THE BOOKMAKERS may believe a Lions series win is a formality after their first Test triumph but I can hear alarm bells from Brisbane – and loud ones.
Fantastic though it was to enjoy a victory Down Under, the fact was that the Lions were lucky.
It was only Australia’s inability to land either of the two penalty chances in the last five minutes which enabled the Lions to hang on for a win that should have been much more comfortable given the debilitating injury disruption the home side had to put up with.
Imagine if the Lions had been forced to play for more than a quarter of the game with Sam Warburton in the centre. How would they have coped? Not as well as Australia, I would guess.
The resilience the Wallabies showed speaks volumes for them and should serve as a warning to the Lions ahead of the second Test in Melbourne.
Just like in 2001, I expect them to hit back hard.
Australia may have lost but they will be buoyed by the way they handled the Lions scrum and stopped the driving lineout.
These should be areas of strength for the tourists but, after the introduction of Dan Cole, Richard Hibbard and Mako Vunipola, the Lions were on the back foot in the scrum.
The calf injury to Alex Corbisiero is a cause for concern because he was the stand-out Lion before he went off in the second half. He underlined just what a big miss he was for England in the Six Nations.
He was an exception to the general rule in that he won most of the collisions. For the majority of the time Australian ball-carriers got over the gain line and Australian defenders knocked back the Lions.
While I expected the tactic of sending waves of forwards down the short side to wear out the Wallaby defence, that never materialised.
I don’t want to be too negative – heaven knows Lions Test wins are precious – but I was left feeling uneasy. The Lions cannot be as conservative at the lineout again – never going to the tail stops the backline getting the quality of ball they need – and they need to sharpen up at the ruck, where the Wallabies won the few battles at the breakdown that referee Chris Pollock allowed.
Warburton did not do a lot wrong but he hardly set the world on fire. It is a travesty that Justin Tipuric is not in the starting line-up.
It will be interesting to see whether Warren Gatland shuffles his cards for the second Test or allows the Brisbane team to solve these problems from a position of strength, 1-0 up in the series.
I expect the Lions to improve in Melbourne but so will Australia – and that fact should temper any premature celebrations.