A detailed look at How The (3rd) Test Was Won by Conor Philpott…
While many people on this side of the Atlantic lost a lot of interest in the Lions after Brian O’Driscoll was dropped (personally, I wasn't too surprised, for how Gatland wanted to play, BOD wasn’t the guy despite doing a damned good effort at doing so and doing some stellar work in defence), the final test finished with an emphatic win with great thanks to the forwards and the front row in particular (that old adage that “forwards win games, backs decide by how much” certainly rang true with the pack being the key factor to the win). A knock on by Will Genia straight from the kickoff allowed the Lions an opportunity to set an early marker.
Australia gave up a free kick for early engagement and the Lions set away immediately with Phillips’ quick tap. Sean O’Brien didn't have too many opportunities to carry the ball in the game but his contribution to the opening score was key. Backed up by Faletau and Corbisiero he marches about 5m about 3m to the Australian line. 2 phases later the Lions would score through Corbisiero. Up to this point the Lions have shown an ability to score tries in the first few phases. This was their third try in the series with the scores coming off first third and fifth phase. Corbisiero’s score and Johnny Sexton’s later on exemplify the style Gatland wishes to play.Hard yards gained in the tight through backs and forwards leaving gaps in the defence, the threat of Phillips around the fringes was also key to the first try.
I’m going to take a quick look at the difference between Mako Vunipola and Alex Corbisiero at scrum time. Vunipiola struggled greatly against Ben Alexander for most of the second test it was only when Steve Kepu came on and the introduction of Dan Cole and Richard Hibbard did Vunipola gain parity or better him. He bored in (a loosehead prop angles himself inward putting more pressure on both the opposing tighthead and the hooker. It is illegal and can also be quite dangerous.) quite a bit and in my opinion could have been penalised more by Craig Joubert.
The first image is of Vunipola and the second is of Corbisiero. You see the arched back with Vunipola’s head and eyes facing down. A coach once told me that you should always be looking up in a scrum, like you are peering over a pair of sunglasses otherwise you will end up going straight to ground. I don’t think he was wrong. Corbisiero is quite straight and actually able to get underneath Alexander in an effort to try and get him to pop up. The Lions lost some work in the loose with Corbisiero there but the prowess of their scrum more than made up for it.
Credit goes to Gatland for some of his bold selection calls which in some aspects were paying dividends. Toby Faletau was targeted by the Australians at kickoff time and I’m not sure why they persisted with the tactic for so long. He continuously made yards and broke Australian tackles. In this shot he and Welsh teammates Alun Wyn Jones, Richard Hibbard and Dan Lydiate get a nice maul going that runs for about 10 metres.
The backrow had a very nice balance to it. Lydiate was his usual self in the tackling department with 9 total and none missed he combined well with O’Brien in making turnovers and halting Australian attacks. The next shot shows O’Brien win a penalty after a crunching tackle from Lydiate. O’Brien’s role was different than that at Leinster and Ireland but he racked up the tackles and as discussed above made key yards when asked. Faletau did the bulk of the carrying very effectively it has to be said.
It would be fair to say that the Lions did struggle in attack at times. I’m going to highlight one period of the match when the Lions have a commanding lead. You should notice two things about the first still one is that Faletau and O’Brien are working together which is great but also the HSBC sign which is about four or five metres inside the Australian 10m line. That was the first phase of this attack and the Lions start behind it. The final phase shows Johnny Sexton attempt a drop goal which narrowly misses (he is of course standing a bit behind the gainline in order to avoid being blocked but the Lions failed to make serious inroads). While credit goes to superb Australian defence particularly with a man in the sinbin, the Lions went 27 phases and made only about 10m (they were on the edge of the 22 at one point but they failed to breach it) their gameplan had its struggles certainly that I think was saved by the dominant scrum which gave them 12 points (the first try also came partially on the back of a scrum with a Lions free kick putting them on the front foot)
Australia’s try came on the cusp of halftime and it wasn’t a great try to give away in truth. The first still shows quite a big gap between Roberts and Sexton, perhaps showing that they lacked a bit of communication and understanding having not played together in a test environment. James O’Connor has a man inside him should he need him for the pop. Sexton seems concerned about this not willing to commit himself to O’Connor for the easy pop inside. Jamie Roberts is quite fast but could he haul down O’Connor an international class winger? Sean O’Brien is drifting across and trying to close a gap that exists between him and Sexton, O’Connor spots this gap and decides to back himself. Sexton still seems uncertain and not fully committed as O’Connor steps inside, his tackle attempt is quite poor for a guy who is a great defender usually but a lot of credit must go to O’Connor who shows marvellous footwork to evade Sexton and the incoming O’Brien. He initially looks to go for the gap between the centre and outhalf but his superb step immediately changes things and leaves Sexton vulnerable as he isn’t perfectly set to tackle and catches Sexton off guard and in poor position. While Sexton’s tackle is poor and below his high standards O’Connor’s work here is outstanding.
PART TWO WILL PUBLISH THURSDAY
Conor Philpott (@cphilpott95) is a proud Corkonian, and a massive sports fan with rugby being his sport of choice. Be it Munster, his club Highfield, the Lions or Ireland, Conor will probably be watching rugby in some shape or form