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Hunt for revenge puts Lions on top


Matthew Burke

Formidable ... a sea of Lions supporters will again descend on Australia.

Formidable ... a sea of Lions supporters will again descend on Australia. Photo: Craig Golding

Twelve years ago the British and Irish Lions sent a squad to our shores to conquer the Wallabies and all that stood in front of them.

The grand plan was perfectly executed by Graham Henry's men for most of the tour, sweeping aside all comers up to the second half of the second test in Melbourne. It was a moment inspired by Joe Roff that saw a turnaround of fortunes for the home team.

Representation in the Lions is so steeped in tradition that accepting the red jersey is a massive honour, if you happen to follow a father or grandfather in the jumper, there is more cause for celebration. For the British and Irish Lions players, tours come as a limited opportunity, to get a chance to take home some silverware is the ultimate goal. The team that travelled here in 2001 was packed full of international stars. Players that would have fitted into any world XV. Led by Martin Johnson, the team was well prepared.

What we saw as players, was a juggernaut sweeping through the West and heading our way. The speed and width of play was a feature as was the power up front.

The Lions were short priced to win the series and after the demolition in Brisbane, certainties to take the series and make it a clean sweep. But how things turned, and a couple of moments shaped the series in favour of the Wallabies.

1. An intercept try off a Jonny Wilkinson pass by Joe Roff just after the break in Melbourne. The finish was one of the best.

2. A turnover on the left hand side of the field later in the half that saw Roff get a double.

3. Moving to Sydney and Daniel Herbert scores a double, then earns a yellow card, the drama, but more was to come.

4. With the score 29-23 with minutes to go. A lineout for the Lions 5 metres from the Wallabies line.

We could do the math. Driving lineout, try, JW kicks the conversion from the sideline and a scoreline that reads 30-29.

What transpired has gone down in folklore, or that's what Justin Harrison tells us. Harrison, in his first test, overcalled a defensive lineout call and stole the ball at the front of the lineout from the Lions captain, Johnson. Talk about moments that shape a game. This saved the series.

These games have such significance for northern hemisphere players but theses games are a once-in-a-career opportunity for the Wallabies.

Twelve years to wait for redemption is a long wait and I suspect that the British and Irish Lions of 2013 team are seeking revenge for the series loss in 2001. They won't say that publicly but there is an underlying sense of unfinished business.

The outcome of 12 years ago was so significant for the home team because the Wallabies had just beaten the best that the north had

to offer.

For the BIL there is no chance for that team to get square, a chance to redeem themselves, because the nature of the Lions series is that the group of 30 men who took to the field in the three tests will never be able to repeat that feat. Brian O'Driscoll and Wilkinson may be the only ones to figure for the Lions from 12 years ago and they would like some closure from that tour.

They could provide the first-hand account of how close they got.

At present the Lions are the favourites and much will be scrutinised over the coming weeks with the Six Nations in full flight.

Counting the days until Brisbane.

Tour schedule

June 1: Lions v Barbarians. Hong Kong Stadium.
June 5: Lions v Western Force. Patersons Stadium, Perth. 6pm
June 8: Lions v Queensland Reds. Suncorp Stadium.  7.30pm
June 11: Lions v Combined NSW/Qld Country. Hunter Stadium. 7.30pm
June 15: Lions v NSW Waratahs. Allianz Stadium. 7.30pm
June 18: Lions v ACT Brumbies. Canberra Stadium. 7.30pm
June 22: First Test: Lions v Wallabies. Suncorp Stadium. 8pm
June 25: Lions v Melbourne Rebels. AAMI Park. 7.30pm
June 29: Second Test: Lions v Wallabies. Eithad Stadium. 8pm
July 6: Third Test: Lions v Wallabies. ANZ Stadium. 8pm

15 comments so far

  • Maybe so but we had a helluva better team of players than we do today who are flat out scoring tries and dropping the ball every 30 seconds.

    Date and time
    February 17, 2013, 7:34PM
    • Description of 2001 series sums up British rugby - penalty goals and driving mauls (i.e. mass obstruction) - oh sorry, forgot about the sacred scrum whereby you convert a knock-oninto three more points for little Jonny or the latest robot to fill the no.10 jersey. If the rugger buggers had any sense they'd get cut down the penalty goals, but the northern hemisphere types who run the game not only wouldn't dream of giving up their trump card, the Poms actually seem to like this crap!

      Date and time
      February 17, 2013, 8:18PM
      • surely the Joe Roff moment was when he deliberately elbowed Richard Hill and broke his jaw in the Melbourne game

        Date and time
        February 17, 2013, 11:30PM
        • I think it was Nathan Grey who left that trailing elbow for Hill. Absolutely key moment

          Date and time
          February 21, 2013, 12:24PM
      • I'll be charitable and assume that 'Rob from Canberra' is a teenager and therefore doesn't remember the 2001 series or understand rugby. My memory of the 'boring' 2001 Lions is of Jason Robinson skinning Latham on the outside so easily it was embarrassing and of Brian O'Driscoll beating five defenders and scoring from his own half.
        None of the reasons the Aussies won the series is actually mentioned in the article. Graham Henry took a potentially brilliant, but exhausted side at the end of a very tough NH season and decided that the best way to coach them was to beast them physically on the training paddock. Inevitably, their performances deteriorated as the test series continued. Henry, himself, calls it the worst coaching performance of his life. No mention either is made of the vicious forearm smash that Nathan Grey delivered to a blindsided Richard Hill in the 2nd test that put him out of the tour and disrupted the Lions back row at a crucial moment (as this is the SH and they were playing a NH team there was, obviously, no action taken either during or after the game). By 2001 the Wallabies were actually quite a poor side as was shown by the fact that England alone beat them 5 consecutive times between 2000 and 2003. It's still a mystery how they managed to scrape to the World Cup final in 2003. Still, if they hadn't we might have missed the performance of PM Howard handing over the cup - still the rudest, least gracious act in the history of international sport. Aussies - world renowned for their 'wonderful' sportsmanship.

        Date and time
        February 18, 2013, 3:41AM
        • You say Australia was a poor side, however they managed to win the series against the Lions. What are you saying about the Lions? Are you saying they were worse than poor?????

          Date and time
          February 19, 2013, 7:40PM
        • Agree with birdy. Great series in 2001 but credit is due to the Wallabies. A team in transition at the time but still had enough true champion players who knew how to win

          Date and time
          February 21, 2013, 12:27PM
      • The key moment in that tour was undoubtedly the disgraceful "hit" on Richard Hill. The Lions had dominated up to that moment, but once Hill was out of the way, the Wallabies backrowers started to win more ball. The fact that the player(s) involved did not get cited and banned was also a disgrace (like Terry Lamb's hit on Ellery Hanley in the 1988 rugby league grand final). Although the Roff intercept was also an important moment, Matthew Burke's failure to mention Hill's departure impairs his credibility as a commentator on the game (he was an outstanding player, but that does not mean he is going to be a good commentator/writer).

        Date and time
        February 18, 2013, 10:29AM
        • $295 for a ticket to a Lions/Australia game~anybody who pays any money at all to see a game between those two sides, is wasting it as there's no way the Australians are going to beat the Lions~period~the Aussies' aren't in the same league, the Referee may beat them but the team proper won't!!

          Date and time
          February 18, 2013, 11:50AM
          • @ kirky

            Welcome back to the game !
            I presume that when you say '....aren't in the same league,' you're not talking about that other game in town ?

            inner west sydney
            Date and time
            February 18, 2013, 9:23PM

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