or never for the Lions but felt that today is the best chance they had to end a 16-year wait to win a Test Series.
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Final score at bottom
9:56 – 9.56 – Good morning all. I’m feeling slightly more confident than last week so let’s hope my optimism is well founded. We’ll start you off with our two teams and then see if we can get you the latest video or interview from Down Under.
9:58 – 9.58 – Ok, your friends and mine, the British & Irish Lions:
Lion XV to play Australia: Leigh Halfpenny; Tommy Bowe, Brian O’Driscoll, Jonathan Davies, George North; Jonathan Sexton, Ben Youngs; Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Adam Jones; Alun Wyn Jones, Geoff Parling; Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (c), Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Ryan Grant, Dan Cole, Tom Croft, Sean O’Brien, Conor Murray, Owen Farrell, Alex Cuthbert.
Tom Croft covering the bench as second/back row. Let’s hope Alun Wyn has close to 80 minutes in him. Paul O’Connell a big loss but then the Aussies can argue that they have lost some keys players too.
10:01 – 10.01 – We’re hearing, courtesy of the Sunday Times journo and all-round good chap Peter O’Reilly, that Will Genia is walking around the pitch “gingerly” during his side’s pre-match kickabout at the stadium. Here is how the home side will line up:
Australia: Kurtley Beale; Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Leali’ifano, Joe Tomane; James O’Connor, Will Genia: Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, Kane Douglas, James Horwill (capt.) Ben Mowen, Michael Hooper, Wycliffe Palu.
Replacements: Saia Fainga’a, James Slipper, Sekope Kepu, Rob Simmons, Liam Gill, Nick Phipps, Rob Horne, Jesse Mogg.
10:09 – 10.09 – Stephen McMahon has already kicked off the predictions game in our comments section. He has gone for Tommy Bowe to be the first Lions try-scorer. Who do you think will score the first five-pointer for the Lions?
10:11 – 10.11 – Here’s some pre-match thoughts from our Lions’ experts David Wallace and, from Melbourne, Shane Byrne.
DW: “The Lions will feel like they lost it last week. You saw the relief at the final whistle but there were no big scenes of celebration in the dressing room afterwards. This, I feel, is their last chance. If they let Australia back in to this series the whole thing is likely to get away from them.”
Dan Lydiate’s conclusion is Warren Gatland making a statement. They are going for a much more physical and confrontational gameplan… The 1-0 advantage will mean little come kick-off. The series is still completely up in the air. The Lions couldn’t get away from Australia last week and will need to up their game again to get the win.” – Shane Byrne.
10:14 – 10.14 – Australia is putting it’s faith in this man, Israel Folau:
10:37 – 10.37 – Here was the scene in the Temple Walkabout bar last week when Kurtley Beale missed what would have been the match-winning penalty:
YouTube credit: templewalkabout
10:44 – 10.44 – What sums up the mood in the camp, Sky Sports ask Aussie captain James Horwill. “Desperate and keen,” he replies.
Sounds like my teenage years.
10:48 – 10.48 – We’ve had try predictions for O’Driscoll, Bowe and Sexton. I’ll go for Jamie Heaslip. Does anyone out there fancy a Welshman or the nippy Ben Youngs?
10:51 – 10.51 – Shout out to an unspecified but no doubt lush Greek island and to Cilian and Joan – the O’Brolchains- as they follow our liveblog in the country that sticks its fingers up to austerity seekers. I’ll try keep the updates and pictures coming thick and fast.
11:01 – 11.01 – Here comes captain Sam…
11:02 – 11.02 – Ben Alexander on his 50th cap leads the Aussies out. Home side holding sway with it comes to supporter numbers.
11:05 – 11.05 –
Rob Kearney has his Twitter machine on!
11:06 – 11.06 – KICK-OFF!
Beale gets us started. Kicks traded before Tom Youngs drives a gold shirt back and the Lions steal possession.
11:09 – 11.09 – Sexton puts up an up and under and it is grist to Beale’s mill. O’Driscoll then thunders into Ashley Cooper. Hooper then holds on under pressure from Warburton. Penalty coming up for 1/2p.
