Saturday 21 October 2017

Rugby rivals roaring with one voice is beauty of Lions

One of the biggest cheers during the second test was for the sight of Wales winger George North throwing Australian Israel Folau over his back like a sack of potatoes and surging up the field
One of the biggest cheers during the second test was for the sight of Wales winger George North throwing Australian Israel Folau over his back like a sack of potatoes and surging up the field

It was the moment that crystallised the uniqueness of a Lions Tour. The English song 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot' started up and reverberated around the Etihad Stadium in Melbourne just past the hour mark in Saturday's second Test against Australia. I have to admit, it was pretty stirring. Usually a lot of rugby fans from Ireland, Wales and Scotland cringe at that tune and try to drown it out during Six Nations games. This time, it seemed fans from all nations joined in.

As a sporting arranged marriage between countries, the Lions concept should probably feel contrived. But it doesn't. In fact, last week in Melbourne felt like a dream date. In the hours leading up to Saturday's Test, the soundtrack to the streets was the roar of 'Lions'. There was a riot of colour with red mixing with the yellow hard hats of the Aussie fans. Melbourne was made for days like this – a city so culturally diverse hosting a team which has a multi-cultural background of its own.

Our default setting is naturally programmed to a desire to beat England, Scotland and Wales every time we play them. How enjoyable was last February's Six Nations win over Wales in Cardiff? Thrilling. How disappointing was the 2011 Rugby World Cup quarter-final defeat to Wales? Crushing.

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