Wallabies' scrum back to bad old days
July 7, 2013
Lions prop Alex Corbisiero caused the Wallabies angst all evening © Getty Images
It was Australian rugby's biggest game in a decade, but flashbacks to the demoralising moments from the most painful losses in that time sealed the Wallabies' fate at ANZ Stadium.
Although there's been plenty of talk about progress made in six seasons under coach Robbie Deans, there was the dire feeling of history repeating from the outset on Saturday night.
Will Genia, undoubtedly Australia's most important and dangerous player, dropped the kick-off in an inexplicable mix-up with Kane Douglas, and the British & Irish Lions were instantly on a roll.
It was a tone-setting blunder which revived memories of the 2011 IRB World Cup semi-final loss to the All Blacks when Quade Cooper kicked off out on the full. Like then, the Wallabies pack were out-manoeuvred in the ensuing scrum and Australia were well on the back foot from the outset. While they did well to claw their way back into the game midway through, the Lions' set-piece domination proved too much.
Stand-out Lions loosehead prop Alex Corbisiero hit the nail on the head after the 41-16 triumph when he said there was "no substitute" for scrum ascendancy at Test level. It was back to the bad old days of big-stage Australian scrum meltdowns.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans put on a brave face after the Lions thrashing%]
Much like the demolition jobs England's pack performed at Twickenham in 2005 and in Marseille in the 2007 World Cup quarter-final, the Wallabies forwards were destroyed. It's telling that Australia's Achilles heel of scrummaging will force the end of a third straight national coach, with Deans set to follow John Connolly and Eddie Jones out the door.
Ironically, the after-effects of previous meltdowns seemed to have finally dissipated after near-even battles in the first two Tests.
But the return from injury of of Corbisiero, who was not even among the Lions' initial tour party, ensured a horror night for Wallabies tight-head Ben Alexander, who was sin-binned in the 25th minute and never returned as Deans opted to keep Sekope Kepu on the field.
The Lions' scrum was the cause of three first-half penalty goals, and then turned the tide after the break with a fourth when the Wallabies closed to within three points. While Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny was named man-of-the-match, Lions coach Warren Gatland justifiably believed the "sensational" Corbisiero deserved the honour.
Wallabies skipper James Horwill could only lament his pack was gun-shy after a poor start. "We sat back a bit and allowed them to dictate terms and that hurt us," he said.
Deans must also shoulder responsibility for his controversial choice of ball-running utility back James O'Connor at five-eighth. Although O'Connor scored Australia's only third Test try, his lack of playmaking experience and nous was exposed across the series as the Wallabies backs failed to click into gear.