It was quite a relief to reach Melbourne on the next stage of the Lions Tour. A three and a half hour delay exhausted all the amusement that the small Gold Coast Airport could offer while we waited for fog to clear. Eventually the weather relented and we arrived in cold but dry conditions on Monday evening.
Tuesday dawned bright and clear. Some shopping was required and we headed downtown to explore the center of Melbourne, eventually ending up in Federation Square (after a brief stop in St. Paul’s Cathedral for a burst of Evensong) where we saw the Helix Tree light up at dusk, apparently in reaction to the singing of a choir. After this brief outburst of culture we headed toward AAMI Park to see the Lions take on the Melbourne Rebels.
Walking from Federation Square we realized the amazing array of sporting facilities that Melbourne possesses. AAMI Park is the smaller of the two stadia used for Lions’ games as the 2nd test will be played at the larger Etihad stadium. Most cities would be more than happy to have a ground as well-equipped and smoothly running as AAMI, which coped extremely well with the crowd of about 28,000.
The match itself wasn’t very exciting. The Lions were always in control and ran out easy 0-35 winners, declining any chance to score through penalties. The Rebels played as well as they could but never threatened significantly. Our seats were behind the Lions’ goal line in the first half and most of the action occurred at the other end, which ended at 0-14.
The second half was pretty fragmented due to frequent substitutions. Simon Zebo provided most of the excitement that was on offer and was rewarded by several “Zebo” chants from the crowd. Apart from that, the most exciting thing that happened was the presence of ex-runner Sonia O’Sullivan in the Irish crowd at the game.
A win is a win and I’m sure that the Lions management was pleased to have it without any further injuries. Saturday is a completely different matter and it will be interesting to see if they make any changes to the Test team. In the interim, we’re taking a side trip to Hobart and will return to Melbourne on Friday.