Lions seal stunning series win

By Simon Lewis, Sydney

Lions seal stunning series win

By Simon Lewis, Sydney

Australia 16 Lions 41

The British & Irish Lions stormed to a first series victory in 16 years with a comprehensive defeat of Australia in the third and final Test at ANZ Stadium.

In a series that saw the first two Tests decided by last-minute kicks and the Lions head into the decider on the back foot after losing captain Sam Warburton and supposedly the momentum to the Wallabies, aided by the shock omission of Brian O'Driscoll, this was as remarkable a turnaround as any travelling supporter could have dared to hope for.

Tries from Alex Corbisiero, Jonathan Sexton, George North and Jamie Roberts allied to a dominant scrum and the superb goal-kicking of man of the series Leigh Halfpenny knocked the stuffing out of a Wallabies side that had been made favourite for the decider but failed to live up to the tag.

The Lions could not have asked for a better start to the game when some miscommunication in the Australia defence saw Will Genia knock-on from Sexton's deep kick-off, handing Gatland's side a scrum in the opposition 22.

Referee Romain Poite was seen as a key player at scrum-time with a reputation for backing the dominant pack and the Lions got onside with the French official at the earliest possible opportunity, winning a free-kick at the first engagement.

It had maximum impact, too, as Bowe darted down the blindside to the Wallabies' line, the ball recycled back inside from the right touchline with skipper Alun Wyn Jones hurling himself towards an upright.

Quick ball again found Corbisiero, back in the side after recovering from a calf strain and the prop showed some nimble agility to roll out of a tackle and touch down for the opening try inside the first two minutes, Leigh Halfpenny getting his missed last-ditch penalty in the second Test out of his system with the short-range conversion.

The Australians were rattled and perhaps a little panicked at the Lions' fast start and skipper James Horwill declined a shot at goal two minutes later, Kurtley Beale kicking to the corner, the open play that followed the Australian lineout seeing George Smith given a bruising reminder of what he has missed in the four years he has been out of Test rugby after going into a massive collision with Richie Gray and Richard Hibbard, the veteran flanker dazed enough to be helped off the field just five minutes into his return.

When Smith, who made his Wallabies debut against the Lions in 2001, returned to the field four minutes later, Halfpenny and Leali'ifano had exchanged penalties but the Lions were to steal a march soon after, winning a scrum penalty to allow Halfpenny to stretch the lead to 13-3 on 12 minutes.

There was further scrum woe for the Wallabies a dozen minutes later when Ben Alexander buckled under pressure from Corbisiero and copped a yellow card for his troubles having been warned minutes earlier by Poite over his binding.

Down to 14 men, the Australians watched Halfpenny slot another penalty to push the Lions into a 19-3 lead.

Even more trouble hit the Wallabies when powerhouse wing Israel Folau pulled up hurt stretching for a Sexton kick in the 26th minute but Australia rallied in the final five minutes, piling pressure on the Lions and keeping the tourists inside their own half for the rest of the opening period.

The Lions kept their shape and held out, almost to the half-time whistle, until a final scrum to the home side produced a try for fly-half James O'Connor, who danced around Sexton, Phillips and O'Brien for a super try, converted by Leali'ifano, to give the Australians hope at the break, trailing 19-10.

They had finished the half on a high and began the second period with similar urgency, the early pressure paying dividends with two Leali'ifano penalties to close the gap to three points at 16-19.

But just as Australia looked back in the game and in search of victory, the Lions bounced back and in some style.

Another big scrum from Gatland's pack delivered a penalty for Halfpenny in the 51st minute and from then on in, it was all Lions, with a flurry of fast-breaking tries down the left touchline to break Wallabies hearts and start celebrations for the visitors that had been 16 years in the making.

First Sexton, then George North and Jamie Roberts, the trio of Lions backs, carved open the green and gold defence, player of the series Leigh Halfpenny instrumental throughout.

The full-back even showed a little frailty, failing to convert North's try before getting back on track by bringing up 40 points with 12 minutes to go.

A famous and most unlikely victory but one to savour nevertheless for the Lions and their huge army of supporters in ANZ Stadium.

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