Australia 16-41 British & Irish Lions, Sydney, July 6
What the papers said...
Leigh Halfpeny was named man of the match and man of the series
© PA Photos
How was the British & Irish Lions' third Test victory over Australia which saw them seal their first Test series victory in 16 years reported around the world?
"For the Lions glory unconfined, for the Wallabies crushing despair, for the travelling fans delirium and unity after a week of in-fighting... and for Warren Gatland complete vindication. All week the world and his wife had predicted another one or two-point, nervy thriller. All week it seemed Australia were the ones with the momentum of a runaway train, securing one propaganda coup after another as the Lions tried desperately to regroup.
"...But how the picture told a false story - and how Gatland thumbed his nose at the army of detractors who said picking 10 Welshmen in the starting line-up was unjustified, and that dropping Brian O'Driscoll was lunacy. The New Zealander has ticked so many boxes on his coaching cv, but this was his finest hour. By a long chalk." - Delme Parfitt, Western Mail
Halfpenny joins legends
"Throughout this tour he has kicked with such accuracy that any infringement has almost automatically been punished. An 89% record of 40 from 45 kicks is a formidable statistic to take into battle that would have been sufficient to guarantee him the Player of the Series, but the influence in the tries makes his elevation alongside JPR Williams in the pantheon of Welsh Lions full-backs so much more satisfying...
"JPR is a legend but here is a bona fide 21st century Welsh full-back and superstar. In his day Williams was regarded as a massive physical presence, in contrast to the slender Halfpenny, who is dwarfed by the giants of the professional age. Yet looks can be incredibly deceptive. Halfpenny might not be one of the tallest or widest of Lions, but his physique is as impressive beneath the shirt as the biggest and most belligerent of Lions." - Stuart Barnes, The Sunday Times
A reluctant hero
"As the hymns and the arias swirled into the skies over Sydney, and monsters with battered features wept torrents of joyful tears, one young man stood slightly apart from his comrades. Leigh Halfpenny had done his job superbly; now he seemed vaguely embarrassed by all the fuss.
"Occasionally, he was swept up and cuddled. He would attempt a tight little smile as he wriggled free. They named him Player of the Series and gave him a trophy. He thanked them courteously and retreated swiftly. He was living through the most emotional moments of his international career, but you would never have known. After contributing 21 points with his boot and helping to organise two of the four tries, Halfpenny had played his significant part in a truly momentous Lions victory. Yet still he carried himself like a bank clerk going to war." - Patrick Collins, The Mail on Sunday
Corbisiero key to A team
"Warren Gatland deserves a lot of credit. He will feel totally vindicated in his selections and gameplan. There was a lot of pressure on him and a lot of criticism for only having a Plan A, which I think was right, but over the Test series when he has tried to compromise and find a Plan B he has found the combinations that would allow him to do that have detracted from the ability to execute Plan A...
"The Lions built their ascendancy on the back of Alex Corbisiero's scrummaging. The fear he generated was obvious from the start and it showed when Ben Alexander jumped in at the scrum after Will Genia knocked on from the kick-off. The referee, Romain Poite, gave the free-kick for early engagement and before Australia could react, Corbisiero was over for the try that set the tone for the match." - Dean Ryan, The Observer
Praise be to Poite
"We knew the Lions had more outright power heading into this monster match but, as we have seen, evasive, cute tactics can, when unnoticed by the man with the whistle, negate what could be a match-winning asset. Romain Poite, the French referee, did not allow Ben Alexander to shoot to the floor, as he did last week, and he did not allow him to slip his bind inside Alex Corbisiero's left arm. He forced the Wallaby to stand and fight, and he lost. That red scrum pummelled their opposition and accrued so many points in the process that even Australia - perhaps the world's most resilient team - could not find a way back." - David Flatman, The Independent on Sunday
A roaring future for the Lions
"It was a performance that I think will have much wider implications. For a start I think it will mean that the Lions have huge respect and credibility around the rugby world. We got so close four years ago in South Africa, losing the series 2-1 having played some great rugby, but in the end it is the winning that is so important.
