Peter FitzSimons: Lions shatter All Blacks' aura of invincibility
OPINION: It was rugby like they don't make it any more: stunning, scintillating, shattering in its intensity, extraordinary in its capacity to entrance.
Less the time lost for re-starts it was rugby's answer to Sir Walter Scott's famed observation: "One hour of life, crowded to the full with glorious action, and filled with noble risks, is worth whole years of those mean observances of paltry decorum, in which men steal through existence, like sluggish waters through a marsh, without either honour or observation."
In fact, RAH-RAH!
For I refer, of course, to last Saturday's deciding test between the All Blacks and British and Irish Lions, which delivered such an historic result.
Are you kidding me?
After 237 minutes, two of the strongest teams in the world are still going at it, with the whole series still in the balance, with the All Blacks holding on to a 15-12 lead. Gasp it, All Blacks skipper Kieran Read, just as you gasped it with three minutes to go to your opposing Lions back-rower and captain, Sam Warburton, picked up by the microphones: "Wow ... This is rugby!"
Exactly. Rugby, as good as it gets, even as the Lions kicker nails an impossible penalty goal from 48 metres out, with two minutes to go to level the scores, so climaxing an historic and unforgettable series.
(For you also know it. The basic details – All Blacks shatter them in the first test, Lions come back in the second test, and they fight each other to a standstill draw in the third – will be recalled decades from now, just as the older among us still recall the basic details of when the Lions toured Australia in 1989, and that bloody wing, Ieuan Evans, scored in Campo's Corner at the Sydney Football Stadium, in the third test, to take the series).
For this little black duck, this latest Lions series was a heartening affirmation, in tough times, of my eponymous theorem that "while nothing is so dull as a dull rugby game, nothing is so great as a great rugby game".
Gawd knows, this season we have suffered more than our fair share of dull matches, but this, this, friends, was One for the Ages! And, for once, it disproved the Roy Masters theorem that "a draw is like kissing your sister".
Rather, this 'un was actually like kissing that red-headed young woman in the moonlight, down by the pergola in 1982, in the soft-summer breeze, with the strains of violin wafting your way – the kiss you'll never forget! And yes, there was nowhere to go thereafter, as she only passes this way every decade or so, but geez ... what a kiss!
Yes, yes, yes, I know. A moment while the writer composes himself. It was long ago, but I still remember. So let me do what I always do in awkward moments and say ... "Waddabout dem Wallabies!"
The significance for the Wallabies?
The obvious. Whatever aura of invincibility the All Blacks had about them is now shattered, every bit as much as the Wallabies shattered it back in the famous third test in 1990, which presaged a long period of All Blacks decline. They were world champions at the time, and it would be two decades before they held the same title.
I know, I know, under the current circumstances of Australian rugby – where not one of our Super Rugby teams has beaten a Kiwi side this year, and the Wallabies have already lost to Scotland – I am not saying the All Blacks are ours for the taking. Far from it. But I do say this generation of All Blacks might have at last passed high noon, and the Lions have shown the way by delivering a game plan that turned on backing themselves in attack, sending the ball wide again and again, and simply refusing to buckle in defence – all while having a goal-kicker that just about bloody well never missed!
So having allowed Kieran Read to repeat his words, let's hand it over to you, Lions captain, Sam Warburton to repeat your own words at the end of that match. "Wow. What a test match."
- Sydney Morning Herald