British and Irish Lions: Australia can force series decider against the Lions

Warren Gatland's side are just one win from a series victory

Simon Mail thinks Australia can see off the British and Irish Lions with the Test series on the line in Melbourne...

"There was enough in the Wallabies' display to suggest they could avenge the defeat this weekend in Melbourne."

Australia v Lions
Kick-off: Saturday 11.05am
TV: Live on Sky Sports 1 

After last weekend's enthralling opener, the stage is set for the second Test as the British and Irish Lions look to seal a first series victory since 1997. All the anticipation and hype proved justified with a gripping contest which saw the Lions edge to a 23-21 win over Australia. However there was enough in the Wallabies' display to suggest they could avenge the defeat this weekend in Melbourne.

Considering it was the hosts' first match since the end of last year, it was an impressive showing last weekend. Australia were crippled by a series of injuries during the match but their strength of character and determination dragged them to the brink of victory. Kurtley Beale had two opportunities to win with late penalties but those misses got the Lions out of jail.

Ultimately kicking proved the difference as the Lions were hugely indebted to the consistency of Leigh Halfpenny as he scored 13 points. This was in stark contrast to the Wallabies with fly-half James O'Connor struggling with a series of misses as the home side squandered 14 points from penalties and a conversion. If Australia can find their accuracy with the boot, which is far from a certainty, the Lions could struggle to get a result this time. 

Warren Gatland's side played their final midweek game on Tuesday and had no problems as they eased to a 35-0 win over the Melbourne Rebels. The one-sided match saw the Lions score five tries without reply and the performances of Dan Lydiate and Ben Youngs have earned them starting spots this weekend. 

The Lions have made five changes from the team which were pushed all the way last Saturday. In addition to Lydiate and Youngs, Tommy Bowe returns from his hand injury to replace the unfortunate Alex Cuthbert on the wing. Injuries to Paul O'Connell and Alex Corbisiero have resulted in Geoff Parling and Mako Vunipola coming into the pack. It is still a very strong side and being able to leave scrum-half Mike Phillips out of the squad demonstrates the options available to Gatland.

The hosts appear to have selected a better team for the second Test despite a series of injuries during the opener. Berrick Barnes is ruled out at full-back but this has enabled coach Robbie Deans to start Beale. His pace and flair added an extra dimension from off the bench and the side should carry more of an attacking threat. Centres Christian Leali'ifano and Adam Ashley-Cooper have both been passed fit after being taken off in the first match. This is significant because Leali'ifano will be the designated kicker and his accuracy with the boot could decide a tight contest.

One of the stars from last Saturday was Israel Folau who produced a stunning Test debut. The rugby league convert scored twice and was a constant threat down the wing for the Wallabies. He combined superbly with world class scrum-half Will Genia and the pair will be the main danger again this weekend. It could certainly be well worth taking Folau to score another try at 32/1.

The Lions remain favourites to win in Melbourne but Australia look the value bet again. The Wallabies have the benefit of having had game time so should be sharper than last week, which was their first match of the year.

Their side should carry a greater threat with Beale in the side and if Leali'ifano can kick the all-important points, Australia can take the series into a decider. Backing a narrow win for either side proved profitable last week and there seems no reason to change this approach here either. Both sides are evenly matched and it is hard to see one team running away with the second Test.

Recommended Bets

Back Australia to win at 2.77/4
Back either team to win by less than 7.5 points at 2.3211/8
Back Israel Folau to score a try at 32/1 

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