Lions Thump Wallabies - 10 Observations From The Third Test

Pre-game group huggles in front of the 'sea of red'.
Sports psychology has a lot to answer for.
The Rolling Maul had the mixed pleasure of being present (behind the goalposts - this blog isn't exactly generating an income) at the third test in Sydney last night between the Wallabies and the British and Irish Lions. On the field, the Lions were too good for the Wallabies. Off the field the story was much the same in terms of the passion from their supporters.

TV can only paint part of the picture though. There's nothing like being there to really experience the best and worst of British (and Australian for that matter).

So here's 10 observations to give you a flavour of what you might have missed, and why that might not be such a bad thing...
1) Is a Welsh Aussie called a Wassie?
It's true that there were 30,000 (or more) Lions supporters at the ground (it holds a little over 80,000). But what is less frequently noted is how many of them are Australian citizens, some of them having been so for many years or indeed generations. It's especially odd when you consider how Australian Scotsmen in particular and to a lesser extent Irishmen and Englishmen were supporting the Lions given that there were probably more Wallabies on the field with Irish, Scottish and English ancestry than there were playing for the Lions (especially in the starting XV).

2) You can shut a Lions supporter up
Speaking of the Welsh flavour (and colour) of the Lions, it was quickly noted that the best way to shut up a Lions chant of "Lions, Lions Lions" (etc) was to reply, not with "Wallabies, Wallabies, Wallabies" which has too many syllables and doesn't really work, but with "Wales, Wales, Wales". It has little impact admittedly on 30,000 chanters but those within earshot of The Rolling Maul seemed to take it as some sort of personal affront (and it got a laugh from the scattered Wallabies supporters in the immediate vicinity). At least it worked till about the second minute of the game when the Welsh, err Lions, scored their first try and the place went ballistic, especially for some Lions supporters who were taking it all a bit too seriously and personally (the alcohol may have had something to do with it) and let The Maul know in no uncertain terms who they were supporting by screaming "Wales, Wales, Wales" from about 10 centimetres away.

3) There's noting lonelier than a lone Lions supporter
This over-enthusiastic Lions supporter
was short of a sense of humour and friends
The most intense (and intimidating) of the Lions supporters who were taking it all a bit too seriously and personally were the individual males. That they were sitting by themselves, surrounded (as much as is possible when the ends of the ground were mostly red) by Wallabies supporters indicates they probably paid top dollar to a scalper for their ticket. They lived and breathed every ruck, maul and penalty, and screamed every chant and song at the top of their lungs. When the Lions scored they leapt around in glee, shadow boxed and hugged their closest Lions supporters, but mostly other single males. They took great offence at anything Wallabies supporters would yell, displaying an incredible lack of a sense of humour or reality. They were an embarrassment to the ten of thousands of Lions supporters there for the right reasons.

4) Full-strength chanters, mid-strength drinkers
You have to admire the ability of Brits and Irishmen to get drunk on mid-strength beer. For all the promotional garbage that the ARU tried forcing down the throats of ticket holders (yellow pith helmets being particularly ridiculous) none was more overblown than the "75 metre long bar" outside the ground. Long it may have been, but as is always the case at these events (the World Cup, the Olympics etc) the queues at the bar make the concept self-defeating. Not only that but all that was available was cans of overpriced mid-strength beer, and most of that was from Queensland (XXXX Gold). There must be some sort of placebo effect occurring here, many Lions supporters were getting well and truly XXXXed.

5) Can't hear yourself sledge
The first thing that struck you about the stadium when you entered it was the noise. Not the noise of 30,000 Lions supporters with their unimaginative "Lions, Lions, Lions" chant (which very quickly became as dull as "Aussie Aussie Aussie Oi Oi Oi"), but the music. Played at ear-splitting levels, heart palpitation thumping triumphal music was played non-stop over the speakers for half an hour prior to kick-off. It was not only necessary but detracted from the atmosphere of the game. It was so loud you could barely hear the boos were James Horwill was introduced to the crowd or the cheers when the Lions were introduced. Or maybe that was the point!

6) Nothing worse than a smug Kiwi
The writing was on the wall even before kick-off. Robbie Deans was almost smug looking when he appeared on Fox's Rugby HQ during the week. Overconfidence leaked from his every pore. He was too relaxed. A good coach knows that teams often perform at their best when cornered. It's why they often fight for the underdog tag. The Wallabies play with the most commitment when their backs are against the wall. Just like in the second test. The Wallabies went into the match as favourites and they responded accordingly. Deans misread the second test and treated it like a true victory rather than a lucky one underscored by poor handling in the backs and a patchy forward display. A better coach wouldn't have got it so wrong, and for that reason Deans has to go.

7) Where were plans B - Z? 
The Lions score another try
- note the despondent Wallabies supporters
Deans also has to go because he's never been able to get the Wallabies to have a plan B. It doesn't matter how good plan A is or who the opponent is, if a back-up plan can't be devised, practiced and delivered then the team is doomed to fail when things go pear shaped. Last night was a case in point. Five minutes after Israel Folau got injured and left the field, the Wallabies tried a kick across field. That would've been fine if Folau was there, but Jesse Mogg is half a foot shorter that Folau and not as good under the high ball. Predictably, it was spilled. Just because it worked in training with Folau does not mean it should have been tried during the game with Folau off the field.

8) James O'Connor is not a five-eighth  
Maybe now the message will stick.

9) Half-time entertainment half-baked
Tens of thousands travel half-way round the world for the game. Everyone spends hundreds of dollars for their ticket. Passion is at fever-pitch as the Wallabies score a late first-half try. The match hangs in the balance. The siren sounds and the players drudge off for a tongue lashing from Robbie Deans (hopefully). And then five idiots wearing a sponsors t-shirt and cardboard vans do a pathetic and pointless race for 3 minutes. And that's it as far as he half-time entertainment goes. Now sure, no one pays to watch the half-time show. But a tension relieving diversion is welcome at that point. It doesn't matter if it's guys in fat suits, dogs jumping fences, girls playing touch or kids playing 7s. Anything for some light-hearted relief. Seriously, anything could have been better than this.

10) Just when Australian supporters thought it couldn't get any worse...
Chris Froome (British - but born in Kenya) leads Aussie Richie Porte in the Tour De France, Andy Murray (Scotland) plays in the final at Wimbledon, Lewis Hamilton (England) is on pole for the German Grand Prix, Mark Webber (Australia) is third on the grid, The Ashes start on Wednesday.

UPDATE: It's even worse than that. Andy Murray won Wimbledon, Chris Froome still leads the Tour while Richie Porte had a shocker (much like Cadel Evans the day before) and the wheel(s) fell off Mark Webber's car (literally) in a race won by a German. Well at least there's one thing Aussies and Brits share - a hatred of any German sports supremacy...

They say it's all over. It is. Now where did those Aussie supporters go?

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