Wallabies embarrassed; knives out for Deans
The British and Irish Lions embarrassed a shellshocked Wallabies 41-16 at a packed-out ANZ Stadium on Saturday night to celebrate a drought-breaking first series success in style.
After waiting 16 long years, singing and chanting Lions fans were absolutely jubilant in what was a death knell for Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.
With intense speculation already swirling before the third Test that Deans' tenure was coming to an imminent end, the record four-tries-to-one defeat is sure to have forced Deans' end.
It wasn't just the scoreline but the manner of the loss, in front of a reconfigured ground crowd record of 83,702, which was damning for Australia.
The dominant Lions forwards set the platform for the hiding by chewing up and spitting out the Wallabies pack in a one-sided first half.
A scrummaging onslaught, led by English prop Alex Corbisiero, who wasn't even included in the original tour party, set the tone for the match.
The Wallabies endured a nightmare start which had the tourists leading 10-0 after seven minutes after Will Genia dropped the kick off and Corbisiero scored a minute later.
The first-half disaster continued with star winger Israel Folau tearing his hamstring in the 26th minute just after man-of-the-match Leigh Halfpenny kicked his fourth penalty goal for a 19-3 lead.
Halfpenny, who also set up two second-half tries to seal the win, finished with a record personal tally of 21 points.
The Welsh fullback also racked up a record series haul of 49 to be named player of the series.
The tourists' devastating scrum dominance netted them three of their four early penalty goals and led to prop Ben Alexander being sin-binned for repeated infringements.
Thirteen points five minutes either side of halftime, highlighted by a jinking James O'Connor try just before the break, revived the Wallabies as they closed to 19-16 down.
But another scrum penalty, showing that inconsistency in the set piece is still a major Achilles heel for Australia, turned the tide back the tourists' way.
Lions coach Warren Gatland's controversial call to dump Irish great Brian O'Driscoll and stick with Jonathan Davies in the midfield paid off handsomely when the Welshman sparked a try to Jonny Sexton to put the Lions 13 points clear midway through the second half.
Halfpenny linked beautifully with Davies to send Sexton over, and then also set up the match-sealing try to another Welsh teammate, George North, five minutes later.
Centre Jamie Roberts then added insult to injury with a fourth try 11 minutes from time by splitting the backline defence for their highest score against Australia.
"We had too many errors early on and we gave them a head start ... and they were too good," said Wallabies skipper James Horwill.
The knives quickly came out for Deans in the Twittersphere with dual international Lote Tuqiri, whose Wallabies career ended under the New Zealander, posting "see ya Robbie" in the midst of the Lions three-try blitz in the second half.
Deans lamented a "horrific start" and a poor scrum display.
"They used their set piece with great advantage and then fed off it," he said.
"It worked for them, they were turning the scoreboard over and you saw the rest.
"We gave them a leg-up which really allowed them to thrive."
Horwill said the loss was incredibly disappointing, especially starting "opposite" to the way they had intended.
The second-rower said his pack failed to recover from the first scrum in the first minute.
"We got penalised early and then got a bit gun shy," he said.
"We sat on the back foot and allowed them to dictate terms."
With the ARU sounding out the Brumbies and Queensland to potentially release coaching candidates Jake White and Ewen McKenzie, respectively, Deans acknowledged his coaching future was out of his hands.
"Those decisions will be made by others," he said.
"You don't presume anything in this industry and that decision is made by others, and who knows?"
Horwill said he was devastated but still stood by Deans.
"Robbie's the coach, he's contracted and he's the coach," he said. "He's a great coach (but) now's not the time, five minutes after a game, to talk about coaching positions."
Gatland said he couldn't be prouder of his men after they responded to his call to empty the tanks in the finale.
"We spoke about being prepared to go to a place that not many players go to in terms of being able to push your body to the limit," he said.
"The players did that. They ran themselves into the ground.
"They deserve a lot of credit those players."