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RUGBY UNION – July 18th – Rugby Championship – Australia v South Africa

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If there is one team in world sport that manage to win games when all hope is lost, and even after the final buzzer has sounded, it is the Wallabies. Not since Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United teams dragging themselves out of the gutter in “Fergie Time” has there been a team been so dogged and determined to get over the line. I could mention others, Michael Jordan for one, but basketball is a game that lends itself to those situations; I’m sure there are numerous others but I challenge someone to prove me wrong! I myself have witnessed this live on SEVEN occasions now, four of which have come against Wales and countless more on TV. I just have to throw up Eales versus the All Blacks, Stephen Hoiles (who?) in the corner against Wales in Sydney, Mike Harris kicking a penalty against Wales in Melbourne, Kurtley Beale against Wales in Cardiff…. there does seem to be a pattern emerging….. The old adage of playing the game for the full 80 minutes has never been so truer! All of those I mentioned here were AFTER the game clock had expired.

I love Rugby Union. I am addicted to the International side of the game. I dislike the Wallabies; primarily for the reasons outlined above and very little else. Even when South Africa were 20-10 up with less than 10 minutes to go in this game I just knew that the Qantas team weren’t out of it – they rarely are. I do find it very strange that a country can disown it’s own identity to a corporate body and the paying public just accept it. At no stage during this game (and the previous 20 odd internationals I have attended in Australia) are the Qantas team referred to as “Australia”. They are known and announced as the Qantas Wallabies. I would love it if the crowd turned up wearing red adorned with Kangaroos as that is truly who they are supporting. There would be outcry in Wales if we were “re-branded” the Dove Care+Men Dragons…..

A very good mate of mine always proclaimed that if he won the lottery he would buy a Mr. Whippy van and pour the rest of the money into sponsoring the National team. Can you just imagine “And now entering the field it is YOUR MR. WHIPPY WALLABIES“…. Worth the expenditure alone. Would the away kit be pink and white too???

mr whippy

Suncorp Stadium is a great ground to watch rugby. The proximity to the many hospitality establishments on Caxton Street is a small scale rival to Cardiff but adds to the match day experience all the same. But in saying this the punters must have been all sported out in Brisbane as only 30 odd thousand showed up for their only Rugby Union of the year. The night before Liverpool played Brisbane Roar in a pre-season tour to a sold out stadium and the next day the Brisbane Broncos attracted nearly 40,000 to a top v bottom Rugby League match! Perhaps they managed to realise that in a World Cup year these games are not essentially meaningless, but very close to. It’s all about game time, fitness and combinations.

Qantas have been struggling of late and recalls for Matt Gateau (pretty on the outside, soft in the middle) and Drew Mitchell from their French clubs against previous Wallaby policy, highlighted the need for strength in depth and added quality. Genia, after a torrid Super XV season, was recalled to scrum half to partner Kiwi born, wannabe-boxer, charged-but-not-convicted burgler, Queensland team mate Quade Cooper at 10.  They continued with a centre on the wing in Adam (2-dads) Ashley-Copper and a winger at the centre in the monstrous shape of Kuridrani – which speaks volumes about the bang-smash International game in its present form. Pocock was on the bench which surprised a few.

wallabies celebrate win25

South Africa were near enough at full strength. The ever-green Victor Matfield winning his 131st cap and captaining the team from the second row. No matter really as all 23 players on both teams were set for decent game time, although Matfield and Malherbe went off injured within the first quarter of an hour for the Saffas. Schalk Burger stood out for the Bokke and seems to get better with age. South Africa were 13-7 up at half time with a try apiece. Genia went off at the break, but he had been incredibly poor – Phipps came on and at least got the back line moving. Pocock came on for Higginbotham and made such a marked difference all over the field. If there is one person that Wales will fear in RWC, it is David Pocock – a real game changer. I would go as far as even saying that without Pocock playing the whole second term then there would have be no way way South Africa would have lost this game!

