By Sarah Mockford at ANZ Stadium in Sydney
In a nutshell
WOW! Is there a better word to sum up this win?! The Lions have won their first series for 16 years, absolutely destroying Australia in Sydney. They started the game as they finished, overpowering the Wallabies in the scrum – Romain Poite rewarding the tourists’ dominance with penalty after penalty – but they also outscored Australia four tries to one, damning suggestions that they were simply a side of brute force.
Early in the second half the Wallabies were in the ascendancy, having gone from 19-3 down to 19-16, but the pendulum quickly swung the other way and the Lions scored three tries in 12 minutes, Johnny Sexton, George North and Jamie Roberts crossing the whitewash in well-worked moves.
It was a resounding victory – highlighted by the fact Lions fans gleefully waved their Australian counterparts from the stadium with ten minutes remaining. The gold may have trooped out early, but the red was blazing long into the night.
Toby Faletau’s turnover on the Lions 22 in the 54th minute. The Wallabies had been putting the pressure on the tourists, but Faletau’s quick reactions got them possession, Johnny Sexton kicked ahead for George North, who fed Jonathan Davies. The centre stood up well when tackled by two Wallabies and it resulted in a Lions lineout on the Australia 22 – quite a turnaround. From that set-piece came Sexton’s try and a crucial lead that the Lions never rescinded.
Star man – Leigh Halfpenny
In the first half it was the full-back’s boot that was crucial for the Lions, his penalty kicks building a 19-3 lead at one point. Then in the second half he helped prevent a Wallaby try by diving on a kick through when James O’Connor and Kurtley Beale were charging towards him with plenty of space to work in, and he played a part in two of the four tries. First, he provided the scoring pass for Johnny Sexton after being set free by Jonathan Davies and Tommy Bowe, then he caught a high ball and his darting run down the wing set up George North to touch down.
Mention must go to his fellow Welshman Alun Wyn Jones, who has been a force in all three Tests, the scrummaging prowess of Alex Corbisiero, Richard Hibbard and Adam Jones, and the hard-hitting performances of Sean O’Brien and Toby Faletau here in Sydney. But Halfpenny’s excellence throughout the tour makes him Man of the Series.
Australia made twice as many clean breaks (six to three) and offloads (12 to six).
Sean O’Brien was the top Lions tackler with 15 and Leigh Halfpenny made the most metres (85).
Australia – Try: O’Connor. Con: Leali’ifano. Pens: Leali’ifano 3.
Lions – Tries: Corbisiero, Sexton, North, Roberts. Cons: Halfpenny 3. Pens: Halfpenny 5.