British and Irish Lions end 16 years of futility

NICK MULVENNEY
Last updated 01:07 07/07/2013

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The British and Irish Lions made a blistering start, overcame a spirited Australian fightback and finished with four tries in a record 41-16 win in the third test on Saturday which ended a 16-year wait for a series triumph.

After just three points separated the two sides in the first two matches, the Lions built their emphatic victory on the back of a dominant scrum to join the hallowed teams of 1971, 1974, 1989 and 1997 as series winners in the modern era.

Prop Alex Corbisiero, flyhalf Jonny Sexton, winger George North and centre Jamie Roberts scored the tries and fullback Leigh Halfpenny, named player of the series, added 21 points with his boot to give the Lions their highest tally in a test match.

"These guys have done themselves proud, have done that jersey proud and they deserve a huge amount of credit for that performance and what they've achieved," coach Warren Gatland told a news conference.

"I thought the scrum was brilliant...and four tries tonight was a vindication of how well we have played on this tour."

Gatland said the virulent reaction to his decision to drop Irish centre Brian O'Driscoll for the deciding match had removed some of his enjoyment of the victory but he was unable to disguise his delight with his players.

After tight tests in Brisbane and Melbourne, the decider looked like being a demolition job after 25 minutes with the home side reduced to 14 men, their scrum in disarray and the Lions 19-3 up.

The first five minutes were disastrous for the Wallabies with scrumhalf Will Genia spilling the kickoff, their pack twice penalised at the scrum and flanker George Smith leaving the pitch after a head clash with Lions hooker Richard Hibbbard.

The fumbled kickoff and a quickly taken free kick had the Lions charging at the home try line and Corbisiero carried the ball low and hard to reach over and touch down inside the first 90 seconds.

Halfpenny converted and added another huge penalty from halfway to give the tourists a 10-0 lead inside the first 10 minutes, drawing huge cheers from the red-clad Lions fans in the crowd of 83,702.

Smith, returning after four years out of international rugby to win his 111th cap, re-entered the fray and the Wallabies hit back with a penalty from Christian Leali'ifano two minutes later.

The problems with the pack remained for the home side and referee Romain Poite called a free kick and two penalties against them at the next three scrums, allowing Halfpenny to extend the lead to 13 with two more spot kicks.

Poite ran out of patience at the next scrum and prop Ben Alexander was sent to the sinbin for 10 minutes for collapsing the set-piece, Halfpenny added three more points from the resulting penalty.

"HORRIFIC START"

"I mean, obviously, it was a horrific start," said Australia coach Robbie Deans. "They used their set piece to great advantage and once they had the momentum, they took their opportunities and they went back to set piece to punish us."

The Wallabies looked down and out two minutes later when winger Israel Folau, who scored tow tries on his debut in the first test, pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury to bring Jesse Mogg on for his first test.

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Instead, though, the home side managed to endure the remaining period with just 14 men - Sexton's missed dropped goal the only real threat - and started to put together some backline rhythm.

Mogg's first burst up the middle was stopped by a brilliant tap tackle in open field from lock Geoff Parling but the Wallabies kept coming.

From a scrum just before halftime they finally made the breakthrough with O'Connor jinking past Sexton and taking scrumhalf Mike Phillips over the line with him to score.

Leali'ifano converted to leave the Lions with just a 19-10 lead at the break and the centre reduced it by six more points with two penalties in the first five minutes after the break.

A huge shove through tighthead Adam Jones gave the Lions regained dominance at the scrum and the Wallabies crumbled before it, allowing Halfpenny to extend the lead to 21-16 after 51 minutes.

Five minutes later and the Lions attacked up the left flank with Jonathan Davies releasing Halfpenny who got the ball back inside for Sexton to run round and score under the posts.

The slight fullback added the extras for a 29-16 lead and eight minutes later set up the coup de grace, slipping past Genia on the counter-attack to set North on his way for his second try of the series.

Halfpenny failed with the conversion - his only miss in nine kicks on the night - but it was made academic after 68 minutes when Roberts ran onto Conor Murray's pass at a great angle to cut through the defence for the fourth try.

"You can't sugarcoat it or anything like that we weren't good enough today and they were," said Australia captain James Horwill. "The better team won."

- Reuters

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