With first test done and dusted the Lions, took on the Melbourne Rebels on Tuesday and put on a display of fun, running rugby that delighted the fans.
Smarting from last week’s mid-week loss the Lions started with some good interplay between the backs and forwards, moving the ball side to side. A spilled ball in the Rebels 22 gave the home side the opportunity to clear. The Rebels stole the lineout ball and won the next lineout on the Lions throw giving them an attacking opportunity, but they failed to release the ball at the tackle allowing the Lions to clear.
The Lions won their first lineout but ill discipline at the breakdown offence saw the Rebels kick to within 15metres of Lions line only to lose the ball forward
The Lions had definitely come to play, keeping the ball in hand. They nearly scored in the corner but the Rebels forced the ball. The Lions scrum had the Rebels scrum in disarray giving scrumhalf Conor Murray chance to squeeze over. Farrell added the extras.
With the Rebels putting the ball out on the full from the restart the Lions went straight back on the attack. Passing up two penalty chances to kick at goal, they create a gap but Zebo left ball behind. The Rebels won a scrum penalty to clear to the Lions 10 metre line. With some possession at last, the Rebels still found no way through till they won a penalty at the breakdown but Woodward pushed it wide from in front of the posts. After a long dropout, the Lions won the ball back and, following great interplay with a strong bust from Tuilagi, Faletau looked set to score but slipped. Maitland backing up from earlier involvement in the move scored in the right corner. Farrell converted to make it 14-0.
The Rebels tried to attack but conceded a penalty that Farrell tapped quickly and Zebo nearly got through but the move was halted because of a forward pass. The Lions were playing a passing game and handling let them down at crucial times, but they were able to go to the break 14-0 in front.
From the restart the Rebels attacked keeping the ball in hand but the Lions good defensive line held. Earning a penalty after the Rebels failed to release the ball, Farrell took another quick tap leading to another penalty on the half way that he put into the corner.
The Rebels defended the ensuing lineout drive well, winning a scrum but a massive Lions shove had them under great pressure and they could only clear to the 5-metre line on their right. The Lions won the throw and put on great pressure again but a loose pass from Maitland went straight into touch. The lineout win allowed the Rebels to clear to just outside the 22.
Seemingly with no way through after good lineout ball, Farrell cleverly kicked back to the right wing. The move almost came off but resulted in a Lions lineout from which they tapped the ball to the front for Sean O’Brien to score. Farrell converted again.
With Hogg coming on for Farrell and wholesale changes up front, the game lost some of its structure. Both sides tried hard to run the ball and the Lions eventually ended up with a lineout in the right corner. A great maul resulted in a penalty try (and a yellow card for Jordy Reid). Hogg converted to make it 28-0
More scrappy play led to a Lions lineout on the Rebels 22. Quick ball from Croft to Ben Youngs saw the replacement scrum half scamper in leaving Hogg with an easy conversion.
Fighting to the last, as the buzzer sounded the Rebels took a tap penalty just 5 metres out in front of the Lions posts, only to see the ball forced into touch giving the Lions a deserved 35-0 win.
The Lions ran out 23-21 winners over the Wallabies at the Suncorp stadium in Brisbane on Saturday in a match that will be remembered for four great tries, a missed kick and, later, an incomprehensible decision from the judiciary.
Within a minute from the start, the Wallabies found themselves in trouble as Lealiifano went down after a head clash with Jonathon Davies, and their number one place kicker was off for the rest of the night with Pat McCabe coming on as his replacement.
The Wallabies tested the Lions defence and won two kickable penalties that O’Connor failed to convert. A scrum penalty and the Lions were down in the opposition 22, but phase after phase they struggled to make headway against resolute defence. Playing under a penalty advantage they continued to but failed to score and then disaster. Just metres out from the Australian line they gave away a penalty and stood around waiting for the touch kick while Genia, ever alert and creative, took a quick tap and scooted away. A 70-metre run and a little grubber kick to Folau, and the winger was in for a try on debut. O’Connor added the extras.
Both sides were putting in plenty of endeavour but errors were costly with the ball being turned over at crucial times. From a Lions lineout, the Australians infringed at the ensuing maul allowing Halfpenny the chance to pull three points back.
Moments later Barnes tried a long clearing kick that George North was able to field on his own 10-metre line. Charging forward he left three would-be tacklers for dust and then beat Barnes for a brilliant individual try in the left corner. Halfpenny converted from the sideline and suddenly the Lions were 10-7 up.
North was almost in again couple of minutes later as Genia and Folau combined to get him into touch just before he got the ball down. But the referee was playing a penalty advantage, so it was three more points for the tourists. It looked like they were gaining some ascendency until, with the wallabies pressing again, the ball was passed to Folau who pushed off Corbisiero to go in for his second try of the match. A failed conversion attempt left the score at 13-12.
Then it was Barnes turn to leave the field after a head knock as Folau collected a loose ball and a shove from North into his teammate; enter Kurtley Beale.
With half time looming, the Lions were on attack again and looked to be threatening when Genia cynically killed the ball at the ruck. Three points looked a certainty but for once Halfpenny was off target and the teams went to the break with just one point between them.
Australia began the second half with a fire that the Lions seemed at a loss to match. But disaster struck the backline again as Pat McCabe went down and was carried from the field. With no outside backs left on the bench, they brought on flanker Liam Gill and moved Michael Hooper from flanker to the backs.
The change was significant as straight away the Lions backs ran a brilliant move that left Hooper confused and Cuthbert in space to run in for the try. With the conversion, the Lions lead was out to 20-12. But Australia worked hard to get back into the game and Genia and Beale threw confusion into the lions defence more than once.
It looked like the Lions were struggling as the Wallabies pulled back two penalties. But a good chip and chase from Sexton brought an infringement at the tackle area and a guaranteed three points for Halfpenny. Australia were straight back in it as Beale danced through the Lions defence and won a penalty courtesy of some cynical play. Beale converted to make it 23-21 to the Lions.
The Lions went on the attack again and looked settled in the Australian 22 with the clock running down but Heaslip slipped up at the back of the scrum, letting Genia steal the ball. Six minutes to go and Beale had another kickable penalty chance. The Lions breathed again as he missed but with Australia desperate to score they gave away another penalty. In a heart-stopping last minute, Kurtley Beale lined up a 45-metre penalty shot from in front of the posts that would have given Australia the win. His plant foot slipped on the greasy surface and the kick went wide handing the Lions a one-nil lead in the test series.
Post-match Australian captain Horwill was cited for stamping on Alun Wyn Jones. Inexplicably he was cleared despite video evidence suggesting that the act was deliberate.
Both sides have been left counting the cost of a great, but bruising match as the Lions have lost Paul O’Connell (arm fracture) and Cobisiero (calf), while Australia have lost McCabe, Barnes, Ioane and, possibly, Ashley-Cooper. Lealiifano is, however, likely to be fit despite being knocked out in the first moments of the test.