Sunday 20 April 2014

Lions get out of jail in Brisbane classic

Australia 21 British and Irish Lions 23

Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies and Ben Youngs celebrate victory
Alex Cuthbert, Jonathan Davies and Ben Youngs celebrate victory

THE Lions somehow fashioned victory in most unlikely circumstances in Brisbane tonight to take a crucial one game lead in the three game Test series.

Their performance scarcely deserved the victory for it was pock-marked by error and they sought without success to find a smooth and regular rhythm in the play.

This was shown most effectively in the 70th minute when Sexton, with a gloriously high kick, brought play right into the Australian 22 where a Lions scrum looked likely to yield a precious dividend with the score so tight at 21-23 for the Lions.

The Lions somehow contrived to lose control of the scrum and when the ball spun loose it was Genia who kicked it up to effect the clearance.

British & Irish Lions supporters from Limerick and Tipperary in Brisbane ahead of the game.
British & Irish Lions supporters from Limerick and Tipperary in Brisbane ahead of the game.

This led to a period of severe pressure and the Lions’ seeming inability to either stay on their feet at the breakdown or their continued insistence in joining from the side presented Kurtley Beale with two kicks for personal glory and the victory.

His first was an ugly attempt that was short and to the left of the posts. Astonishingly he was afforded a second go four minutes later but his left leg slipped in the cut up surface just as his right boot made contact with the ball.

The result was right and wide. The final whistle sounded almost immediately to spark wild celebrations among the Lions’ players.

The Lions will savour this victory for they are now in control of the Series as the circus that is the 2013 Lions Tour moves to Melbourne. They will do so knowing that they got out of jail in Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium and that a marked improvement will be needed if they are to survive the second Act.

Australia will take solace from their narrow miss, especially after losing so many influential players during the contest.

They will also take confidence from the realisation that whenever the game opened up they looked the more dangerous side, as evidenced by their opening try when scrum-half Will Genia showed a speed of thought and movement that ripped the heart out of the Lions’ defence.

He showed a remarkable burst of speed and an even sharper intellect when he broke quickly after Brian O’Driscoll was pinged at the breakdown for the third consecutive time. Genia raced past a helpless and clueless Mike Phillips and made 50 metres.

He then picked out Israel Folau for the simplest of run-ins as he touched down under the posts to make the extras a formality.

As expected the Lions roared back into the contest. First Leigh Halfpenny opened their account with a penalty before George North exploded into the Test Series with a run that burned off three defenders and scrum-half Genia.

It was a try to savour from the huge winger but there was a sour note to it as he clearly “did a Delon Armitage” by pointing his finger at Genia as he crossed the line. There was no need for the gesture and it did him and the jersey a dis-service.

Six minutes from the break the prodigious talent of Israel Folau showedjust how explosive he is when he burst through Sexton and Leigh Halfpenny before dancing around Alex Corbisiero for a glorious individual try.

If the momentum was with Australia at the interval the Lions certainly snatched it back almost immediately after the restart when Alex Cuthbert powered through four would-be tacklers after a great decoy run from Brian O’Driscoll drew cover away momentarily.

The Lions were in control at this juncture but the Wallabies soon wrestled control back through some dominant play by their back who clearly gained an upperhand in the scrum.

Halfpenny and Kurtley Beale swapped penalties to leave just two between them when Beale was given two chances to snatch victory and personal glory. Mercifully for the Lions he missed twice to hand the advantage to the tourists…just but they will know that they left at least 14 points behind them on the night.

Surely they won’t be as careless next week.

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