British & Irish Lions Tour 2013

/ Match Pack

Australia 16-15 British & Irish Lions, 2nd Test, Melbourne
Wallabies level series with Lions
June 29, 2013
Date/Time: Jun 29, 2013, 20:00 local, 10:00 GMT
Venue: Docklands Stadium, Melbourne
Australia 16 - 15 British and Irish Lions
Attendance: 56771  Half-time: 9 - 12
Tries: Ashley-Cooper
Cons: Leali'ifano
Pens: Leali'ifano 3
Pens: Halfpenny 5
Australia's Adam Ashley-Cooper crosses for a try, Australia v British & Irish Lions, second Test, Tom Richards Cup, Etihad Stadium, Melbourn3e, June 29, 2013
Wallabies centre Adam Ashley-Cooper crosses for a crucial late try at the Etihad Stadium
© Getty Images

Australia set-up a series decider with the British & Irish Lions in Sydney next weekend with a hard-fought 16-15 victory in their second Test clash in Melbourne on Saturday night.

Match Analysis by ESPNscrum's Graham Jenkins

  • Man of the Match: Wallabies centre Christian Leali'ifano was making just his second appearance for the Wallabies - his first lasted less than a minute last weekend due to injury - but he displayed the composure of a veteran to steer his side to a much-needed victory. Three first half penalties showed he could transfer his impressive Super Rugby form to the international stage but they were eclipsed by his second half conversion from a difficult angle and with the weight of a nation on his shoulders. Take a bow.
  • Key Moment: The Wallabies turned the game with the only try of the contest with just over five minutes left on the clock. With their series hopes hanging by a thread, the Wallabies hammered away at a clearly-fatigued Lions defence and their forwards made great gains in the shadow of the posts before the ball found fly-half James O'Connor, who fed the ball to Ashley-Cooper whose perfect line and pace was too much for the cover tackle of Jonathan Davies. Centre Christian Leali'ifano added an excellent conversion and the home side were able to hang on for a priceless victory.
  • Hero of the Game: Lions captain Sam Warburton was in majestic form for the tourists and so nearly steered them to an historic series triumph. He was an inspirational force at what was a pivotal breakdown battle and calming and assured presence under pressure while maintaining clear communication between the referee Craig Joubert and his players. A hamstring injury ended his game prematurely just past the hour mark and unsurprisingly the Wallabies struck with a match-defining try a few moments later.
  • Villain of the Game: The Wallabies may have claimed a narrow victory but they almost blew it with a series of errors undermining their brave effort to level the series. Time and time again they failed to make possession and territory pay with lock Kane Douglas, fullback Kurtley Beale and fly-half James O'Connor all guilty of coughing up the ball at crucial moments. In the end their industry trumped their indiscretions but they would have only had themselves to blame had they come up short.
  • Talking Point: The stage is set for a thrilling series-decider in Sydney but who will prevail? The Wallabies clearly have the momentum having triumphed in their latest encounter and what looks like a serious injury for Lions skipper Sam Warburton looks set to add to their woes. But Wallabies skipper James Horwill is also set to miss the clash with the lock facing a fresh disciplinary hearing on Monday for his alleged stamp in the first Test. Which side will rally once more and claim what has been an epic series?
  • Play of the Game: The Lions may not have ended on top but they produced the moment of the game. Midway through a tense second half, Lions winger George North collected the ball and was immediately engulfed by Wallabies speedster Israel Folau. North struggled to shake off his rival so just picked him up along with the ball and marched downfield to the crowd's delight. The Welshman risked injury when he finally came crashing down on his own neck but would eventually return to his feet to yet more acclaim from the Lions' supporters.

Leigh Halfpenny's five penalties looked to have ended 16 years of hurt and propelled the Lions to a first series win since they edged out South Africa in 1997. But he missed a penalty from halfway with the game's final kick, and left the pitch distraught as Australia prevailed courtesy of centre Adam Ashley-Cooper's 75th-minute try that his midfield partner Christian Leali'ifano converted.

The Lions were on course for an unassailable 2-0 series lead, but Ashley-Cooper rounded off a concerted spell of pressure, and Leali'ifano, who had earlier booted three penalties, kept his composure to edge Australia ahead.

A pulsating contest will now go to the wire, although the Lions might have to make do without their skipper Sam Warburton, who limped off nursing what appeared to be a knee injury 13 minutes from time.

The Lions now head north to Queensland for four days in the coastal resort of Noosa, and they will need to regroup quickly or face suffering fresh heartbreak and see their run of series losses extended. Australia, though, are upwardly mobile, and have stolen momentum off their opponents at a critical time.

The Lions announced their intentions immediately, playing with a high tempo as hooker Tom Youngs and lock Alun-Wyn Jones made territorial in-roads before Halfpenny saw a 48-metre penalty attempt rebound off the bar.

Jones, though, twice needed treatment for an injury, which brought into early focus the Lions' decision not to have a specialist lock on replacement duty, but a ninth-minute Halfpenny strike made it 3-0.

Australia ended the first Test enjoying scrum domination, and there were alarming early signs for the Lions, with Mako Vunipola - called up after injury sidelined Alex Corbisiero - put under huge pressure. And when the England prop collapsed a 16th-minute scrum, Leali'ifano stepped up to land an equalising penalty.

Things rapidly deteriorated for the Saracens loosehead when he was whistled again by referee Craig Joubert, and Leali'ifano slotted a second penalty before Halfpenny cancelled out that kick five minutes later.

Joubert, as he had done in the Scotland versus Wales Six Nations game three months ago, offered no scrummaging leeway for either side, and the Lions then cashed in when Australia wheeled a scrum and Halfpenny completed his penalty hat-trick. But Leali'ifano also maintained outstanding accuracy, making it three penalties from three attempts just before half-time, yet there was still time for Halfpenny to restore the Lions' three-point advantage after Joubert punished Wallabies flanker Ben Mowen for not rolling away.

A 12-9 interval advantage was somewhat fortuitous for the Lions, whose set-piece problems materialised to a worrying degree at times. At one stage they put 11 players in a lineout, yet they lacked a clinical edge and Australia looked the most likely try-scorers during an opening 40 minutes high on endeavour and effort, but lacking creative brilliance.

The high error count continued early in the second period, with both sides struggling to keep hold of possession. Technical errors also abounded, and Joubert did not require a second invitation to maintain the prolific penalty count.

Lions centre Brian O'Driscoll then saw a pass intercepted that put his team under pressure, and there was a sudden snap and rhythm to Australia's attacking game that threatened to lift matters above the mediocre.

Gatland then made his first change, sending on Conor Murray for scrum-half Ben Youngs after 54 minutes, which was quickly followed by Youngs' brother - hooker Tom - being replaced by Richard Hibbard.

A scoreless third quarter meant the Lions maintained their slender interval advantage. although not before an injury scare when wing George North hit the ground following a crunching tackle on Wallabies speedster Israel Folau.

North quickly returned to action, before Halfpenny rifled over a penalty from halfway and the Lions looked as though they could breathe easily despite losing Warburton for the final stages. But Australia had other ideas, and they stormed deep into the Lions' 22, driven forward by their outstanding hooker Stephen Moore, meaning it was all hands on the pump for the tourists.

They tackled prodigiously, yet wave after wave of Wallabies attacks had to take a toll, and Ashley-Cooper smashed through Davies for a try that Leali'ifano nervelessly converted.

The final drama was reserved for Halfpenny, though, but his kick drifted to the right and Australia were home amid dramatic scenes.

Lions prop Mako Vunipola reacts to a decision during his side's narrow defeat © Getty Images
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