Tuesday 23 January 2018

Bowe's Lions Tour may be over after suffering suspected broken hand

Lions 22 Queensland Reds 12

A disconsolate Tommy Bowe with Richard Hibbard after the final whistle
A disconsolate Tommy Bowe with Richard Hibbard after the final whistle
British and Irish Lions' Tommy Bowe sits on the bench with his hand strapped up
British and Irish Lions' Ben Youngs scores the Lions only try

Conor George in Brisbane

TOMMY BOWE’s Lions Tour is almost certainly over after he suffered a suspected broken hand during tonight’s game between Queensland Reds and the Lions in Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium this morning.

Bowe was forced from the field – replaced by Jonathan Sexton – midway through the second half and was seen in a sling with his hand heavily bandaged after the game.

It emerged after the game that he broke a bone in his hand and it has been suggested he faces the possibility of surgery.

There is no news yet of a possible replacement but Ireland’s versatile Simon Zebo, who is on Tour with Ireland, will be a contender to join the Lions Tour. Zebo featured heavily in the selection deliberations before the squad was announced on April 30.

“Tommy’s tour looks to be over. He has a suspected broken bone in his hand,” said Lions’ coach Warren Gatland.

“It will be a huge loss because he is a very big player for us, a very big loss. He is so experienced and so versatile. We were happy with him on the right wing on Wednesday night and wanted to have a look at him on the left tonight.

“He looked great while he was there and he also slotted into the centre for a spell. He will be a really big loss.

"We will probably talk about that (a replacement) tonight, and we've got an early press conference tomorrow to name the team for Tuesday's game.

"We probably will bring out someone.

"Tommy, the experience he brings, and being able to play right-wing, left-wing, centre and full-back. He is a big loss for us."

Bowe overcame an injury in time to be selected for the tour, and his form on tour made him pretty much a certainty for the first Test team against Australia at Suncorp Stadium on June 22, but those hopes now appear to have been dashed.

Centre Manu Tuilagi, meanwhile, went off with a shoulder injury, but Gatland said: "Manu got a little bit of a stinger in his shoulder, just a bit of a dead arm. He lost a bit of feeling in his arm."

Bowe’s injury is very costly in a game that thrilled the crowd with its intensity and high skill levels as he had been looking a definite Test starter after a fantastic first half performance in a game that was hugely entertaining.

The action rampaged up and down the field and you daren’t turn away for a moment for fear of missing out on some of the sumptuous rugby that was being played by both sides. The Lions ultimately had too much power and skill for the Reds but the Super 15 side contributed handsomely to the contest.

They were full of running and inventive play and their mercurial captain Quade Cooper was at the heart of their challenge.

At times he mixed the ridiculous with the sublime – a pass into open air after 20 minutes led to Owen Farrell’s second penalty of the night – but he was always exciting to watch. He signalled his intention to run the ball inside the opening 90 seconds when he broke and very nearly put winger Rod Davies away.

At times the intensity of the match had the eyes watering and after Owen Farrell kicked the Lions in front on 13 minutes the constant pressure the Reds were exerting began to expose some cracks in the Lions’ defence.

Farrell’s poorly executed up-and-under after 17 minutes was easily fielded by Luke Morahan and after breaking three tackles and chipping over Stuart Hogg the winger touched down for the game’s opening try and the lead.

It was a score that came from a Lions’ error but lost none of its appeal. Morahan electrified the 50, 136 strong vociferous crowd by dint of his excellent execution and score.

The Reds were looking irresistible at this juncture. Cooper was running absolutely everything but slowly the Lions began to wrestle some of the control back. Farrell added another three points to cut the deficit to the minimum early in the second quarter before Cooper showed the Hyde to his earlier Jekell with a badly hooked penalty from in front of the posts.

The Lions took confidence from this miss and Farrell was almost over for a try after 33 minutes when he benefitted from a fantastic break from George North. He was frustrated by a great tackle from Morahan who somehow forced the knock-on in contact.

The Lions weren’t to be denied and when the ball squirted loose from the resultant scrum Ben Youngs reacted quickest to dive on the ball for the touchdown.

Lions captain was almost over minute later – a beneficiary of another break by North – but he was held up by a combination of Cooper and Reds’ full back Ben Lucas. Farrell added another penalty before the half for a 7-16 lead.

It was more of the same exciting rugby after the break and when Farrell pushed the Lions further ahead after 50 minutes the game looked to be theirs for the taking.

The Reds rallied brilliantly and when a Nick Frisby try after 63 minutes cut the deficit to just seven the home side began to believe an upset might be on the cards.

The Lions turned to their big guns and with Jonathan Sexton now calling the shots at out-half and Paul O’Connell and Adam Jones controlling the forwards the Lions showed a greater composure as a last Farrell penalty put the game out of the Reds’ reach.

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