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RugbyU: Lions thrash Wallabies to clinch epic series

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The British and Irish Lions thrashed Australia 41-16 as they clinched their first Test series victory in 16 years in record-breaking fashion on Saturday.

The Lions' victory was built on a dominant opening half when they exploded to a 19-3 lead, before the Wallabies pulled back to trail 19-10 at halftime.

But despite having their lead cut to three points, the tourists stormed home with three second-half tries to take the epic series 2-1 before a record 83,702 crowd at Sydney's ANZ Stadium.

The Lions out-scored the Wallabies four tries to one, with man of the match Leigh Halfpenny kicking five penalties and three conversions for an individual record haul of 21 points -- beating Jonny Wilkinson's 18 points in 2001.

It was the most points the Lions have scored in a Test win in Australia, eclipsing their 31-0 victory in Brisbane in 1966. Captain Alun Wyn Jones said his feelings were "pretty indescribable".

"I think the scoreline reflects what we wanted to do from the changing room, and that's to represent the four countries with pride and not give up," he said.

It was also a personal triumph for coach Warren Gatland, who caused an uproar in Ireland with the dropping of Irish legend Brian O'Driscoll and fielding a record-equalling 10 Welshmen in the starting XV.

But the Lions responded to the pressure with their three tries inside the final 25 minutes to win the series after edging the first game 23-21 and losing last week's second Test by a single point.

The large Lions contingent of supporters celebrated in the final minutes by singing 'Sweet Chariot' in salute to their team's first series win since South Africa in 1997.

Australia captain James Horwill admitted his team "just weren't good enough tonight".

"We dug deep and we tried as much as we could, I'm very proud of every single one of you blokes (team), but in the end you would have to say that the better team on the night won," he said.

The Lions had a terrific start after Wallaby lock Kane Douglas knocked on from the kickoff and the tourists went straight on the attack from a scrum win.

Prop Alex Corbisiero powered over for the opening try next to the uprights for Halfpenny to convert and give the tourists a 7-0 lead after two minutes.

George Smith, recalled after four years out of Test rugby, had a sickening clash of heads with Lions hooker Richard Hibbard and was led groggily from the field.

Halfpenny consolidated the Lions' lead with a penalty from halfway to lead 10-0 but Christian Lealiifano put Australia's first points on the board with a penalty, as Smith returned to the field.

French referee Romain Poite penalised the Australian scrum and Halfpenny made the Wallabies pay with another long-range penalty to stretch the lead back to 10 points after 13 minutes.

The Lions scrum was dominating and Poite penalised the Wallabies again, giving Halfpenny an easy shot to extend the lead to 16-3 in an emphatic start to the Test.

Poite cracked down in the scrum and sent Wallaby prop Ben Alexander to the sin bin for repeated infringements, giving Halfpenny another penalty goal and a 19-3 lead after 25 minutes.

It was the ninth player the former policeman had sent to the sinbin in his last eight Tests.

Everything continued to go against the Wallabies when their wing ace Israel Folau tweaked his hamstring in running back after a kick and he made way for debutant Jesse Mogg.

But the home side had the Lions under pressure on their try-line as the halftime siren sounded, and flyhalf James O'Connor gave them hope when he went over for a converted try for a 19-10 scoreline at the break.

And Australia edged closer after the resumption with the Lions penalised in a maul and Lealiifano kicking a penalty for the hosts to move to within six points.

The Lions were put to the test when Poite whistled another penalty within Lealiifano's range off a maul, putting the Wallabies just three points behind.

However, another dominant Lions scrum gave Halfpenny his sixth successful kick and some breathing space for the tourists at 22-16 after 51 minutes.

Sexton put the Lions in the box seat at 29-16 when he scored a delicious converted try off a Halfpenny pass in the 56th minute.

The decisive break came when Halfpenny fielded Genia's clearing kick and launched a counter attack, beating the tackles of Genia and Joe Tomane, to send winger George North racing over for an unassailable 34-16 lead.

And Jamie Roberts, the replacement for the controversially dropped O'Driscoll, vindicated Gatland's selection when he arrowed through for the final try with 11 minutes to go.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130706/rugbyu-lions-thrash-wallabies-clinch-epic-series