Australia beat British and Irish Lions 16-15 in second Test
Late try from Adam Ashley-Cooper proves decisive
Levels three-Test series at 1-1 ahead of final match in Sydney
Leigh Halfpenny comes up short with late penalty for Lions
Australia edged the British and Irish Lions 16-15 in Melbourne Saturday to set up a thrilling climax to their three-Test series next weekend.
The home side, who lost the first Test in Brisbane, trailed for most of a match of ferocious intensity until Adam Ashley-Cooper crossed for a late try.
Christian Leali’ifano, drafted in by the Wallabies after poor kicking cost them dear last week, duly converted to leave them a single point ahead.
The Lions mounted a desperate late attack to rescue the situation and with the clock going past the regulation 80 minutes won a penalty from just inside their own half.
Full-back Leigh Halfpenny had the right direction with his effort but it fell a few meters shot of the posts to leave Australia to savor a revenge win.
They will go to Sydney next week looking to repeat the events of 2001 when the Lions also lost in Melbourne before Australia won the decider 29-23.
Lions coach Warren Gatland refused to blame Welshman Halfpenny for his late failure from long range.
“I’ve seen him kick them from there before. He just didn’t strike that one well enough. Just a chance to be a hero in that moment,” he said.
“Hes obviously disappointed with himself, but he still kicked incredibly well.
“He’s such a professional. He realizes the significance of that kick at the end and he’s just disappointed he missed.”
The Lions led 12-9 at halftime, all their points coming from the ever reliable boot of Halfpenny with penalties, his only miss another from distance which struck the crossbar between the posts.
Leali’ifano kept Australia in touch with three assured penalties of his own in a match of few try scoring opportunities.
Halfpenny kicked the Lions into a six-point advantage with a further penalty after the interval, but the surges of Wallabies new boy Israel Folau set them up for their decisive try.
It was reward for their greater invention and Ashley-Cooper took full advantage from close range.
“Very proud. It doesn’t get any bigger than that. They knew the context,” said Australia coach Robbie Deans.
“They knew that if they weren’t successful in scoring a try and converting, the series would be done,” he added.