The British & Irish Lions claimed their first Test series win since 1997 with a memorable 41-16 triumph over Australia at ANZ Stadium. Speaking to Sky Sports, Jonathan Sexton dedicated the result to Brian O’Driscoll and Paul O’Connell who were watching on from the stands.
JONATHAN SEXTON: We knew we had it in us. We didn’t really get the ball off first phase in the first couple of Tests which didn’t give us a chance to attack, but we got a little bit more tonight.
The scrum was dominant and that gave us a lot of penalties. Scrum time is always important when Romain Poite is refereeing. That’s where we built our foundations. We let them back into it which was disappointing, but the way we bounced back was just outstanding.
We wanted to attack with the ball. Rob (Howley) said before the first Test that if we scored two tries we’d win the game and we did it. We said the same again here, and I think we got a few more than that tonight.
Alun (Wyn Jones) was quite calm (as a captain). He was good in terms of using the emotion when he could and then getting down to doing our basics right, and I think we did them a bit better tonight and that’s why we won.
Fair play to him, he stepped up and didn’t let the pressure affect his performance. He’s an important player for us more so than just the captaincy.
We wanted to do it for Paul (O’Connell), who missed out through injury, and for Brian (O’Driscoll). I was so disappointed for him to miss out, I felt like I’d been dropped myself. We wanted to send him off in the best way possible.
It feels like you’re ‘live’ on the Lions DVD at times, you have to pinch yourself. I remember the scenes from the 1997 tour and to be a part of the next team to win a series is a dream come true.
(I’ll be ringing) my fiancee first, we’re getting married on Friday! So I have to rush home to her, and obviously my family who couldn’t make it out. I can’t wait to speak to them.
BRIAN O’DRISCOLL: I’m absolutely delighted. It’s been a roller coaster week for me, and it was emotional sitting through today and not being there, but essentially it’s about winning a series and being a part of that. I will always have it on my CV and that’s what counts.
It’s been a great tour. We’ve gelled well as a team but in the end it comes down to results. We’ve won the series and any negatives that were felt through the tour will be forgotten.
PAUL O’CONNELL: It was a fantastic performance from the lads. Up front they set the platform in the first half, just those penalties in the scrum were a killer.
The penalties got us into the lead, I know Australia came back but I don’t think we were ever going to surrender the lead once we got ahead.
Brilliant performance and fair play to the front row for their performance in the first half. One of the big things in the game was going to be the scrum. Obviously Corbs (Alex Corbisiero) got back fit, Hibbs (Richard Hibbard) was picked in there as well and he had a fantastic game.
You just can’t beat getting three, six, nine points off a scrum. It just makes such a massive difference, it’s so deflating for the other team and drains them psychologically. It made our boys bigger and bigger and stronger.
ALUN WYN JONES: It’s pretty indescribable. There was a lot said about selection in the week and big thanks to the fans for coming out. I think we proved that despite talk of selection, the northern Hemisphere is doing well – especially with the fans we’ve got.
On Wednesday and Thursday we had two of the worst training days of the seven weeks and we fronted up. The scoreline reflects what we wanted to do for the changing room which is not give up and represent our four countries with pride.
Obviously we wanted to win the collisions and the breakdown. It was going to come down to that. In fairness, they came back at us at the start of the second half but we came through and I thought the backs did pretty well today.
We’ve been going pretty well in the scrum. We haven’t quite got the change we wanted in the first two Tests but that’s credit to Australia in fairness. Credit to the front row – the starts and the bench – for their consistency.
WARREN GATLAND: The last three or four days have been very, very hard. I had to make a tough decision in leaving Brian out. You always doubt decisions but you have to make those hard calls sometimes.
We said, ‘Look, there’s going to be a significant amount of fall-out for that and are we prepared to take the flak?’ I’ve taken quite a bit of flak and I don’t want to gloat or feel vindicated. It was about the boys today.
It was an outstanding performance. We started well, came under some pressure and bounced back again. I said all along that Australia were desperate last week and they brought all their emotion. We felt there was another step up we could bring and we showed that tonight.
The guys played exceptionally well. At half-time we spoke about going to a place that not many players go to in terms of pushing your body to the limit. And the players did that and ran themselves into the ground.
I think we’ve played some great rugby on this tour. Four tries tonight was a vindication of that. I’m really pleased for the players for finishing off a fantastic and hard-fought series.
JONATHAN DAVIES: It’s just an amazing feeling. The amount of work we’ve put in as a squad and the emotion we had at the end was just amazing. It’s something we’ll never forget. It’s been a huge roller coaster and I’ve loved every second.
I did feel a bit like public enemy number one (with Brian O’Driscoll being squeezed out). But the pressure was on us all to perform and I, myself, put myself under a lot of pressure to perform. I just had to made sure I worked hard with the boys this week and we got a good performance, we clicked today.
The pack gave us a platform to play off and Jamie (Roberts) was as strong as ever, running hard. We played a game-plan that people questioned during the week, but we showed today that it was a winning game-plan so fair play to Gats.
JAMIE ROBERTS: We talked before the game about keeping our heads. It was a big occasion. Everyone knew the importance of today, the guys were really disciplined in attack and defence and it was just really clinical rugby.
It was straight down the line, hard-nosed rugby. Territory, our contact there was fantastic, and the scrum was very dominant. And when you get any penalties in their half, Leigh has done incredibly well to finish them off this tour.
Just from 1 to 37, it’s not just the players. It’s the backroom staff, it’s the fans, the ‘sea of red’ as we like to call it. It’s just a very special day in Lions history today.
LEIGH HALFPENNY: The whole pack were just outstanding today. I think everyone who has played on this tour has contributed to this tonight.
My heart is going like mad when those penalties are coming. Being (man of the series) is what dreams are made of. I’ve dreamed of this my whole life, to be awarded it is a huge honour but I couldn’t have done it without the whole squad. This is amazing, it’s just unbelievable.
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