"Leigh Halfpenny had done his job superbly; now he seemed vaguely embarrassed by all the fuss."
"...That is what this group of British and Irish Lions has done, and it means that the Lions are in a very strong position going forward. We have got some problems to sort out in our backyard before the tour of New Zealand in four years' time, but this win will now strengthen the Lions concept massively." - Sir Ian McGeechan, The Sunday Telegraph
O'Driscoll reaction demeans tour
"All of this makes the off-the-planet reaction to the omission of one player, in favour of another correctly chosen on form, completely preposterous. It hurt Gatland viciously. It was all too affronted, too soon, too loud, as if hordes had been waiting to unleash their verbal weapons. And it was against everything the Lions concept signifies. The news that among others, Willie John McBride, who played both on wonderful and disastrous Lions tours, was apparently joining the cacophony was disturbing after a lifetime of McBride preaching four-nation unity. Will there be the apology that is due?" - Stephen Jones, The Sunday Times
Where now for the Wallabies?
"The Ashes do not begin until Wednesday but Australian sport has already taken a heavy blow to the nether regions. If losing to the British & Irish Lions was always a possibility, no one envisaged anything quite like this. Even an innings defeat inside two days at Trent Bridge would be marginally less painful.
"...What made it appreciably worse was the manner of the Wallabies' spectacular demise. Having fought their way back to within three points, they folded like a Bondi deckchair with the series there to be grasped. By the time their captain, James Horwill, had finished a typically gracious post-match speech there were scarcely any Australian supporters still around. If Robbie Deans is still the Wallabies' coach when their Four Nations campaign kicks off against New Zealand in mid-August, it will be remarkable." - Rob Kitson, The Guardian
O'Driscoll dropping still hurts in Ireland
"To understand where it's coming from you have to get a handle on three things: the times we live in; the man at the heart of the issue; and the environment in which he finds himself. First, there is the communications thing. People have instant access to images and information from around the world, and with equal speed they can broadcast their opinion. So the dropping of Brian O'Driscoll went viral, and it infected a fair few who aren't in the best of health to begin with. Second, there is O'Driscoll himself, Ireland's most accomplished player, a man respected around the rugby world. This has earned him iconic status in Ireland. So when the legs are pulled from under him on his last lap, it's more than the rugby constituency that notices.
"Third, there is the entity that is the Lions. It's a commercial juggernaut loved by those who follow it and treasured by those who host it. For the punters it is a unique jolly, where fans from four countries occupy different paragraphs on the same page and under the same heading. They want the Lions to win but mostly they want their own players in the Test team." - Brendan Fanning, The Irish Independent
Horror show for Wallabies
"Horror movie, right there on your TV … You should have been at the Olympic Stadium, where it was even worse, as a valiant British and Irish Lions team finally came to the ends of a staggeringly out-of-sorts Wallaby side, to take the Tom Richards Cup and bragging rights for the next - sigh - twelve freaking! years. From the opening moment of the match before 84,000 ravenous rugby fans, the Wallabies first half really was a litany of horror: dropped balls, wayward kicks, collapsed scrums, missed tackles, endless penalties, and schoolboy errors that would make an u/14C player blush. Congratulations to them, and to their good-hearted legion of supporters." - Peter FitzSimons, Sydney Morning Herald
Game up for Deans
"The Robbie Deans era came to a catastrophic end Saturday night. If Saturday night's series-settling Test against the Lions was the most momentous rugby event in Australia since the 2003 World Cup final, the numbing defeat must come with World Cup-level consequences for coaches and players. Dingo has had his shot. It is time to exit. This is not teary-eyed emotion after a 41-16 smacking. All emotion is out of it." - Jim Tucker, The Sun Herald
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