Jump to main content


Late Converted Try Denies Lions

Late Converted Try Denies Lions

Christian Leali’ifano coolly converted Adam Ashley-Cooper’s late try as Australia struck back to level the series in a nail-biting second Test against the British & Irish Lions.

The Wallabies bossed an attritional second half during which the Lions lost captain Sam Warburton to a hamstring injury, as the tourists tried desperately to hold onto a narrow six-point lead.

Ireland’s Conor Murray and Sean O’Brien were both brought on from the bench with the Lions 15-9 to the good thanks to five Leigh Halfpenny penalties from six attempts.

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

Halfpenny’s opening effort of the night came back off the crossbar and that was to prove a crucial miss in the end as Australia conjured up the match-winning try and conversion.

Adam Ashley-Cooper slipped through Jonathan Davies’ tackle to touch down out wide in the 75th minute, and his centre partner Christian Leali’ifano – in only his second Test appearance – curled over the all-important conversion to make it one-all in the Test series.

The Wallabies did have to endure a nervy finish as Halfpenny tried his luck from a monster 53-metre penalty, but the Welsh kicking star’s attempt fell short to leave a final showdown in Sydney to decide the series winners.

It was a gritty and deserved victory for Robbie Deans’ side as the Lions were disappointing overall and never looked like scoring a try, with Halfpenny’s right boot proving to be their only real weapon.

The Lions probed in the opening two minutes, Brian O’Driscoll using turnover ball to dink a kick towards the right corner and hooker Tom Youngs tried a one-two at a lineout.

Kurtley Beale, the man who missed the two late penalties in the first Test, rose well to claim a high ball but a tigerish tackle from O’Driscoll on Ashley-Cooper and pressure from Warburton on Michael Hooper yielded a kickable penalty.

Halfpenny’s well-struck kick from just inside the Australian pack came back off the crossbar, but the Wallabies soon leaked a third penalty as the Lions powered through from a muscular lineout maul.

The penalty kick was turned down in favour of another maul drive and after the Australians infringed once more, Halfpenny was called upon to open the scoring from 30 metres out.

The hosts enjoyed a good spell of continuity in response, Beale hanging up a cross-field kick for Israel Folau to gather over George North with the Lions scrambling to defend.

Ben Alexander won a scrum decision over Mako Vunipola, allowing Leali’ifano to slot over a levelling 28-metre kick, as the Australian pack gained some early confidence in the set piece.

A couple of errors from the Lions, with Jonathan Sexton failing to find touch from a penalty, invited the Wallabies forward again and they won a second scrum penalty from Vunipola.

Leali’ifano nailed the 43-metre effort from the right to make it 6-3, but Australia collapsed the very next scrum as the Lions forwards got back on track.

The resulting kick from almost 50 metres out was thumped through the uprights by Halfpenny and although Joe Tomane was whistled up for obstructing the onrushing Tommy Bowe, the Lions blundered at the ensuing lineout.

Seven minutes before the break, the Lions got another scrum decision as they drove the Wallabies backwards and Halfpenny mopped up with the three points in typical style.

Leali’ifano, showing plenty of composure from the kicking tee, then equalised with the boot after Dan Lydiate shot out of the defensive line too quickly.

Australia ended the first half with 63% possession, but the Lions – with North reaching an up-and-under from Halfpenny at the second attempt – had the final say before the interval.

Jamie Heaslip, who had a big presence around the pitch, carried well into the 22 and a penalty was forced at the ruck which saw Halfpenny edge the tourists back in front at 12-9.

It was a cagey start to the second period before Australia tapped a penalty and unleashed Leali’ifano on the left, with Lions skipper Warburton doing well to bring down the big centre.

Warburton came up with a vital turnover and a breathless spell, sparked by a loose O’Driscoll pass, saw the Wallabies look dangerous from deep with Folau and Ashley-Cooper threatening.

Murray, sprung from the bench for Ben Youngs, made an immediate impression as he got over a ruck ball to win a relieving penalty as Australia were unable to turn pressure into points.

Murray was then first to a loose ball to hack downfield and give his forwards a precious break in the suffocating atmosphere, and the stunning sight of North lifting Folau off his feet as he powered into contact provided one of the iconic images of the 2013 tour.

The match ebbed back in the Lions’ favour just past the hour mark when replacements Dan Cole and Richard Hibbard reignited the scrum and with Sekope Kepu infringing, Halfpenny stepped up to brilliantly hammer home his fifth successful penalty.

It set up a riveting conclusion and there was a sense that the next score could decide the series with Warren Gatland’s men six points clear and Australia needing a converted try to overhaul them.

The sides played out an attritional final quarter during which Warburton had to be helped off. The influence of Heaslip, who was replaced by O’Brien, and the injured Paul O’Connell was really needed as the Wallabies forced the Lions’ tackle count into three figures.

