The last time we tackled rugby for Americans, you guys were on that like a wombat playing Mortal Kombat. So we decided to track what’s actually happening in the game worldwide, courtesy of Rugby Guide and Certified Foreigner Richy Craven. Enjoy!
As I mentioned in this article, the Lions tour of Australia has started and last Saturday saw the first test match between our Avengers-esque super-team of British and Irish players vs. the Australians. And, bloody hell, it was a nail-biter.
The Lions managed to scrape a 23-21 victory but it had less to do with their own skill, determination and teamwork and more with the fact that the Wallabies had a string of bad luck that made it seem like the game was being written by George R.R Martin.
Christian Leali’ifano was knocked unconscious 40 goddamn seconds into the game. His replacement Pat McCabe was subsequently stretchered off after his neck seemingly snapped itself and fullback and sexual predator moustache enthusiast Berrick Barnes was carried off after a collision with his own teammate nearly broke his jaw. Center Adam Ashley-Cooper left the field late in the second half after playing with dislocated shoulder for 10 minutes.
So you’d be forgiven for thinking that somewhere there’s a Wallabies team-sheet with a bunch of voodoo pins in it since this was the first test game in memory where the stretcher-bearers won Man of the Match. It got so bad that Aussie coach Robbie Deans was forced to bring on a flanker to play center which, to put it in terms Americans might understand, is like replacing your running-back with a cinderblock. This, combined with the fact that their Aussie kickers seemed to be under some sort of gypsy curse, meant that the Australians were basically playing with the deck stacked against them for the whole game.
And they still very nearly won! They only lost by two points, a heart-breaking slip from Kurtley Beale in the, literal, last second ended a comeback worthy of a Disney underdog movie. I’m a Lions fan through and through and it physically pains me to say anything nice about the Wallabies but Will Genia and Isreal Folau deserve whatever’s the Aussie version of a knighthood (no longer having to live in Australia?) for their efforts to keep the Wallabies in the game last week.
And while Lions fans have been complaining about the referee for his seeming unwillingness to call any penalties against the home-side– there’s some truth to this, there were times where it looked like Horwill could have stabbed Warburton in the face and he would have just called “play on”– it’s like complaining about a twisted ankle to somebody who’s just lost a leg.
All this makes this Saturday’s second test all the more interesting. Robbie Deans faces a nightmare of a team selection; an Australian leader hasn’t had to deal with these many casualties since Gallipoli. Barnes and Cooper are definitely out of commission and Ashley-Cooper’s prospects aren’t looking too good either. This is presumably when Deans said something along the lines of “What else could possibly go wrong?” because on Monday an arrest warrant was issued for their winger Digby Ioane. I would like to take this opportunity to wish good luck to the Brisbane police because this is a guy whose entire job is running away from large men who want to catch him.
The Lions aren’t without their own injury problems however, prop Alex Corbisiero is out with a hamstring injury and most devastating of all, Paul O’Connell will miss the rest of the tour. It seems that at some point during last week’s game the Irish forward fractured his arm, we don’t know when exactly because the lunatic still played the full 80 minutes. It had to be pointed out to him after the game by a–probably terrified–medic. After it was explained to him that cutting off his arm and replacing it with a chainsaw is against the rules the Kryptonian second row was ruled out. He wasn’t sent home though, he’ll stay for the rest of the tour as a spectator because Gatland knows that even being in the same stadium as O’Connell is enough to make opposing players nervous.
Besides that, Gatland has few concerns. Fullback and human sniper rifle Leigh Halfpenny continues to play like someone who’s discovered a real-life Konami code. George North scored a try so beautiful that many Lions fans had to consult a physician 4 hours later and, most surprisingly, veteran rugby-Jedi Brian O’Driscoll remains uninjured .
His opponent still has some hope though. Although, as previously mentioned, saying anything nice about the Wallabies brings me out in hives I must admit that the two most impressive players on the pitch on Saturday were Australians.
Will Genia somehow made Australia a threat for the whole game despite the fact that he was now playing with a rag-tag team of replacements from an underdog sports comedy. It got so bad towards the end that I fully expected Ashley-Cooper to be replaced by some sort of rugby playing Labrador.
If scientists from the University of Melbourne had successfully cloned a mammoth on Sunday then it would still be only the second most impressive thing an Australian has done over the weekend. When they’re tabulating the carrying stats for the game then they need to take into account that Genia carried the whole team. Well, besides Israel Folau of course.
This was Folau’s first game for the Wallabies and part of the Lions game-plane was to capitalize on his inexperience. A plan hasn’t backfired that spectacularly since giving Rob Schneider his own sitcom (oooh, self-burn! We’re that edgy, man. Don’t mess with this much crazy). For 80 minutes Folau was a bigger threat to the well-being of lions than Chinese folk medicine, scoring two outstanding trys and denying George North a second score with a last-second hold-up. If Warren Gatland really does plan to neutralize Folau in the next test then he better show up to the stadium with a tranq gun.
The second test is on Saturday morning at 11.05. Physical therapy for the Australian injured is scheduled for 11.20.
Richy Craven is a sophisticated machine for turning whiskey into regrettable life-choices. You can check out more of his stuff over at Cracked, A Series of Terrible Decisions or, if you like mediocre jokes about Batman and Game of Thrones, follow him on Twitter.