Alex Payne expects Lions to wrap up series in Melbourne on Saturday
Last Updated: 27/06/13 3:13pm
Well, last weekend went well for the blog with the Lions winning the race to 10 points, both Folau and North scoring and the Lions getting the win, but trying to predict what will unfold on Saturday in the second Test has probably got harder.
The general consensus after the two sides were announced on Thursday is that Australia look stronger than they were for the first Test, and that they are also the more settled side with only four changes to their 23-man squad in comparison to the Lions' 10 alterations.
That is quite some turnaround given the disarray that the home side found themselves in at the full time whistle, and just goes to show that the Wallabies will always, somehow, bounce back up.
We had an interesting insight into the psyche of Australian sportsmen this week when settling down to watch State of Origin Two. Queensland, one down in the series, absolutely battered NSW in the first quarter, had the game won by half-time and the series levelled by the final whistle. The talk in the papers is that the Lions can expect a similar backlash on Saturday.
But I don't expect that will be of much surprise to the Lions, who are fully aware of what is coming. The general mood around the camp at the team announcement was one of pure excitement.
While Australia may have more threat to their starting XV with Kurtley Beale in the lineup and a hit out under their belt, the Lions were at pains to point out there is a lot more to come from them as an attacking force, too. However, the concern is over the quality of ball they can win.
Adam Jones and Alun-Wyn Jones need enormous games in the tight, Dan Lydiate needs to level everything in front of him in defence, while Sam Warburton will hope referee Craig Joubert referees the breakdown in a way the Lions are more accustomed to.
Heart over head
So to the odds, and I am leaving the pack here somewhat - there was a lot of talk at the press conference that this series is going to need a decider but my heart has won over my head.
Not only that, but I think the Lions are going to do this the hard way. I think the fast start will come from the Wallabies, so Australia to win the race to 10 points at evens, and to lead at half time.
But I just fancy the Lions' nerve, their fitness, the impact from the bench and the goal kicking of Leigh Halfpenny to steer them home in the second forty. So I'm going to go Lions by a nose again in the match result (1-5 winning margin is at 9/2), and on the double result: Wallabies H/T - Lions F/T which is 6/1.
In terms of points scorers - Israel Folau certainly announced himself to the union game with a stunning double in the first Test, and there are still plenty of other ways for Australia to work him into the game - particularly using his aerial prowess. Expect more cross field kicks for him to attack this week - and 11/1 for him to score first again has to be worth a look.
"Israel Folau announced himself to the union game with a stunning double in the first Test, and there are plenty of other ways for Australia to work him into the game."
If Christian Leali'ifano can last longer than 53 seconds it won't just be his goal kicking the Wallabies turn to - his distribution will be key to bringing the in-form Joe Tomane (5/2 anytime) and the dangerous Beale (7/2 anytime) into play.
As for the Lions, I'm really interested in Jonny Sexton (9/2 anytime) and Ben Youngs (3/1 anytime and 22/1 for a double) as try scorers. The men in red have scored over quarter of their tries on this tour from their halfbacks and Youngs will particularly relish his battle with Genia.
I do think the Lions will play it tighter though - and if you like playing the longer odds I'd have a look at Tom Youngs (17/2) and Geoff Parling (16/1) who could profit around the fringes.
I'm going to finish with a Hail Mary though - on Saturday Tom and Ben Youngs become only the fourth set of brothers in 125 years to start a Test for the Lions.
How about a price of 45/1 for them both to score? If it comes in, and the Lions win - I want to hear your celebrations from Melbourne. Good luck!