Sport Rugby

Wednesday 24 January 2018

Lions secure series in style

Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

The Lions became record-breakers in Sydney as they salvaged a series that looked lost when the Wallabies squared it in Melbourne last week. Their 41-16 win was the highest total scored by the Lions in a Test match, beating the 31 scored against Australia in 1966, and Leigh Halfpenny's haul of 21 was a personal milestone beating the records of Jonny Wilkinson and Stephen Jones.

Given that the Lions had only ever won the final Test in 11 of 30 series, this was a huge achievement, though coach Warren Gatland warned that logistical changes would need to be made ahead of the next tour to New Zealand in 2017.

"Managers' reports always talk about the need to get adequate preparation time and the four home unions need to sit around the table with the clubs, and the host union, to get it right," he said.

He also described the last couple of days as being very difficult personally for him after he had made six changes, including dropping Brian O'Driscoll.

"Absolutely shocking," he said of the criticism. "It was almost vitriol in terms of the criticism. The last 72 hours have been pretty tough personally. I don't feel vindicated by this."

O'Driscoll was quick to congratulate each of the winning players. "Obviously I'm delighted," he said. "I guess it's been a roller-coaster week. The emotion of today, sitting through it and not being there, but essentially it's about winning a series and being part of that – albeit not in the deciding Test but I'll always have it on my CV and that's what counts."

It was a more productive night for Sean O'Brien, who was promoted from the bench where he been selected last weekend, and for Conor Murray, who came on in the second half and was credited with helping the Lions over the line.

"I got to stay on and enjoy the win and it was absolutely unbelievable," Murray said. "I think we dominated that game and it was an amazing feeling. The breakdown in rugby is absolutely crucial and I think we managed to control that."

The Lions fly home on Tuesday having won their first series since 1997, and the result will strengthen their hand in the ongoing negotiations with host unions over the distribution share out of cash in future tours.

See Pages 2 and 3

Irish Independent

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