Gatlands Gamble Pays Off

08/07/2013

Frank Quinn writes: Arise Sir Warren Gatland in acknowledgement of winning a Lions tour series, you did what the three previous head coaches (since 1997) failed to do by winning a series.

 

Lions win Final test 41-16 and The Series

Warren Gatland's name goes into the rugby history books as a Lions winner, following up on your Welsh successes. We congratulate you on the win and on your annus mirabilis 2013.

One test each - going into the final test match, Gatland made the courageous starting team selection in the face of all the pundits. Particularly the non selection of the Irish talisman Brian O’Driscoll. However his controversial selection of ten starters from Wales was justified by the win even though he experienced a few difficult days after your selection.

Such a comprehensive win in the deciding final test by 41-16 was never imagined after two very tight test matches. The selection scored four tries to the Australian’s one and the Aussie’s last score was on 45 minutes to make it - Lions19-16. However the Lions galvanised from there to score 22 points, three more tries (Sexton first try), two conversions and one penalty in the final twenty nine minutes blitz.

The DHL Man of the Match and Series Leigh Halfpenny contributed 21 points in the deciding test and his kicking was a revelation during the tour. Irish fans had anticipated that Jonny Sexton would be the designated kicker but Halfpenny never faltered.

Collapse

The Australian collapse against the Lions was a number of factors; not least the Lions scrum dominance and a possession statistic of 68% helped the cause. In the penalty count, tackles made, tackles missed, lineouts won it was evens. But this time it was the Lions forward Corbisiero and the backs who rammed home the forwards advantage with four well taken tries. It was hard to fathom some of the kicking by the Australians to the Lions back three, as most of the balls were safely taken and run back with huge gains.

The Australians appeared to be getting the upper hand at 19-16 down on 45 minutes with momentum, but were never able to put the Lions to the sword, move on and take the game, this was the most crucial time. After a Halfpenny penalty and a converted Sexton try at 57 minutes - it was all over.

So after the sluggish start to the ten match tour, it really picked up with the three test games. The first two held the attendance and the TV audience to the final seconds of nail biting excitement, while the final game may have lost some of the home viewers but increased numbers of Lions fans.

Irish

From an Irish point of view - we had three starters (12 in squad finally) in the final test game and Conor Murray in the replacements, who came on for Mike Philips on 51 minutes and finished out the game with Tommy Bowe. Sexton and O’Brien (60 min) were replaced in the second half, Sexton on 64 minutes for the first time in the three tests and he was shaking his head to show his disapproval and it seemed he failed to understand the reason. The Lions were leading 29-16 and Farrell was being given a show, a test cap and 16 minutes of test rugby to take home as a memento by the selectors.

The starting lineout was Wales 10, Ireland 3 and England 2, and at the finish the breakdown was Wales 7, Ireland 2, England 5, and Scotland 1.

The 2013 Lions tour was a rip roaring success in Ireland based solely on the public relations /media environment - by the single act of dropping Brian O’Driscoll from the final test match squad of 23.

It was a bombshell here, probably not the same impact elsewhere as England and Scotland campaigned for their players to be included in the test squad. Anyone who ever handled a rugby ball, even with their kids - never mind ex internationals / club players had a view - “Why drop our Brian”  

The future - New Zealand 2017

At the end the Lions celebrated and at some point there will be a Lions Inc. review of 2013:

How much did we make?

Did it expand the rugby family with more viewers, get bigger attendances?

How can we make more money in 2017 in New Zealand?

And the schedule: 10 matches - reduce or expand. Only three test matches count so why take on this huge workload.

Dates: Link up with the four nations to avoid a June first game on top of the Domestic/ERC season, be aware of player welfare. Recognise that international players are just that and can be playing in any jurisdiction.

The decision to play a few players in a Lions game - who happened to be on holidays and available in Australia? Well - after all the ballyhoo of the selection in the first place it took the selection down a peg.

Potential 2017 Lions candidates take note - book your holidays now for New Zealand 

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