For the ‘Home Nations’ it only comes around once every four years, for our Southern Hemisphere counterparts, once every 12, so the desire of both sides to knock seven bells out of their opposition is severely intensified.
While no spectator wants to see a player injured, watching three Wallabies being stretchered off the Suncorp Stadium turf last Saturday served to highlight this ferocious passion that comes with a Lions Tour.
The Australian performance in the face of their injuries in the 1st Test was nothing short of heroic. By the final whistle, their openside flanker was playing at centre and the reserve scrum-half was covering the wing. Add in the dramatic events of the Test, which included stunning end-to-end tries from George North and Israel Folau, baffling refereeing decisions and last minute botched penalty kicks and the match provided everything it promised on the tin.
Looking at individual performances, North and Folau were the stand out ball runners, while Wallaby scrum-half Will Genia was constantly sniping around the breakdown, making his opposite number Mike Phillips look positively lethargic. In contrast, Genia’s half back partner James O’Connor, playing his first international match at fly-half, was unable to effectively marshal the Australian backs around the pitch but Lions fly-half Johnny Sexton ran his backline fluidly.
Replacement Kurtley Beale looked like much more of an attacking threat for Australia but his two missed penalty attempts in the last five minutes ultimately handed the match to the Lions. With other Australian kicks going astray, one suspects the result may have been different if their chief goal-kicker Christian Lealiifano hadn’t been knocked out within the 1st minute.
This begs the question, “Should Robbie Deans have Quade Cooper on speed-dial?”
Off the pitch, the travelling support for the Lions is second to none. The last time the Lions were on Australian shores, in 2001, the 1st Test was made to feel like a home fixture for the tourists as the team emerged from the changing rooms at The Gabba, Brisbane, to a sea of fans’ red jerseys.
The horde of Lions fans Down Under in 2013 is no different and the Australian Rugby Union has gone to sensational lengths to avoid a repeat occurrence, having 50,000 gold-coloured safari hats made to give away to fans at the grounds, so the Australian fans will look like ‘Lion hunters’. It seems they could have better invested this money in buying some proper studs for Kurtley Beale.
Roll on Melbourne…