Rugby: Wallabies level series in thriller

By Wynne Gray in Melbourne

Adam Ashley-Cooper of the Wallabies scores a try during game two of the International Test Series between the Australian Wallabies and the British & Irish Lions. Photo / Getty Images.
Adam Ashley-Cooper of the Wallabies scores a try during game two of the International Test Series between the Australian Wallabies and the British & Irish Lions. Photo / Getty Images.

Australia 16
Lions 15

The Wallabies scored the only try of a belting second test with the Lions as the tourists watched their chance of cracking 16 years of touring torture disappear last night in Melbourne.

Ace goalkicker Leigh Halfpenny had the chance to win the game but he and most of the record crowd knew the 51m penalty attempt was outside his impeccable range.

So the try from Adam Ashley-Cooper five minutes from time after relentless waves of Wallaby heat, and the immaculate conversion from Christian Leali'ifano sent the series to a decider next week in Sydney.

The Wallabies kicked off and ran their way into difficulties while the Lions were clearly after a territory game.

That intention was stymied though with loosehead prop Mako Vunipola penalised several times for incorrect binding in the scrums. Then to compound his early woes he shelled a pass with the Lions on attack.

However he was a workhorse for the tourists as they got through a stack of work, crowding the Wallabies attacking avenues.

The Lions had several chances to work their attack but mistakes or Wallaby interference undercut each chance.

The tourists ignored one early chance for sharpshooter Leigh Halfpeny and tried their rolling maul. It got close before he Wallabies infringed and drew a warning from referee Craig Joubert that the next cynical move would have someone in the sinbin.

Jonathan Sexton missed touch from one attacking penalty kick when his greed and Kurtley Beale's balletic save on the touchline aborted that foray. An attempt to play from the back of another attacking lineout foundered as Ben Mowen plucked a great defensive grab.

Around the smash and counter-grab, the kickers became the headline acts.
Halfpenny missed his first attempt which probably made global headlines after his extraordinary success rate on tour.

From 47m, the same measurement as Beale's botchup last week in Brisbane, Halfpenny struck his kick beautifuly but hit the bar and bounced back into play. It was his only miss of the half as four others hit their target and the Liosn had a 12-9 lead at the interval.

His opposite Christian Leali'ifano was equally sharp after being denied more than 45 seconds work in his debut. He kicked all three attempts as the high-class kicking duo took up much of the first half focus.

Two others who made Wallaby headlines during the week for their late night burger bar antics, Beale and James O'Connor, had mixed start to the test.

Beale was skittery with a few golden touches and several doses of some Hail Mary stuff.
O'Connor's decisions were poor. He failed to bring a rhythm to his work, kicking when he might have run and then on one occasion, shelling a pass cold down the blindside.

If the first half looked like two sides a little afraid to try much, searching for safe areas and ideas to start this pivotal test, then they came out with different agendas after the break.

The razzle was on, their vision widened even though their legs wearied and the coaches went to their benches to fight that fatigue as the sellout 56771 record crowd to a sports event at the stadium, roared and gasped.

While the third quarter action was frenetic, the scoreboard did not budge.

The Wallaby adventure grew as their possession mounted, their attacks grew more intricate but the outcome was the same. The Lions were staunch, they kept their line and held their shape.

That determination showed when George North picked up his opposite Israel Folau and drove him into his teammates. There was some faint query about the legality of the move but referee Joubert quickly quelled that.

As the tension rose, the Wallaby scrum was penalized and Halfpenny strode up with his kicking tee. He was 49m out but his magnificent technique sent the ball through his target as the Lions supporters broke into more raucous action.

They were 17 minutes from victorybut in danger from a converted try.

Swing Low Sweet Chariot rose from the visiting voices and the red-jerseyed men answered the call. Beale dropped a pass as an attack promised and you could imagine the takeaway taunts from his rivals.

Sam Warburton was helped off with a left leg injury as his team edged closer to their prize.

Folau cut through, Stephen Moore surged to the line before Will Genia tried an outrageous crosskick to Joe Tomane. But it was under an advantage and the Wallabies had a scrum 5m out just to the right of the posts.

What did they have?

An inside no look ball from O'Connor to Folau was the call. This was no decoy and the Lions swamped the wing as he knocked on in heavy traffic. He came again minutes later as the waves of yellow grew. Genia poked his nose through the line and was grassed.
Then five minutes from time O'Connor held a pass long enough to put Adam Ashley-Cooper on a short run across the line.

It was all up to Leli'ifano, the man who saw little of the first test, watched his conversion go straight through the high diddle-diddle. The Wallabies had a one point lead and three minutes to survive and go to Sydney for the decider.

O'Connor kicked a ball out from inside his 22 as Ashley-Cooper went off. The Lions muffed the lineout and the Wallabies had dodged another bullet.

- NZ Herald

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