11:10 – 11.10 – Miss. On target but drops an inch short and hits the bar!
11:12 – 11.12 – That hit from BO’D was reminiscent of his antics against the Springboks in 2009. Aussies firm at the scrum. Lydiate pounces on Folau. Lions get another penalty as Joubert deems them to be holding on. Sexton hits the line. Lineout coming on the 22. Throw to the front. Here’s the maul. Huge one so far. 10 metres in and Oz collapse. Another penalty coming up.
Lions… go for the corner. Nose turned up at three points.
11:14 – 11.14 –
Another penalty coming up after AW Jones claims and sets up a maul. O’Driscoll, Bowe and Davies all joining the forwards. Ben Youngs tries to snipe but spills. Play called back for the penalty and Joubert is threatening yellow cards. Halfpenny to go for the sticks.
11:16 – 11.16 – PEN: Lions 3-0 Australia (Halfpenny ’9)
35 metres out, slightly to the left but over it goes. Well struck. Aussies claim the restart. Vunipola turns over superbly. AA Cooper then clatters Sexton to the turf.
11:21 – 11.21 – Wallabies inside the Lions 22 and building phases. Crossfield kick to Folau and he makes a mug out of North in the air. The Welshman was flat-footed. Izzy is grappled by a covering defender and a scrum ensues for the Lions. Re-set but Vunipola pops up. Free-kick awarded and they ask for it to be set again. There could be trouble ahead…
11:22 – 11.22 – Vunipola pinged for collapsing. No doubt about it. We’re about to be level.
11:23 – 11.23 – PEN: Lions 3-3 Australia (Leali’ifano ’16)
This was the plan last week [before he was knocked out]. Leali’ifano slots it over from 30 metres.
11:27 – 11.27 – The lineout is working well and the Lions are winning the breakdown battles but here comes another scrum. Genia with the put-in but the Lions are much better this time. Hooper hares through the Lions ruck off his feet and Joubert gives the tourists some relief BUT Sexton can’t find touch. Stupidity from Sexton there. That should have been way over the touchline.
11:29 – 11.29 – Aussies coming right back into this thanks, this time, to Tomane catching high then easily evading Bowe up the left. Kane Douglas spills forward. Joubert and polite Sam Warburton have a conversation and the end result is ‘head and shoulders up’. 21 minutes gone.
11:30 – 11.30 – Vunipola pinged again! Green & Gold’s with a chance to hit the front.
11:33 – 11.33 – PEN: Lions 3-6 Australia (Leali’ifano ’23)
43 metres and to the right. It is scuttery but it squeezes over. Sexton beats two men to spark the Lions in attack. Bowe off the wing but he is shut down. Vunipola has now dropped forward. His error will lead to another scrum as Joubert, once again, says ‘keep your head and shoulders up’.
11:35 – 11.35 – PEN: Lions 6-6 Australia (Halfpenny ’27)
Lions win it and Jones gets the back-slaps! Halfpenny will try top level matters from near halfway [47m]. Congrats for Mako too. Over it goes.
11:37 – 11.37 – AA Cooper bats back the restart and the Aussies win another bit of kick-off ball. Bowe is obstructed after a Youngs box kick. Penalty coming up and Sexton gets touch this time. Tom Youngs grabs a fistful of James O’Connor’s jersey.
Youngs goes for the tail of the lineout but the ball is lost. I feel like cursing here!
11:39 – 11.39 – JO’C is the next to spill forward. Seven handling errors in total from both sides. Here comes another scrum, on halfway.
11:41 – 11.41 – PEN: Lions 9-6 Australia (Halfpenny ’32)
Vunipola pops his man up and Ben Alexander is livid. Halfpenny gets the chance to put his side ahead again. Over, over, over! 32 minutes gone.
11:44 – 11.44 – Romain Poite does not let the Lions take a quick lineout but the home fans are not happy with a Vunipola body-check on AA Cooper:
11:46 – 11.46 – PEN: Lions 9-9 Australia (Leali’ifano ’36)
Lydiate with a sloppy offside there as he beats a throw by two seconds and is whistled. Leali’ifano is looking good off the tee and he peeps it in by the righthand post. We’re even.
