Tuesday 23 January 2018

Billy Keane: Visiting fans can help Sexton nick it by a cat's whisker

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The Aussies are all-out up for this morning's first Test against the Lions in Brisbane. The 'Sydney Morning Herald' tell does flow and men chunder. If you haven't guessed, 'chunder' is the Aussie word for 'wommit.' I would say there's a phenomenal amount of drinking done in Oz. Even though I was never there.

You hear things. The Lions supporters are drinking Australia dry as if it's not dry enough already what with deserts, dingoes and dust storms.

And yes we know it is winter in Oz. The temperature will be around 15c in Brisbane this morning and the rain should stay away.

But the result of today's Test could be decided by the supporters. On the first international of the last tour Down Under, the Lions fans outnumbered the Aussies and I have a funny feeling it will happen this time too. The Australians probably know the big British companies will buy up the Oz allocation. Hence the free helmets and inspiring 'fire me up' lyrics like 'Buying Bread from a man in Brussels, He was 6' 4" and full of muscle.' Tickets are being sold off for thousands. It works like this.

The customer buys 15 million a year from some big company in London and he is as ticketless as a pauper on the Dart. The customer doesn't like being as powerless as a pauper and so he casually mentions to the big huge company, as he places his order, if by any chance they might happen to have a spare ticket. Sales do their sums and 10pc profit is 1.5 million a year. So, if you have to spend five grand on a ticket, well so what.

The match itself is hard enough to call because the Australians have picked a new team.

Jonathan Sexton, who is worn out from planning his wedding to the lovely and deadly nice Laura, is a fine all-round footballer.

James O'Connor whose ancestors came from Carrigafoyle Castle, near Ballylongford, is an excellent Rules player and so you have two footballing out-halves in direct opposition. I think Sexton will shade it here. O'Connor has only the one cap at out-half, but he is lightening fast.

Sexton would spot a gap in Wayne Rooney's hair. He will probe and poke and know exactly the right time to strike.

By the way, Jonathan is not a man who courts the limelight, so the wedding was to be kept a secret, but now he knows, the only way to keep a secret in Ireland is to tell everyone.

Our national hero Brian O'Driscoll will be tested. The Oz midfield is very fast and they may well attack through the 13 channel. O'Driscoll has never played badly in a big game, but he's carrying injuries and the Lions may not operate his favourite drift defence which involves herding Wallabies out over the sideline.

The Lions line-outs have been a bit of a mess, but Paul O'Connell would field fireball meteorites wearing the gloves they use in delis to make wraps. More importantly he is a great organiser. Much depends on the throwing of hooker Tom Youngs. If the line-outs go wrong, Australia will win, but if the scrums go badly for Australia then the Lions will win. Figure that one out.

The Lions bench and the goal- kicking of Lee Halfpenny might sway this one. Halfpenny is one of the best we have ever seen. He's as laid back as if he's kicking an empty can to his alma mater, the Pontybrenin Primary School.

The Lions have a far stronger bench, with four countries to choose from and the replacements will be a major factor in game that the Australians will try to play at a savage pace and so wear out the visitors, many of whom are suffering from the ravages of a very long season.


Some of us have seen the Lions as a threat to the well-being of Irish rugby. Paul O'Connell, Jeremy Davidson, Eric Miller, Moss Keane and O'Driscoll are among many who have suffered due to the savage toll of a Lions tour on the body.

But then you see how much it means to the players who wear the Red jersey. O'Driscoll and O'Connell have nothing to prove to anyone, but here they are after stellar careers, craving a series win.

"Do you come from a land down under?

"Where women glow and men plunder?

"Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?

"You better run, you better take cover."

Lions matches are Tests and the label tells all. There will be no hiding from the Australian thunder, but these Lions are full of stand up and fight .

All week I've had this premonition young Sexton will score the winning drop goal.

The Lions then to do it, by a cat's whisker.

Irish Independent

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