With one win apiece going into the final test, this Australia v Lions series is headed for an exciting end, and there is virtually nothing between the two teams. The first test was won by two points, and the second test by a single point. Both matches came down to missed last second penalties, and there is no reason to expect the outcome to be any different in the deciding test.
One of the fascinating battles in these games has been on the wing – Israel Folau vs George North. Folau is a Rugby League and Aussie Rules convert, so is a newcomer to Union. Both are outstanding players, scoring twice and once in the first test respectively (North’s try being one for the ages). Probably the most memorable moment came in the next match, when North audaciously lifted Folau up who was still carrying the ball, to the delight of Lions fans. I can’t wait for their final match up.
For me, two of the Lions most important players have been Adam Jones and Sam Warburton. Whenever one of these pair has left the field, the Lions have suffered. When Jones has left the field to be replaced by Dan Cole, the scrum has suffered. This coupled with Mako Vunipola’s presence has meant the Lions haven’t been able to fully exploit what should be their strongest asset. Part of the blame must be laid at the feet of forwards coach Graham Rowntree – repeating the mistakes he made in 2009 when he sent out Phil Vickery to be terrorised by Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira in the initial match-up with the Springboks. It’s a similar story with injured Captain Warburton. When he was replaced late in the game last Saturday, the Wallabies built up momentum through quick ball at the breakdown. Warburton has been roundly criticised in the past, but if he stayed the course the Lions wouldn’t have lost that test – his injury is a huge blow. The Lions have made a huge error selecting Sean O’Brien at openside for the final match. He isn’t a natural scavenger, and Justin Tipuric would’ve been a good pick – and a series changing one at that.
The final match is too close to call. It all depends on injuries, and who’s managed to make it back fully fit. Expect to see kickers Leigh Halfpenny or Christian Lealiifano have the final say.