Moments of the Tour: No.6 – George North’s fireman’s lift

The second Test in Melbourne was a cagey affair - Australia couldn't afford to lose and after building an early lead, the British & Irish Lions appeared to adopt a 'have what we hold mentality'. [more]

Moments of the Tour: No.6 – George North’s fireman’s lift

The second Test in Melbourne was a cagey affair – Australia couldn’t afford to lose and after building an early lead, the British & Irish Lions appeared to adopt a ‘have what we hold mentality’.

The Lions took a 12-9 lead in at half-time and that was how it stayed for the first 15 minutes of the second half, although the Qantas Wallabies were slowly but surely gaining momentum, forcing the Lions onto the back foot and dominating possession.

The Lions needed something to spark them into life and in the 60th minute it came.

George North and Israel Folau were the stars of the first Test – the Australian scoring two tries to the Welshman’s one – they were the showstoppers and the names on everyone’s lips heading to Melbourne.

Ahead of the match, North said of Folau: "He's a big goose. He's a running threat. He's good in the air. Difficult to read as well. We saw that on the weekend. Hopefully, he won't do it again."

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As was reflected in their team selection, the Lions were set up for a tight game and so inevitably North – and to a slightly lesser extent Folau for Australia – was starved of possession.

However, when Brian O’Driscoll’s through-the-legs pass found North catching the ball, but with an on-rushing Folau to deal with, he took matters into his own hands.

At 6ft 5ins and 15 stone plus, Folau is not lacking in size but North barely ceded an inch to his opposite number before hoisting him up onto his shoulders and driving him backwards, all the while holding onto the ball.

He ended up landing on his head, adding drama to spectacle, and despite his teammates suggesting otherwise, he will not be taking up wrestling any time soon.

North wrote in his newspaper column soon after: "I caught the ball and he was right on top of me so we grappled as I tried to stay on my feet to buy time before support arrived. I pushed off him, ducked under his arm and ran towards him and he came up with me. After that I didn’t know how to put him down because I was the one with the ball!

"When the cavalry arrived I ended up being ‘tombstoned’ right on my head like a wrestling move. I got up with a bit of a sore neck. It was one of those random things – it isn’t the most efficient way of going forwards.

"I was never allowed to watch much wrestling as a kid because my mum always thought it was too violent. The boys are saying I should move to America and throw some men around for a living.”

Unfortunately for the Lions, the deeper they defended in the last quarter, the more Australia pressed and eventually Adam Ashley-Cooper forced his way over to hand the hosts a 16-15 win and force a decider.

Still, Folau’s impact in the remainder of the series was minimal, North’s was huge, and as he revealed, perhaps Gerald Davies put it best.

North added: “Gerald Davies said to me: ‘In all my years in rugby, George, I’ve seen many an amazing thing happen – tries scored from 100 metres out, forwards do beautiful things, but I’ve never seen an attacker carry a defender back!’ That made me laugh.” 

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