wallabies pocock

For the first 72 minutes the atmosphere was pretty subdued. The Springboks had the ascendency all over the field. The Qantas scrum went backwards as normal until the Bokke made mass changes to its front five. Slipper & Kepu must be a worry. Skelton, who is 6’9″ and 148 kilos is visible and makes yards around the field, offers little in the set piece the way the Aussies get dominated. When captain Hooper barged over with less than 6 minutes remaining, you could sense the inevitable. This finally woke the crwod and when South Africa conceded a penalty with less than 30 seconds to go, Qantas made it count – or did they? Kuridrani made a dive for the line through a green wall. The Qantas players celebrated. The replays intimated that the ball more than likely didn’t reach the try line but it was enough for the TMO (a Kiwi before you ask!) to award the try and send the Qantas faithful into delirium. Quite an amazing scene as players, officials and fans alike all gravitated towards the big screens waiting for the decision.

wallabies celebrate win21Australian Wallabies Tevita KuriDrani (bottom) scores a try to win the game in the last minute of their Rugby Championship match against South Africa's Springboks in Brisbane, July 18, 2015. Teammate Nick Phipps (top) reacts to the try.   REUTERS/Jason Reed

Apparently, this is a try!!!!!

This was a game that should not have been as close as it was. We still had the few that left just before the end “to beat the rush!” A lad and his dad sitting next to us left with the score at 20-17 and about 2 minutes to go. A memory that will be forever lost to young boy!!!! But saying that, all in all the result will mean nothing come September and the World Cup. However in years to come, it may offer everything that the Wallabies will draw upon to win those close games where they will have to pull something out of the bag when it’s most needed. You never know you might be cheering on the Mr. Whippy Wallabies if those numbers come up!

RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP

QANTAS 24 – 20 SOUTH AFRICA

wallabies celebrate win

 

 

 

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RUGBY UNION – June 7th – 1st Test – Australia v France (Brisbane)

bannerJune is always a funny month for Rugby Internationals. It’s the tail end of an ever expanding, arduous European season and it’s a complete mid-season break for the Southerners. You sometimes have to feel sorry for those SANZAR players that don’t make it into International squads as they go from the super intense Super XVs into what are essentially, backyard club matches.

The Europeans start their fixturing in August. Their clubs continue through the November Internationals Series there, so their only time off for the elite players is between late June and the start of August! Rugby Union is one of the tougher sports to make a professional career out of and so going hammer and tongs for the best part of 10 months can be a tad exhausting and hard on the body! Thus, it is no wonder why players end up staying home for little niggles and knocks and why France were 4 or 5 players short to at least be competitive on Australian soil this time around.

Brisbane is one of the better venues for International rugby (sport in general for that matter) in Australia. The proximity to the “Caxton Street Entertainment Complex” – if that’s what they want to call 20 odd bars in the strip leading to Suncorp Stadium, then so be it! Come the end of the evening, I guess lots of pissed up rugby goers is entertainment in itself! This year was no different as there was a visiting horde of rugby enthusiasts up from Melbourne on their annual jaunt to the First Test.
The fact that a group of Welshmen, Englishmen, Irish and Kiwis would turn up in full French regalia – complete with baguettes – was somewhat lost on the locals.

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Out of the alleged 33,000 at the game there would have been around 1% genuine French support, so they needed all the help we could give them. Unfortunately the atmosphere at the game was as flat as my breadstick after I had sat on it at one of the proceeding pubs. International Day is one of my favourite things in the world. I grew up on a diet of Cardiff Arms Park and Welsh sing-alongs and copious amounts of celebrations throughout the city pubs, no matter if Wales won or lost. During the majority of the time during the late 80s & early 90s it was the latter, which funnily enough made the victories even more of a special occasion. One of the best nights I ever had in Cardiff was when we got done over by Samoa in the 1999 World Cup.

None of us really expected the French to pull a rabbit out of hat here. When Freddie Michalek pulls on the Number 10 jersey for Les Blues, anything can happen. The one benefit of having Michalek in the side is at least they get to park really close to the stadium and the rest of the team have an ample supply of Werthers Originals on hand. Despite having the best “club” rugby competition around, the French still struggle with genuine depth hence why Michalek keeps getting wheeled out at any opportunity in the hope he may be able to find the form of 8-10 years ago.

