Sunday 21 January 2018

Lions lose to Brumbies

Conor George in Canberra

THE Lions have lost to a provincial side in Australia for the first time since 1971. S

Since that loss to Queensland they did lose to Australia A in 2001 but this was a first of the professional era for the tourists.

The truth is they deserved nothing more for they were appalling. They lacked invention, passion, grit and, in fact, any of the qualities we associate with players who are purportedly among the best in the world and, certainly, the best in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Brumbies are the best team in Australia. They were short 12 of their starting team last night and they made the Lions look decidedly ordinary.

There was no question about whether or not the Lions were in a contest from the off. The Brumbies hit every ruck with purpose and sought to take them on in every facet. Every loose ball was kicked back with interest as they played territory brilliantly.

The game’s first try was both simple and breath-taking. The Brumbies flashed the ball through the hands and when centre Tevita Kuridrani looped around he benefited from a great pass from his centre partner Andrew Smith.

This was on the back of a long pass from Mogg that took the Lions’ midfield out of the game.

He still had plenty to do but when Christian Wade closed in the centre showed great power and intelligence in handing him off and into Rob Kearney’s path to excellently – and legally – obstruct the full back as he crossed for the touchdown.

It didn’t get any better for the Lions as the half progressed. They were clueless, their midfield anonymous and winger Wade no more than a passenger.

The Brumbies were revelling in their dominance. The only positive from the Lions was their maul which had its moments but was in use far too sporadically to be effective in arresting their continued slide into mediocrity.

The start of the second half offered little in the way of encouragement with two Jesse Mogg penalties pushing the Brumbies further in front as the Lions continued to flounder and thrash about like flotsam caught in a rip-tide.

There was absolutely no shape, direction or leadership being shown by the Lions and for the Brumbies this was feeding time at the zoo. They absolutely lapped it up and continued to pressure the tourists in every facet.

There was no real drive or energy about the Lions’ football and this was all the more mystifying as coach Warren Gatland had said before the game there were still places open in the Test team. 

As the hour mark approached the Lions were trailing 14-6 and Gatland must have been cursing his decision to bring only two kicking out-halves when Stuart Hogg missed another relatively straight-forward three pointer.

Not long after it was not surprising to see Owen Farrell and Conor Murray readying for action and there was a marked improvement in the Lions’ play following their introductions.

Farrell kicked two penalties to bring the gap back to two with eight minutes remaining but with the smell of victory in their nostrils the Brumbies closed the door and held out for a wholly deserved victory that will shake the Lions ahead of Saturday’s opening Test against Australia.

Online Editors

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