11:48 – 11.48 –
Lions attack spoiled by a horrible, horrible grubber kick attempt that goes about 12 inches in the right direction. North batters forward and Warburton keeps the move going. Heaslip tries up the right and Heaslip is illegally slowed by Ben Mowen. Another penalty coming up.
11:50 – 11.50 – PEN: Lions 12-9 Australia (Halfpenny ‘ 40)
Advantage Lions at the break as Halfpenny clatters it over.
What did you make of that?
11:55 – 11.55 – Interesting couple of HT statistics for you. Penalty count is 10:4 with the Aussies penalised more often. The home side, interestingly, have had a 63% to 37% possession advantage.
11:57 – 11.57 –
If Halfpenny keeps up this kicking form he will be getting Christmas cards off me for the next 60 years. (David Davies/PA Wire)
12:00 – 12.00 – We’ve had communique from Paros Island in Greece. Now here’s Dave Elkin with his view from Toronto in the wee, wee hours of the morning:
“I feel if The Lions could secure some good ball, and work the phases, they can start to dominate. How often has Sexton actually got some good front-foot ball and able to take it flat to the Australian defensive line?
Australia are looking more solid based solely on the fact they now have a competent goal kicker. The scrum is a lottery so far, but Vunipola still does not convince me. A couple of the Lions’ penalties they won were questionable scrums from him. Anyway, the second half will ratchet the tension up some more. Hopefully The Lions’ quality bench can impact the game more positively than last week, ie: Tom Croft and Sean O’Brien.”
12:02 – 12.02 – Scott Quinnell on Sky Sports has some great observation – ‘Just win this half and we’ve won the series.’
Brings it all home. Here’s Sexton with the kick-off.
12:03 – 12.03 – Lineoutr won by Warburton, Youngs finds Davies who busts two tackles. Play goes out to the left but four gold jerseys shove North over the line.
12:04 – 12.04 – Clear forward not given by Joubert but the touch judge calls it. Good aerial put by Sexton and Bowe pressures Beale. Attacking scrum on the Oz 22. North joins Bowe on the right wing…
12:06 – 12.06 – Youngs driven back at the back of the rick by Hooper but ball stays with the reds. Fierce Aussie defence and the Lions can find a line break. Aussies get the scrum as Sexton, on the spin, spills forward out left. 45 minutes gone.
12:09 – 12.09 – Warren Gatland caught on camera saying something that rhymes with banker as Vunipola is pinged for driving at an angle on the scrum. Lions pounce on a loose lineout ball, great kick forward from Davies, and Folau tries to clear up but was way, way offside and coming in from the side.
Chasos as play is allowed to continue and the Lions eventually get a scrum after great tackling and tracking from Warburton.
12:12 – 12.12 – Lions scrum driven back off their own put-in. Warburton saves the day as he takes Genia down and forces the penalty as he does not release. The captain has forced three turnovers.
12:14 – 12.14 – You won’t see a worse lineout won all year but it gets to Adam Jones as AW slips. Lions on the attack but O’Driscoll’s pass is picked off – intercepted – to create a Folau break. Open, broken play. No structure. North saves the day with a covering tackle. Lydiate with ANOTHER tackle. Phew!
12:16 – 12.16 – Lydiate with another huge hit. He knocks the ball from Tomane’s hands.
Another penalty conceded and guess who is penalised at the breakdown? This man:
12:17 – 12.17 – Lions defensive maul pushes the gold jerseys over the line. Short Oz lineout this time as Conor Murray makes his Lions Test debut. Murray wins a penalty at the breakdown for the Lions. Super impact!
12:19 – 12.19 – Aha! The Murray box-kick is out of the wrapping paper already. Bowe can’t pouch it though but good tackle from BO’D on Folau.
12:21 – 12.21 – Hibbard on for Tom Youngs. 57 minutes gone.
Leinster winger Luke Fitzgerald (a Lion in 2009) cheering the boys on.
