Near defeat could be optimum result as Lions bid to seal series
There is no doubt that the Lions were fortunate to begin their series against Australia with a win in Brisbane, but there is every reason to believe that close-shave in Queensland will be the catalyst for greater things in round two.
The Lions are 8/13 to win the 2nd Test with Ladbrokes.
Sport is not always as generous as it was last week and on another day Britain’s best would be attempting to level things up in Melbourne. The fact that Australia squandered 14 points from the boot and twice failed to overhaul the Lions would have been a massive fillip for Warren Gatland’s side and, because of the nature of the result, the benefits felt from it are twice as effective.
Not only does the team have the natural boost from winning a crucial first match and thus settling the nerves that can interfere in the biggest moments they are also exposed to the ‘wake-up call’ that is usually only available after a defeat.
Now the tourists have the best of both worlds, lifted by the victory and motivated by knowing it should have been a defeat.
Even more remarkable than the Wallabies profligacy from the ground has been the recovery of Irish winger Tommy Bowe, whose chances of playing on the tour were slim to none only three weeks ago when breaking his hand in the warm-up win over Queensland Reds.
The world class finisher’s recovery has been nothing short of a miracle and with the Ulsterman amongst five Lions changes, including Ben Youngs replacing Mike Phillips at scrum-half, the problems that led to the visitors almost surrendering a winning position can be addressed.
Tommy Bowe is 11/1 to score the first try and 9/4 to cross over at any time with Ladbrokes.
Youngs joins his elder brother Tom to become the first brothers to play a Lions Test since Gavin and Scott Hastings shared the same pitch in the final test of the 1989 series in Australia and the Englishman fully deserves his chance after impressing against the Melbourne Rebels in the latest warm-up.
The additions of flanker Dan Lydiate for the dropped Tom Croft, and Geoff Parling and Mako Vunipola replacing the injured Paul O’Connell and Alex Corbisiero at lock and prop respectively, is a mighty show of squad strength. Whether the changes were forced or otherwise, the team is no weaker as a result.
The Lions outplayed Australia for a large portion of the 1st Test and were only in danger because their intensity dropped in the last quarter. Invariably at the highest level this is punished with defeat, but they survived and have been rewarded with the confidence of winning and the positive shock of almost losing – a rare and priceless combination.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.