The Wallabies had a few injuries and form issues of their own. Cooper and Genia were not selected based on their Queensland form, which allegedly upset the local supporters – the excuse trotted out in the press when only 20,000 tickets had be sold on the Thursday before the game. After the British Lions series dominated the Australian winter last year, a half strength French team wasn’t exactly going to inspire the masses – especially with ticket prices starting at $ 59 and a half decent seat setting you back $ 80!

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“Offside/Lazy runner” Stephen Moore was appointed captain for this match and 45 seconds after kickoff his game was over, after injuring a knee which may have also ended his season! He wasn’t really missed as the Australian forwards were dominant and provided solid ball for the backs to press and press. They scored after 18 minutes and went in at half time 29-9 up. At this stage, they should have racked up 60 or 70 and they did add another 21 to go 50-9 up. Then either the Wallabies decided enough was enough or France finally woke up and they were rewarded with a couple of late tries to minimize the damage and give them something to build on for the rest of the 3 match series.

To be honest, the Wallabies coasted through and never looked in any danger of slipping up. The French didn’t really threaten until late on and spent much of the time in possession moving sideways instead of forwards.  The victorious supporters leaving at the end passed on their commiserations to us battled hardened traveling supporters in their own inimitable way. When the response came back “We don’t really care about it” they skulked off minus the normal smugness reserved for wallopings against teams that don’t really want to be there.

This was my 70th International match. The majority of which have been watching Australia. I still don’t like them and probably never will – forget the probably. No doubt the major contributing factor is that whenever they play Wales, they always manage somehow to sneak a win. Next year sees Australia, Wales and England in the “group of death” at the World Cup. Only two will survive. As long as it’s us and the other two (or four for that matter) beat the living suitcase out of each other, I will be a very happy camper – along with the other 3 million of us on the planet. 2015 looms ever so close now – its going to be the longest 15 months of my life!
Vive Le France and all that sail in her. You have two more chances to inflict pain and terror into this Australian team. The All Blacks, Spingboks, English and Welsh teams will thank you for it in the long run.

The Honey Badger was in good form. He scored a couple of tries and then entertained in the post match in his own inimitable style:

The evening shenanigans were as entertaining as always. The 2012 tour star performer made a triumphant return to the stage before 1030.

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Brains SA appeared as if by magic and the novelty of being an honourary Breton survived until the small hours.
I for one can’t wait for next year! Bring on the Irish/Scots/Pacific Islanders…. Fire up the karaoke

beef frog

CASTROL EDGE INTERNATIONAL SERIES FIRST TEST

AUSTRALIA 50 – 23 FRANCE

RUGBY UNION – July 6th – 3rd Test – Australia v British & Irish Lions (Sydney)

The tale of two, last gasp, missed penalty kicks had lead us to this deciding game. It was 2001 all over again and I for one did not want to go through the pain and anguish of what I experienced near enough 12 years ago to the day! When Leigh Halfpenny’s penalty fell short in Melbourne, I started having flashbacks all over again, but the one thing I could predict with the unnerving accuracy of an Olympic archer, was the pounding my liver was going to take in the lead-up to the game. After another week closer to cirrhosis, the final leg of the Lions tour was not going to be a celebratory lap of honour, but hopefully a solid preparation for the glory that could possibly be “the Saturday night to remember”.

However, the Test team announcement on the Tuesday saw some huge surprises. It seemed that Coach Gatland had got his own way at the selection table when 10 Welshmen (just not enough in my opinion!) were chosen in the starting line-up which was beefed up like an East German shotputter. But daggers were thrust through Irish hearts, when the elder statesman of the touring party, and the former “best centre in the world”, Brian O’Driscoll, was dropped completely from the match day squad. I actually went for a “swift half” with an Irish native the day after the team was announced only to be told that “she shouldn’t even be talking to me”!!!! Emotions were certainly running strong.