The Lions were unable to build many phases when they got their hands on the ball either, coughing up soft penalties as they were isolated on the deck by Hooper and company.

It ruined some good work from the likes of Bowe who did well to retrieve a high ball from Sexton, and the fit-again Ulster winger had to make an important tackle on Tomane after Beale had hung up a cross-field kick.

The hosts got the powerful Folau on the ball, trying to catapult him through gaps as they pressed the Lions defence again and again.

The defensive workload was beginning to hurt the Lions and Australian captain James Horwill went for the jugular when turning down a kickable penalty with less than 10 minutes to go.

It proved to be the correct decision as Australia maintained their presence in the Lions’ 22 and passed to the left where James O’Connor sent Ashley-Cooper crashing over past Davies for the only try of a very tense affair.

Leali’ifano delighted the home support by adding the extras to send the Wallabies in front for the first time since the 24 minutes.

But Will Genia erred as he passed the ball back into the 22 from the restart, with O’Connor kicking straight into touch to hand the Lions a lineout in an advanced position with pnly two minutes left.

Crucially, the Lions could not win Hibbard’s throw with replacement Liam Gill gobbling it up on the ground just as Sexton licked his lips at the prospect of a drop goal attempt.

The Australian forwards controlled possession as they wound down the clock, although a late penalty allowed Murray to run from deep and O’Driscoll to get his legs pumping as the Lions scrambled to get back into kicking range.

They did get one last opportunity. Australia offered up a long range penalty but Halfpenny’s strike, amid huge drama, did not have the legs and the Lions’ hunt for a first Test series win in 16 years moves on to Sydney.

Giving his reaction to the defeat afterwards, Brian O’Driscoll said: “Very disappointed, we weren’t in control of the game but we were six points clear, that’s a horrible margin as after a converted try you’re behind.

“I had one loose kick that gave them a counter-attack option, but we weren’t able to close it out. But it’s not over, we’ve got a massive week to get ourselves ready for Sydney next Saturday. The momentum is with them, but we won’t let that faze us. We’ve beaten them once.”

Head coach Warren Gatland admitted: “It’s just about game management. That’s what Test match rugby is about – a couple of crucial lineouts, a couple of crucial turnovers and even when they made mistakes and the ref said, ‘Advantage over’, we haven’t made the most if it.

“We were pretty comfortable at half-time but Australia never give up and it went their way. We weren’t smart enough and didn’t look after the ball well enough.”

TIME LINE: 4 minutes – British & Irish Lions penalty: missed by Leigh Halfpenny – 0-0; 10 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Leigh Halfpenny – 0-3; 17 mins – Australia penalty: Christian Leali’ifano – 3-3; 24 mins – Australia penalty: Christian Leali’ifano – 6-3; 28 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Leigh Halfpenny – 6-6; 33 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Leigh Halfpenny – 6-9; 37 mins – Australia penalty: Christian Leali’ifano – 9-9; 40 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Leigh Halfpenny – 9-12; Half-time – Australia 9 British & Irish Lions 12; 63 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Leigh Halfpenny – 9-15; 75 mins – Australia try: Adam Ashley-Cooper – 14-15; conversion: Christian Leali’ifano – 16-15; 80+3 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: missed by Leigh Halfpenny – 16-15; Full-time – Australia 16 British & Irish Lions 15

AUSTRALIA: Kurtley Beale (Melbourne Rebels); Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs), Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs), Christian Leali’ifano (ACT Brumbies), Joe Tomane (ACT Brumbies); James O’Connor (Melbourne Rebels), Will Genia (Queensland Reds); Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs), Stephen Moore (ACT Brumbies), Ben Alexander (ACT Brumbies), Kane Douglas (NSW Waratahs), James Horwill (Queensland Reds) (capt), Ben Mowen (ACT Brumbies), Michael Hooper (ACT Brumbies), Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs).

Replacements used: Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds) for Douglas (54 mins), Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs) for Alexander (59), Liam Gill (Queensland Reds) for Palu, James Slipper (Queensland Reds) for Robinson (both 61), Rob Horne (NSW Waratas) for Ashley-Cooper (78). Not used: Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds), Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels), Jesse Mogg (ACT Brumbies).

BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues/Wales); Tommy Bowe (Ulster/Ireland), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster/Ireland), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets/Wales), George North (Scarlets/Wales); Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/Ireland), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England); Mako Vunipola (Saracens/England), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England), Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers/England), Dan Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons/Wales), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues/Wales) (capt), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland).

Replacements used: Conor Murray (Munster/Ireland) for B Youngs (54 mins), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys/Wales) for T Youngs (57), Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers/England) for A Jones (58), Sean O’Brien (Leinster/Ireland) for Heaslip (64), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England) for Warburton (67). Not used: Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland), Owen Farrell (Saracens/England), Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues/Wales).

Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)