12:22 – 12.22 – Davies has been solid as hell in defence but it is all Australia at the moment. No breathing room. Murray hacks forward after Palu fumbles.
12:24 – 12.24 – Oo-er. Here comes Dan Cole for Adam Jones. Kepu on for Alexander for the Aussies. Sexton has to take control of his backline here and the Lions need some possession. Kepu then obstructs Halfpenny on the kick chase. Intentional accident from the sub. Play on. Into the last 20 minutes.
12:27 – 12.27 – UNREAL! O’Driscoll does a through the legs pass and North batters up the left and actually picks up Fola ON HIS SHOULDERS(!) and carries him 5 yards upfield!
‘Izzy, come with me for a ride’
12:28 – 12.28 – Lions scrum monsters the Aussies! Penalty coming up…
12:29 – 12.29 – PEN: Lions 15-9 Australia (Halfpenny ’62)
Not easy fot Halfpenny. 49 metres out and to the left of the posts. Over it goes!
12:30 – 12.30 – Heaslip off for O’Brien. Murray with another good box-kick and Bowe chases well. Vunipola takes Tomane over the line. Parling claims the lineout but good defensive Oz maul.
12:34 – 12.34 – Cole lucky not to concede a penalty as he falls over the edge of a ruck. Beale spills forward – he looks out of gas. Maybe he shouldn’t have visited Hungry Jacks [Burger King] at 3:50am during the week.
Sexton and Warburton getting running repairs as the clock stops at 66:42.
12:35 – 12.35 –
Warburton helped from the field. Croft on.
12:36 – 12.36 – Bowe finally catches a high punt up the wing. Penalty conceded for not releasing though; looks like AW Jones. 69 minutes gone.
12:39 – 12.39 – Wallabies lose another lineout and O’Brien steals the lose ball.
Gold shirts get it back. Folau through three red shirts and nearly another wonder try. Aussies have the penalty advantage so Genia gies crossfield kick. Big Bowe tackle on Tomane. Aussies take the scrum, not the three points. BIG scrum coming up.
12:39 – 12.39 – Aussies stack the left wing for this scrum. 72 minutes gone.
12:41 – 12.41 – They went to a charging Folau up the centre but he spilled it forward. Sexton boots clear behind his tryline. Lineout in the Lions 22 for Oz. They claim but O’Driscoll rips O’Connor to the turf.
12:42 – 12.42 – Folau is some man! Riding tackles and getting back up for more. Immense pressure on the Lions here.
12:43 – 12.43 – TRY: Lions 15-14 Australia (AA Cooper ’75)
They have numbers out left and Cooper beats Davies to get over.
12:44 – 12.44 – CON: Lions 15-16 Australia (Leali’ifano ’76)
He curls it over. Ice-cool this lad. Aussies lead. Three minutes to go.
12:45 – 12.45 – Aussies take ball back into their own 22 before clearing. Big red lineout coming up. Big attacking platform if they win. Drop goal coming up?
12:47 – 12.47 – Lineout lost at the back and penalty won. Idiots! Gill is the hero there.
12:47 – 12.47 – That could be game over now. If they win this lineout it’ll be done and dusted.
12:48 – 12.48 – They do. Clock winding down.
12:49 – 12.49 – Lions get a penalty. In their half though. Clock in the red. Hooter gone…
12:50 – 12.50 – Penalty awarded on the halfway line to the Lions!
Halfpenny coming up. Crumbs!!
12:50 – 12.50 – 50 metres out. He hit the crossbar from a similar distance in the first half…
12:51 – 12.51 – 5 metres short from Halfpenny. Aussies win it.
12:52 – 12.52 –
Final score: Lions 15-16 Australia
Off to Sydney now for the decider.
12:54 – 12.54 – Horwill crying on the pitch at the end. Will he play the Third Test. Not if the IRB have anything to say about it. Will Warburton be able to play? Roberts and Corbisiero should be back.
Hard luck Leigh.
12:55 – 12.55 – Cheers for the company. Stay with us for post-match comments, reaction and opinion.
Peanuts to that anyway!!