There is no room for sentimentality in sport any more, especially where the prize, the pressure and the intensity is so great. O’Driscoll has epitomized the spirit of rugby for so long. He is a legend of the game – a moniker I rarely bestow on anyone. But his omission sent shockwaves amongst both the British and Aussie press:

BRIAN O’Driscoll should not only be in the Lions side for Saturday night’s decider, he should be leading the team onto the field as captain.- Tim Horan

A number of decisions on this summer’s tour suggests that the “concept and ethos of the Lions has been forgotten. Nobody can tell me that Jamie Roberts is a better player than Brian O’Driscoll. Robbie Deans must be laughing all the way to Saturday.- Willie John McBride

You just wonder if they got a lucky bag and picked some names out. I was convinced Brian O’Driscoll should have been named as captain. It’s catastrophic leaving him out. He’s still one of the top centres in world rugby. He’s a fantastic guy and has been on four tours and knows it all inside out. It’s a massive mistake.- Ian Robertson

It is a terrible mistake. O’Driscoll has been quiet. But he has been the clarion call once Paul O’Connell got injured. I am totally at a loss.- Keith Wood

Warren Gatland may have made a mistake by axing veteran centre Brian O’Driscoll. I would have paired him with Jamie Roberts for the third Test in Sydney. For me, they are the best centre partnership in world rugby.- Sir Ian McGeechan

For the life of me, I cannot fathom why he [Gatland] has done it. He has never toed the line traditionally. He has had some amazing results, he’s a fantastic coach and rightly the Lions coach, but is he just making a statement that he can do this? – Shane Byrne

It wouldn’t be a genuine Lions tour without some abrasiveness between the 4 Nations. There is always going to be issues with the makeup of any Lions team – there’s never enough Welshmen, Irishmen, Englishmen or Sco…. no, don’t think we will ever have that issue!!!

When a close friend of mine that really only has a passing interest in sport made an impassioned plea to secure a ticket to the game and then drive from Melbourne on the morning of the match, it truly shows the cult appeal that a Lions series can bring. Obviously it’s never just about the rugby, but once you become part of the whole experience it’s a high like no other.

Around Sydney in the lead-up to the game, the highly publicised “Sea of Red” was out in force. Everywhere you went, there were red jerseys – unless you were Irish, then the green version was the colour of choice as symbolic support for the ousted BO’D! Every pub you passed saw Brits of all ages camped out sampling the local amber nectar. What amazed me this time round was the sheer number of the “more mature” tourist – it seems that rugby tour folklore remains in high regard – is 70 the new 40?

Sydney was abuzz with rugby fever. There was little other interest around the city. The day was gloroius – god had turned it on for the game they play in heaven. The stadium itself is a 20 minute train ride from the centre of town. Trains were leaving every 10 minutes and were packed to the point where there were disappointed punters left on the platform – mainly because of those vital 10 minutes of lost drinking time, having to wait for the next train. Upon arrival at Olympic Park, we finally found where the Aussies had been hiding all day. We all adjourned to the monstrous beer tent that had perhaps the longest bar in the world – and it was still 10 deep throughout. Bulk purchases were necessary just to keep hydrated.

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The atmosphere in Olympic Park was pumping. The flood of the 83,702 fans into the ground created log jams everywhere. After trekking up the 6 levels and then another 50 odd rows of seats later I said goodbye to my sherpa guide, and my arrival at the summit was greeted by a good number of Lions fans in the manner I have now been accustomed to.

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The view from the roof was spectacular, but watching ants play for one of the biggest prizes in rugby is not my cup of tea. At least I was on the half way line – right!!! From the kick-off, the roar of the Lions fans was ear shattering. It got even louder when Will Genia dropped the opening kickoff! A minute later the Lions had scored their first try when Corbisiero bobbed up and bounced over the line. As the game started to take shape the Lions forward strength began to assert itself. When Richard Hibbard, the hooker from Ty Bach, who had been brought in to add some much needed steel, used his face/head to stop evergreen Aussie George Smith. It was Smith who came off second best and had to spend 10 minutes off the field just to check he still had all his faculties in tact!

When the Wallabies prop Alexander was sin-binned for essentially being crap, there was air of inevitability about the result. When the Lions jumped to 19-3, the Wallabies then sparked into action. A twinkle-toed solo try from O’Connor after the siren and two penalties in 5 minutes after the break saw the deficit reduced to only 3 points. When Hibbard was replaced early in the second half, he had put his body on the line so many times the physios had no idea which part of his body needed ice the most!

