Wednesday 23 August 2017 / 03:02 AM

Backline Review – 3rd Test

A total crowd of 83,702 packed Stadium Australia to watch the Lions win their first test series since 1997, with a 41-16 dismantling of the Wallabies.

Dominating all facets of the game, the Lions started from minute zero playing with high intensity and a great hunger for victory. The power of the Lions scrum gave more possession to the Lions backs allowing them to flourish.

Both backlines featured heavily in the third test, below is a breakdown of who made the most impact and who didn’t.

Wallabies

No 9 – Will Genia

Made more attempts to attack the Lions line after a quiet second test. He made an average of five meters every attempted carry and his passing was as accurate as ever.

No 10 – James O’Connor

O’Connor scored the Wallabies only try. Although making 64 meters, he continually persisted with a pick and drive tactic, thus not allowing the other backs as much chance to influence the game.

Centers – Christian Lealiifano, Adam Ashley-Cooper

Lealiifano’s kicking was strong with a conversion rate of 100%. Unfortunately he didn’t contribute much else to the game. When Ashley-Cooper received the ball, he ran with more purpose and intent – definitely the Wallabies strongest option at No. 13.

Wingers – Joseph Tomane, Israel Folau

Folau got injured early in the game allowing Jesse Mogg to come on. Mogg showed that sheer pace can cause problems for the opposition. If the Wallabies were less persistent with the pick and drive tactic, and decided to spread the ball wide for Tomane and Mogg, we may have seen more damage caused to the Lions backline.

Fullback – Kurtley Beale

Made more meters (87) than any other member of the Wallaby side, however big numbers on the stats page doesn’t mean big performance, and he wasn’t penetrative enough. He has generally struggled to impact the whole tour.

Lions

No 9 – Mike Phillips

Phillips rapid decision-making at the back of the pack was instrumental in upping the backlines intensity. He and No. 10 Jonathan Sexton combined well, thus giving the backline more confidence and consistency.

No 10 – Jonathan Sexton

Like Phillips, Sexton’s decision making was key. Well-timed passes set the backline up, giving better shape and field position. Sexton also scored the crucial try that put distance between themselves and the Wallabies.

Centers – Jamie Roberts, Jonathan Davies

Warren Gatland’s massive decision to bring Roberts into the side ahead of O’Driscoll paid dividends. Roberts brought a much-needed physical, go forward approach to the centers. 56 meters off a total of 9 carries was the combined gain from the pair, but it was the sheer intensity of these carries that gave the rest of the backline more drive.

Wingers – George North, Tommy Bowe

Both North and Bowe featured more prominently in the final test match than the previous two. North being the stand out of the two with 55 meters gained off 8 carries and helping himself to a try along the way.

Fullback – Leigh Halfpenny

Halfpenny’s kicking and reading of the game was precise. He grabbed 21 points and assisted two of the four tries. He terrorised the Wallabies with a series of straight runs that created more space for his outside allies. Voted man of the match and man of the series.

Both coaches decisions played a big part in the game. Deans opted for the sentimental aspect of playing George Smith in his final game for Australia, whereas Gatland was ruthless in dismissing O’Driscoll in his final test for the Lions. Gatland’s team selection resulted in a win, whereas Deans has been sacked from the Wallabies top job six months before his contract was due to finish.

 

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Tom Penistone

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