Adam Ashley-Cooper scored a late try as the Wallabies beat the British & Irish Lions 16-15 in Melbourne, writes SIMON BORCHARDT.
With 10 minutes to go and trailing by six points, the hosts were awarded a penalty in centre-field, 5m out from the Lions’ tryline. James Horwill called for the scrum, from which they went wide, and knocked on. It was a passage of play that looked set to sum up the match for the Wallabies, who had made several basic handling errors.
But they surged back on to the attack, and after 15 phases James O’Connor put Ashley-Cooper over. Christian Lealiifano, who had been knocked out cold in the first minute of the first Test, slotted the difficult conversion to put his side ahead.
The Lions, though, were then gifted an attacking lineout when Will Genia passed to O'Connor from just outside his 22 and the flyhalf kicked directly into touch. But Liam Gill stole the Lions' lineout ball and the Wallabies won a penalty that helped to relieve the pressure.
However, the Lions still weren't done, taking the ball up to the halfway line and being awarded a penalty after the hooter. Leigh Halfpenny, who had kicked five penalties in the match, had the chance to win the series à la Morné Steyn in 2009, but his kick fell well short.
It was an exciting end to an error-strewn game.
The Wallabies had finished the first Test in Brisbane by winning a scrum penalty and they continued to dominate up front in Melbourne with Lions loosehead Mako Vunipola being penalised twice in the space of seven minutes. Lealiifano kicked both penalties to give the hosts a 6-3 lead.
The Lions would have been disappointed with that considering how they had dominated the opening 10 minutes. Twice they had kicked penalties into touch, twice they had set up a rolling maul and twice the Wallabies had been penalised for collapsing it. That had earned them a team warning from referee Craig Joubert, so the Lions must have been tempted to kick for the corner again and push for the try. They didn’t, though, with Halfpenny, whose first shot at goal had come off the crossbar, making no mistake this time.
The Lions scrum hit back in the second quarter, with Benn Robinson penalised for releasing his bind on Adam Jones and Ben Alexander standing up in the scrum because of pressure from Vunipola. That resulted in six points to the visitors, and Halfpenny made it 12-9 with a penalty just before the break.
Another big scrum from the Lions on the hour-mark resulted in a penalty, which Halfpenny sent through the posts, and it looked as if they would soon be celebrating a famous series win.
But the Wallabies finished strongly to keep the series alive going into the third Test in Sydney.
Wallabies – Try: Adam Ashley-Cooper. Conversion: Christian Lealiifano. Penalties: Christian Lealiifano (3).
British & Irish Lions – Penalties: Leigh Halfpenny (5).
Wallabies – 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 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 James Horwill (c), 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Rob Horne, 23 Jesse Mogg.
British & Irish Lions – 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 George North, 10 Jonny Sexton, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Subs: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Sean O'Brien, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Alex Cuthbert.
Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Tour Tales – Padova
JON CARDINELLI on a prop’s conditioner woes, Italy’s rugby heartland, and a proposal on a Venetian gondola.
Pollard – The future is now
Springbok flyhalf Handré Pollard is on the cover of the new SA Rugby magazine, on sale now.
Bakkies goes out with a bang
Bakkies Botha has retired with his legacy intact and with the Springboks well covered in the enforcer position, writes JON CARDINELLI.