With just over a half hour to go, mine and many others’ moods feared the worst. The Aussies were on top and had all the momentum. The carnage was immense. On 55 minutes there was a comical moment when 4 players were down and all needed treatment for bleeding injuries. At one stage I think they were even trying to ask qualified doctor Jamie Roberts, playing in the centre for the Lions, to help out with the stitches! This may well have been the turning point though, as straight after this mini-break, the Lions scored a well worked try down the left, after a half break through Davies and then Halfpenny, who sent Sexton through under the posts. If you thought the roar at opening try was loud, the decibels this time were immeasurable.

Just minutes later, this happened:

Halfpenny again made the break from nothing to kill any thought of a comeback. When the Flying Doctor Roberts bust through a weak Aussie defence less than 2 minutes later it was all over. The Gatland masterplan had been executed to a tee and beef and brawn had won the day. The Sydney party had only just begun and the celebrations on the pitch were only a precursor as to what was soon to be occurring throughout Sydney over the next 5 or 6 hours (make that 25 or 26 hours!). The Lions players and officials stayed on the field for the next 40 minutes soaking it all in. This was the first series win since 1997 and we just hope that it’s not another 16 years between drinks – well not between drinks as we all know that they will keep flowing no matter the result!

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DHL Rugby Series Third Test

AUSTRALIA 16 – 41 BRITISH LIONS

(Lions win the series 2-1)

And the drinks did flow until the wee hours of the morning. So much so that it was reported that some Sydney establishments ran out of beer (2001 all over again)! It still amazes me that some places are not prepared for what is possibly their biggest drinking day for 12 years! The pub we were in was dreadfully understaffed, but I guess there are only so many backpackers to go round that actually wanted to work today!

The third installment of Mic-watch saw yet another world-class effort from the Brummie.

sydney montage

Another tour has come and gone. The series itself was as engrossing as it could get. The end result could not have been sweeter and the craic will again be lauded over for years to come. New Zealand in 2017 has already been discussed and I have no doubt that as that time draws closer, the stories, the pictures, the memories from the past 12 years will grow into the stuff legends are made of. Let’s hope all our livers recover in time!!!! See you across the ditch in 4 years time.

RUGBY UNION – June 29th – 2nd Test – Australia v British & Irish Lions (Melbourne)

If you flew into Melbourne this week – on a clear day, which is pretty rare right now – you would have been greeted with this image in a neighbouring field:

rootin for oz

Apparently some people have taken this ad as offensive; I’m not sure to whom, but to someone. Certainly not the Brits – definitely not the Irish!

So, the mind games had begun in earnest. Beware an Australian scorned. That has been ringing in my ears all week. Like Shane McGowan, they just keep surviving and hanging in there, no matter what. The Australians are even better at it when their backs are against the wall. They have a siege mentality and after last week’s result, the motivational propaganda was out in force. In 2001, after the “Sea of Red” episode at the Gabba which continues to haunt every international sporting code in Australia, Melbourne was flooded with adverts on billboards, on trucks, in newspapers and on TV urging fans to “Be bold, wear gold.” In 2013 the message had evolved to “It’s on for green and gold – Your country needs you more than ever before!”

The home crowd were implored to “Rise Up, Grab the person next to you and stand shoulder to shoulder for the National Anthem”, like a herd of disillusioned sheep (in their sheepish, canary yellow, Qantas sponsored styrofoam Diggers’ hats – now I do find them offensive!!!). These hats are now the subject of taunts from the Lions fans, who take every opportunity to sing at their counterparts “You’re only wearing yellow ‘cos it’s free…..”, and repeated ad nauseum, until a bite…..

2nd Test anthem

I was perturbed when I saw a number of British & Irish Lions supporters belt out the Australian National Anthem with more fervour than the locals, but I guess that the one downside of not having an anthem to sing at the game, is that you might want to join in with the opposition’s!

56,771 fans crammed into every available space in Etihad Stadium. The official capacity is only 53,359, but with standing and the comically titled “half view” tickets sold to accommodate the ARU’s desire to bleed every last dollar out of the tourist’s phenomenal appeal, 3,412 additional bodies were able to experience what turned out to be a pretty dour and turgid game. The Lions had surprisingly made 5 changes to the winning team from last week – 2 of the forward changes were forced through injury, the other forward & back changes were partly form, partly tactical and the final one at scrum half remains a closely guarded secret…….

