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Best admits tourists 'just didn't turn up' in shock loss


Rory Best after the defeat to the Brumbies. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Rory Best after the defeat to the Brumbies. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Rory Best after the defeat to the Brumbies. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

THIS was the first time the British and Irish Lions had their goose cooked – not to their liking on this tour. And the result? They were well and truly done.

The ACT Brumbies applied their fine-tuned Super-15 defensive strategy to put a stranglehold on the tourists and they did it well enough, long enough and in suitably inclement conditions to edge it 14-12 at Canberra Stadium.

Coach Jake White's side took more than the Lions scalp. They also had the media reaching for the record books, turning back time to Northern Transvaal in June 1997 when they last lost to a provincial or club team.

The error of the Lions ways could be easily traced. It was all too human as most of the foot soldiers went into battle with one underlying thought crystallised: I am not in the Test team.

It is all very well and necessary to push the value of the team over the individual, but Warren Gatland's mission was built on the premise that everyone started with the same opportunity on day one.

This was the first time that the Lions midweek men were put out for duty and they played like they had just received the worst news in the world.

The intensity was soft-tissue type and the collisions were lost more often than they were won.

The line-out fell to pieces as captain Rory Best (pictured) had one of those nightmare games, consistently missing the barn door with crooked tosses and overthrown missiles.

The Ulster hooker was man enough to stand in the firing line afterwards: "We just didn't turn up right from the off, they wanted it more and took their chances," he said. "We let our standards drop."

While makeshift out-half Stuart Hogg looked adept on the front foot in previous outings, he was simply lost in the traffic as a tactical outlet when he came under pressure from a three-quarter line that, literally, had just met.

It was noteworthy that the only players that stood out were those with Test involvement squad possibilities, like number eight Toby Faletau, flanker Seán O'Brien and full-back Rob Kearney, in tandem with the entire bench.

The template for Australia was laid out by Brumbies coach Jake White as his full-back Jesse Mogg kicked long and the back row scavenged ravenously at the breakdown with the considerable assistance of French referee Jerome Garces, who allowed a free-for-all there.

Coach Gatland was not about to give his players a soft place to fall. He was obviously underwhelmed at the attitude of his players.

In reality, the three-quarter line of Shane Williams, Billy Twelvetrees, Brad Barritt and Christian Wade had never played together before and they were also poorly served by Hogg in behind a disjointed and disorganised forward pack. There was simply an absence of leadership in the front five.

The immediate deflationary effect of dealing with the first defeat in six games will soon evaporate as the Lions turn their attention towards the test of Australia in Brisbane on Saturday.