The 1st Test over the weekend in Brisbane saw a brutal contest up-front between the big men of both sides, with scrums, lineouts and general play setting the platform out wide for the dazzling footwork of Israel Folau and George North. Here is a roundup of all three facets from the 1st Test.
While the Wallabies have improved their scrum over the last two international seasons, the Lions still had those in the know backing a demolition. The 1st half saw this prediction hold true, with Lions front row out manoeuvring and overpowering the front row of the Wallabies, earning a couple of penalties in the process. However, the Wallabies refused to fold and the injection of replacement prop James Slipper saw a lift from the whole forward pack, including the crucial penalty inside the Lions half in the final minute. Overall, quite an even match-up, perhaps the Lions struggling more than most initially thought they would.
Both sides were extremely effective at lineout time, with both hookers throwing true and coordination from the lifters to match. Stephen Moore was exceptional at lineout time and the Wallabies did not lose a lineout from their own throw. While this was impressive, the lineout defense of the Wallabies was something which Robbie Deans may look to change this weekend. The Wallabies essentially gave the Lions free ball from the front pod at lineout time, not contesting a number of times. Pressure needed to be created in some situations and the Wallabies failed to provide that. The Lions did not give the Wallabies any opportunity at clean possession and a flow on effect caused pressure on James O’Connor at flyhalf from set piece ball.
The Wallabies forwards really dug in and gave a solid effort on Saturday, one that many Australian fans will be happy with. Stephen Moore, Benn Robinson, James Horwill and Ben Mowen in particular gave themselves plenty of work around the park. They were everywhere that you looked, creating havoc at the breakdown and popping up outside Will Genia and O’Connor a number of times, creating half chances. The Lions matched these men through the efforts of hooker Tom Youngs, second rower Paul O’Connell and flanker Sam Warburton, who around the park were immense. O’Connell and Warburton in particular were immensely strong over the ball at the breakdown, the Wallabies often needing 2 or 3 forwards to clean out one of them. In saying this, the Lions forward pack seemed to have more unity, with less one out play. Perhaps a result of extra match fitness from the multitude of trials that they have played already.
Overall, both forward packs would be happy with their performance on Saturday. Injuries may cause a couple of changes but the only players that did not play well in particular from either pack were Wycliff Palu and Ben Alexander, who were anonymous nearly all game. Both sides will be in with a shot again this coming Saturday, what a cracker it will be.