Melbourne - Adam Ashley-Cooper dived over for a late try and Christian Leali'ifano
converted as Australia levelled the series with a 16-15 come-from-behind
victory over the British and Irish Lions in a second Test that went down to
stoppage time on Saturday.
After a kicking duel in the first 75 minutes of a match marred by handling
errors and scrum penalties, Wallabies flyhalf James O'Connor gave Ashley-Cooper
a flat ball close to the line and the veteran centre crashed over to send the
series to a deciding match in Sydney.
Leali'ifano, playing his second Test, landed the conversion from wide on the
right side to give Australia the lead for the first time in the half, setting
up a tense last three minutes.
In another dramatic finish, the Lions had another chance to secure their
first series win since 1997, but usually radar-like Leigh Halfpenny missed a
penalty shot from halfway in stoppage time.
It was a 180-degree finish to the series-opener in Brisbane last week, when
the Lions won 23-21 after Australia's Kurtley Beale missed a penalty as the
full-time siren sounded.
"We certainly made it hard on ourselves at times, but it saves the
series for Sydney," Wallabies skipper James Horwill said. "We didn't
get a lot of rhythm on the ball tonight, and it's something we need to get
Lions captain Sam Warburton said it was a bitter setback.
"Credit to Australia. They pushed us all the way to the end and got the
try," he said. "It was a great game to be involved in, just
disappointing for us at the end.
"The series is still up for grabs."
Halfpenny kicked all of the Lions points via five penalty goals, but his two
rare misses from the tee were costly for the Lions. In a contest eerily similar
to the 2001 series, the Lions won the first Test and led at half-time in the
second test in Melbourne. The Australians won the third Test in Sydney 12 years
ago to complete their first triumph over the Lions in a Test series.
After stadium record crowds in Brisbane and Melbourne, the series is set for
another epic decider next Saturday at Sydney's Olympic stadium.
Lions coach Warren Gatland correctly predicted referee Craig Joubert would
have "zero tolerance" at the scrum in Melbourne, with Lions prop Mako
Vunipola penalised twice in the first half for collapsing and the Australian
props each penalised for the same infringement before the break.
The Lions were dominant at the breakdown early, turning over Australian ruck
ball three times in the opening 11 minutes and winning penalties from driving
Both teams tried to be adventurous at times, with the Lions trying an 11-man
lineout near the Australian line and twice winning penalties from the
Australians collapsing rolling mauls before Halfpenny kicked his first goal in
the 10th minute.
The Wallabies twice tried running the ball from their own tryline before
resorting to clearing kicks. But the ball rarely reached the wings until the
Wallabies started spreading it more relentlessly in the last half hour.
Leali'ifano, who only lasted 52 seconds in his Test debut before being
carried off with a head injury in the opening match, scored his first points in
international rugby in the 16th minute. He added two more goals in a duel with
Halfpenny, who landed a penalty right on half-time to give the Lions a 12-9
lead at the break.
It took 24 minutes before anyone scored in the second half, with Halfpenny
slotting a penalty goal from just inside the halfway line to extend the Lions'
cushion to six points after the Wallabies collapsed a scrum.
The huge contingent of Lions travelling supporters started singing 'Swing
Low' in a bid to rouse the tiring Lions, who lost inspirational skipper Sam
Warburton late in the second half.
The Australians poured on the attack but were hampered by handling errors.
Beale knocked on in the 67th minute, just before Warburton was carried off with
a left leg injury.
The Australians opted for a scrum in the 71st minute despite being in
kicking range. O'Connor threw an inside ball to Israel Folau, steaming on to
the ball, but another knock-on gave the Lions the advantage.
The only try of the match appeared to seal it, but another ruck penalty in
the last minute gave the desperate Lions one last chance.
Try: Adam Ashley-Cooper
Conversion: Christian Leali'ifano
Penalties: Leali'ifano (3)
British and Irish Lions:
Penalties: Leigh Halfpenny (5)
15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian Leali'ifano, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson
Substitutes: 16 Saia Fainga'a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Rob Horne, 23 Jesse Mogg
British and Irish Lions:
15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sam Warburton (captain), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Makovina Vunipola
Substitutes: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Ryan Grant, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Tom Croft, 20 Sean O'Brien, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Alex Cuthbert
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)