Victory for the Lions in the third and final Test in Sydney next Saturday now depends on how they fare in the treatment room and on the training pitch over the next five days.
Although the pendulum has swung Australia's way I believe Lions still have a great chance of winning the series. But they have got to get it right in preparation this week, and that means a big challenge for Graham Henry and his management team. This is where Henry has to prove how good he is. He must have thought he had already proved that beyond question at half-time in the Colonial Stadium yesterday. The Lions didn't score as many points as their first-half domination deserved, but they were really cruising.
The set-pieces were going well and they were punching big holes in the Aussies' defence. Then came one of the most amazing transformations I've seen in a game.
Jonny Wilkinson threw a high pass towards Rob Henderson and Joe Roff rose like an Aussie Rules player to intercept and run in a try that stood the game on its head. The effect on the flow of the game was remarkable. Australia had been outgunned in the first half and it was as much as they could do to hang on. Suddenly it looked as if they had been plugged into the mains as a surge of confidence swept through their ranks. They stole the ball from a Lions scrum and swept it along the line. Daffydd James showed Roff the outside, and he took it like the master finisher he is.
From then on, Australia nailed everything and the Lions had no answer. I'm not sure if it was tiredness or the shock of being on the receiving end for the first time in two games, but the Lions couldn't get their act back together.
The psychology of a three-game series is very puzzling. After the first game the Lions morale was rampant, as yesterday's first half proved. Then it dropped like a stone, and it was the Aussies who finished on a high that is likely to last the week.
I suspect that being one up gave the Lions a safety net that took the edge off them subconsciously. For the Aussies, yesterday was hit or bust. For the Lions, defeat wasn't the end of the world.
But next Saturday is the end of the world, and the pendulum could soon swing back if the Lions recover their poise. That depends on the physical and mental battles that will be fought out behind the scenes.
Obviously, there is a lot riding on Jonny Wilkinson's fitness. He didn't play well yesterday but he is still the catalyst for all the good Lions movements. He would be a massive loss. With Rob Howley also taking a knock yesterday and Austin Healey still on the injury list, you cannot even guess at what the half-back combination will be.
Will Matt Dawson, Ronan O'Gara and Neil Jenkins figure? There's only one place where Henry will find that out, and that's the training pitch. They who prove the fittest and the sharpest in training will win the vote. That's how tight it is, and those who have been moaning about the toughness of the training probably ain't seen nothing yet.
There are plenty of other injury problems. Richard Hill was a huge loss when he went off yesterday. I thought he had a magnificent game, as did Scott Quinnell.
When they look back on yesterday's game, the Lions will rue the missed chances. Great breaks were made that should have led to at least two tries. It was sad to think that two of the heroes of the first Test, Jason Robinson and Brian O'Driscoll, hardly saw the ball.
Now it is down to Henry to get the touring party back into shape mentally. He will have to make some big decisions on selection for the Test team if the injuries go against him, but most of all he has to rebuild the morale.
There have been plenty of stories about a rift in the camp, but I would have thought that was only natural. Players who cannot get into the Test team are bound to gripe.
But the time for moaning is over. Every last member of that squad has a big part to play this week.Reuse content