LONDON (AFP) – The British and Irish Lions paid the price for excessive caution and a lack of forward power in a 16-15 second Test defeat by a "canny" Australia side, according to press reports.
Australia's victory in Melbourne on Saturday saw them level the three-match contest at 1-1 and left the Lions' hopes of a much-longed for first series victory since 1997 dependent on the result of next week's final Test in Sydney.
"Frankly, they (the Lions) sat back when they should have gone out and blasted it," wrote Stephen Jones, the long-serving rugby correspondent of the Sunday Times.
As for the pack selected by Lions coach Warren Gatland, Jones added: "I was amazed how light and fluffy and vulnerable it was, even up against an Australian pack that, frankly, would not even frighten your grandmother at midnight in a dark alley".
Jones highlighted how prop Mako Vunipola, for all his good play in the loose, had endured a torrid match in the scrum, Jones wrote.
"Sadly, the metaphorical cemeteries of rugby are full of props who were rated for other things bar scrummaging, and who were badly exposed for their lack of scrummaging power," he wrote.
Jones's Sunday Times colleague Stuart Barnes, the former England and Lions fly-half, added the Lions had "stopped playing in the last 20 minutes".
Current Lions No 10 Jonathan Sexton said there were times during the second Test when "it felt like were just wishing for the game to finish rather than going after it".
Australia scored the only try of the match when Adam Ashley-Cooper crossed four minutes from time and the Sunday Express's Steve Bale wrote: "The Lions created so little when stretched to bursting point at Docklands Stadium that they can hardly complain this series will now go to a decider."
Bale added that the tension surrounding both sides had contributed to an "error-strewn affair -- the Lions' very future after their long failure to win a series anywhere and the fate of Wallaby coach Robbie Deans being two key issues riding on this series".
There was widespread sympathy for Leigh Halfpenny after the normally reliable goalkicker had a penalty to win the match, and with it seal the Lions' first series success since their 197 triumph in South Africa.
His kick fell short, an effort from more than 50 metres, the edge of his range, virtually the last kick of the game.
By contrast Australia's Christian Leal'ifano, whose Test debut last week lasted less than a minute after he was knocked out, was on target with all four of his place-kicks in Melbourne.
His injury last week sparked a goalkicking crisis which contributed to Australia's 23-21 defeat in the first test.
"Never mind Leigh Halfpenny's missed kick, which hurt so much that it left him doubled up in pain," wrote the Observer's Andy Bull.
"The Lions' supposed strengths, their set pieces, have been exposed, and exploited, by this canny Australia side."