Friday 20 October 2017 / 01:36 AM

Backline Review – 2nd Test

So the Wallabies have managed to beat the Lions in the second Test, well just. Setting up a mouth-watering finale at Stadium Australia in Sydney.

The game itself, a 16-15 win for the home side was played very much through the two forward packs. Any attempt to put the ball through the hands of the backs and penetrate the opposition line seemed doomed, as handling errors from both teams where aplenty.

That aside, lets have a look at how both backlines impacted, or failed to impact the game, and where possible changes may be made in next weeks do or die clash.

The Wallabies

No 9 – Will Genia

Although his passing was accurate throughout, Genia very rarely attempted to break the defensive line. He made only 15 metersin the second Test, compared to 67 in the first. The Lions started with the more mobile Mako Vunipola in their pack in an attempt to cut Genia down. This change though meant that the Lions suffered in the lineout, with Vunipola not as capable as Alex Corbisiero.

 

No 10 – James O’Connor

Wallaby coach Robbie Deans decided to stick with James O’Connor in the No. 10 role for the second Test. O’Connor made more meters (72) than any other Wallaby player bar Israel Folau. However that doesn’t say much in a game where attacks towards the opposing backline were minimal. Genia being shut down meant O’Connor received a lot more of the ball, alas he wasn’t able to capitalise on this and his distribution was generally poor.

Centers – Christian Lealiifano, Adam Ashley – Cooper

Lealiifano’s accurate kicking game definitely got the Wallabies out of trouble, and was as important as Ashley-Coopers late try.

Wingers – Israel Folau, Joseph Tomane

Folau did not impact the second Test as much as he did the first, but that was hardly his fault. It seemed evident that there was an issue with passing the ball from left to right, which should not be a problem. Tomane also had a quiet game but that can be attributed to his fellow backs not distributing the ball far wide enough.

Fullback – Kurtley Beale

Beale put in a rather forgettable performance and very rarely impacted the game. After missing the kick in the final minute of the game one, many assumed we would see a focused Kurtley for the second Test. Over trying can sometimes deliver a poorperformance – his ball security and efforts to penetrate the Lions were not up to Test-match standards.

 

The Lions

No 9 – Ben Youngs

Youngs started with the hope that it would bring a more direct style of play. This was not the case and he struggled to make any real impact. A total carry of one meter over three attempts is very miserable.

No 10 – Jonathan Sexton

Sexton made 40-meters, the most from the Lions squad. Like the rest of the team, his game was overshadowed with copious errors, but could he be classed as one of the better performers.

 

Centers – Jonathan Davies, Brian O’Driscoll

Although Davies and O’Driscoll are most likely the greatest choices in the centers,they have been uncharacteristically quiet in the first two Tests. The Lions backs are renowned for their direct style of play. O’Driscoll has subsequently been dropped for the final test with Jamie Roberts taking his place; making an all-Welsh central pairing.

 

Wingers –Tommy Bowe, George North

 

North got the highlight of the game when he lifted Folau on his shoulders in the second half. That was the only real memorable contribution both these players made to the game. It’s difficult to impact the game if the ball doesn’t reach the outside backs.

 

Fullback – Leigh Halfpenny

 

Halfpenny’s kicking off the tee was accurate, and kept the scoreboard ticking over for the Lions. But his in-game kicks were sometimes found wanting, therefore gifted easy possession and territory back to the Wallabies. This will need to be improved if they want success in the final Test.

Heading into the final week of the tour there are still a lot of question marks surrounding selection.

Penetration and handling will be on the agenda’s of both coaches. The Wallabies have more footwork intheir backline, but as we saw in the second Test getting the ball to those players was a problem.

 

Maybe a more back to basics approach is needed from each side tonight. As we witnessed with the Ashley-Cooper try, straight running to initiate simple overlaps can still be an effective strategy.

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Tom Penistone

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