For 75 minutes both teams essentially cancelled each other out. It was scrappy affair throughout, there were many handling errors and big tackles, and it was far from the Brisbane spectacle that that had got us more excited than Wayne Rooney at the Early Learning Centre . The one clear chance either team had, Australia took with aplomb. After sustained possession, Adam Ashley-Cooper pounced from 5 metres out through a misaligned defence, to score and cut the Lions lead to a solitary point. Christian Lealiifano, whose debut last week ended after a mere 52 seconds, stepped up and popped over the conversion to reverse that 1 point deficit with only minutes to go. In yet another twist, as the final siren sounded, Australia conceded a penalty on the half way line to give the Lions a chance of victory. Halfpenny’s attempt fell short which sent the home team and crowd into rapture.

2nd Test wallabies celbrating2

The sour point from the night was the injury to the Wales and Lions captain Sam Warburton, who may well be missing from the final Test. Although, both captains may well be missing, as James Horwill’s stamping/trampling case is being re-heard in order to further disect evidence to determine his fate. He was moved to tears at the final whistle; perhaps he knows that he will be missing from the 3rd Test…….

The biggest and most extraordinary moment of the game came when this happened:

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All the more astonishing is the fact that Folau weighs 106 kgs (234 lbs) and he got picked up and carried like he was a naughty schoolboy (primary school, obviously!)….

The atmosphere reflected the game. It was tense, but electric. The Australians were quiet, but the Brits lacked cohesion. The “LIONS, LIONS. LIONS” chants were regular and loud but lacked variety, and it wasn’t quite enough to get the boys over the line. However, it is the passion on the field that counts and the Aussies had this in spades. The final whistle sparked emotions that you rarely see from this set of players. As long as O’Connor and Beale didn’t celebrate this win like they did the loss last week, they should be in good shape for the third Test.

They were photographed with a Lions fan at Hungry Jacks (Burger King) on Tuesday night at 4am. This after Beale had just spent the previous 2 weeks in a rehab clinic!! They were cleared of any wrongdoing by the ARU though…. Lucky they’re not members of the Aussie cricket team, otherwise there may have been an incident!!!!!

AUSTRALIA 16 – 15 BRITISH LIONS

The second test saw our follow-up installment of Mic-watch. Another solid performance from the big lad.

2nd Test mic strip

So, we all head up to Sydney for the deciding Test Match next weekend. The deja-vu of the 2001 series is astonishing. I just hope that result can be reversed, otherwise it’ll be another 12 years of ifs, buts, maybes and what the hell happeneds – aaaaarrrrgggghhhhhh!!!!!!!

RUGBY UNION – June 22nd – 1st Test – Australia v British & Irish Lions (Brisbane)

There are many reasons why you go to watch sport. There’s the atmosphere generated by the crowd, the pure theatre generated by the match and then there’s the social aspect. International rugby is the pinnacle of this combination, and it is safe to say, that after witnessing my first International Test match at the age of 13 I have been hooked. That afternoon, Wales lost to France by a point in the Grand Slam decider. I stood on an overly packed West Lower stand in the “old” National Stadium (more commonly referred to, incorrectly, as Cardiff Arms Park) where I could hardly see any of the game itself, but that didn’t matter. The banter, the singing, the roar of the crowd when Ieuan Evans scored the try that nearly got us the Grand Slam all live long in my memory. That feeling of pure euphoria I experienced that day I have carried with me ever since; 26 years and 62 International Matches later I am in Brisbane for the first Test of a 3 match series.

The British & Irish Lions games are unbelievably special. Prior to 1997, it was quite rare to have met anyone that had actually seen the Lions play in the flesh. For many British sports fans it was a bucket list item that featured very prominently. The 2001 Australian tour was an eye opener for me. It confirmed that a Lions trip is the ultimate supporter’s tour. With our ever shrinking world, it has certainly become more accessible and more affordable to be able to achieve this once unassailable dream. In 2001, it was estimated that over 40,000 people descended on Australia for the tour itself. With the Australian dollar being so strong, coupled with an extended period of recession in the UK, those numbers are unlikely to be bettered, but it still says something about the draw of the Lions when you have to waver at “unlikely”!

Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium is as close to recreating the Cardiff experience, as you could get. The stadium is close to the city centre, and you get to the ground via Caxton Street – a 400 yard strip full of pubs and restaurants, not that there is much interest in eating on days like this!!! Even at 3pm – 5 hours until kickoff – the area is packed full of Lions fans, and it grows steadily until every pub is full to bursting, until that last hour before kickoff, when everyone files out to the ground down the hill.

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As you get into the stadium, the magnitude of the event hits you. The stadium officially holds 52,500. The crowd was announced as 52,499!!!! In 2001 the Aussies were blown away when their home stadiums turned red under the deluge of Lions fans. The gold was in better shape this time round, courtesy of  20,000 silly hats provided by a sponsor, but still the prevalence of the red of the Lions fans marginally outweighed the home supporters, mainly in the cheap seats though!

anthem

The game itself took a while to get going, as the players felt their way out. Australia scored a length of the field try, when triple sport sensation Folau finished off a length of the field move for the first of his two sensational tries on his International debut. The Lions kicked a penalty soon after to reduce the deficit, but minutes later, this……

I think the best image is at 1:11 of this clip. When the Aussie that misses the tackle looks up to realise that North is going to score and the head drops. North is a fine specimen of a man. If there ever was a prototype rugby union back, it is this man. Only 21, 6ft 4, 110kgs (230lbs), great pace and agility with quick feet – an awesome combination. I’m just glad he’s Welsh!!! Not long after North was in again in the corner.

north no try'

However, this time it was adjudged that he was in touch so it was disallowed. Half time saw the teams only separated by a point. The second half seemed to fly by. The Welsh winger Cuthbert scored a cracker of a try early in the second half, but after that, all the subsequent points scored were kicks.

Down by 2 points late on, Australia were awarded a penalty with only around 100 seconds to go, I feared the worst. I have suffered for years watching them snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on a number of occasions – more often than not against Wales. You just know that the Aussies will somehow find a way to win, even in the most unlikely of circumstances. And this time was no different.

You cant quite see what happened when he kicked it on that video….. but you can here!!!!

It was a brutal match. The Aussies were unlucky with injuries and it would have been a remarkable win considering. Lealiifano was stretchered off after only 48 seconds of his debut match. His replacement (McCabe) was also injured and replaced. McCabe’s replacement also got injured and Australia ended up with a scrum half on the wing, as the winger (Ioane) had to play in the centre paired up with a forward as they were out of resources – and guess what – Ioane ended up injured as well!!! The Wallabies missed a number of crucial kicks at goal which in the end proved costly. The Lions were more clinical, but all in all there was less than fag paper between them. All I can say is roll on Melbourne!

I got this sent to me by an Australian mate of mine (yes I do have them!) who seemed to point to a selection issue as the Wallabies failure:

Who are the four players that let the Wallabies Down:

1) Barnes
2) McCabe
3) JOC (James O’Connor)
4) Kurtly Beale

1) Barnes hardly played any rugby and was half injured, yet selected.
2) McCabe hardly played any rugby and was half injured, yet selected.
3) JOC hardly played any rugby and was half injured, yet selected.
4) Kurtly Beale hardly played any rugby and was half drunk, yet selected.

The only blight on the game was the despicable action of the Australian captain, who less than 3 minutes into the game, managed to get away with this….

It’s a weak act to “trample” on a defenseless person’s face, so close to the eyes. He got off as the judiciary could not prove the act was deliberate. In the end no real harm was done, but that is besides the point. I just hope the Lions do not go out to seek retribution of their own next time round.

AUSTRALIA 21 – 23 BRITISH LIONS

Outside of the match; when you have a full day of drinking and merriment, and you forget to eat, there are inevitably some casualties. As the night progressed……

mic strip3

At 2.00am, we were left to get one of our own back to base camp. Luckily the only bodily function he had control of was his legs, so off we trekked, Weekend at Bernie’s style…… 45 minutes and 500 metres later, we ended up at McDonalds!!!!

mic bed 4

It’s okay, he was fine next day, well, next evening…….

Guess what though? – no doubt we will do it all again next week in Melbourne…. and then the week after that in Sydney too!!! I love the Lions tours……

 

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