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Brumbies End Lions’ Winning Run

Brumbies End Lions’ Winning Run

The British & Irish Lions paid the price for a flat, error-strewn performance as the ACT Brumbies claimed a famous 14-12 win over the tourists at Canberra Stadium.

Jake White’s men, with just 28 Test caps between them, deservedly hung on to end the Lions’ five-match winning run on the tour just days away from the first Test against the Wallabies.

Tevita Kuridrani’s fifth-minute try set the tone for an uncomfortable night for the Lions who were 8-3 down at half-time with Stuart Hogg cancelling out a penalty from Brumbies full-back Jess Mogg.

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Mogg added two more successful kicks to put 11 points between the sides as captain Peter Kimlin made sure the current Super Rugby leaders maintained their high standards in defence.

The Lions replacements bench was emptied entering the final quarter with Conor Murray and Simon Zebo both introduced.

Hogg had cut the gap to 14-6 before he was called ashore and his replacement Owen Farrell increased the pressure on the hosts with two well-struck penalties in the closing stages.

Warren Gatland’s charges had enough time to pinch the result, but they lost control of the ball from a promising scrum position and the Kimlin-marshalled home pack wound down the clock impressively to make certain of the result.

Tour newcomers Christian Wade and Shane Williams were heavily involved early on in chilly Canberra, Wade coming up with a turnover inside the Lions half and the evergreen Williams was just crowded out in the left corner.

In between, captain Rory Best’s long lineout throw found Richie Gray at the tail and a clever move had scrum half Ben Youngs darting into the Brumbies’ 22.

The fired-up Kimlin led by example as the Brumbies answered back in tremendous fashion, teeing up their powerful centre Kuridrani for the only try of a tight contest.

Youngs failed to find touch from the 22 and loose defending out wide from Wade and Hogg allowed Kuridrani to burst through for an unconverted effort.

The Lions needed to iron out some set piece kinks and Best combined with Ian Evans on the quarter hour, teeing up a lineout maul that gave a very good return.

The same personnel and tactic was used as the tourists won a kickable penalty at the end of the first quarter, although Hogg watched his 29-metre attempt bounce back off the left hand post.

The Brumbies got their own rolling maul working to good effect, prompting a good spell of attacking during which Kuridrani, Colby Faingaa and Clyde Rathbone were all prominent.

Rob Kearney, making his first start of the tour at full-back, was solid in defence as he thwarted Faingaa and Rathbone on two separate occasions, the Brumbies carrying well without truly stretching the Lions.

Moments later, Kearney’s opposite number Mogg had the distance but not the accuracy as he pulled a 56-metre penalty to the left and wide.

A couple of crooked throws from Best contributed to four lost lineouts from nine and the Brumbies forced a run of late penalties to keep the pressure on.

The Lions had a let-off when scrum half Ian Prior pulled a kickable shot wide, but Mogg found the target with a long range kick approaching half-time.

There was just enough time for the Lions to hit back before the break, with Hogg nailing a kick from 41 metres to reward a better spell of ball retention from the forwards.

With the wind behind them in the second half, Gatland’s side needed to lift their intensity and Kearney retrieved his own garryowen, with some assistance from Williams, to give them some momentum.

That was undone by another crooked call against Best – the lineout woes made it a night to forget for the Ulsterman -and when Sean O’Brien was whistled up for not rolling away, Mogg split the posts from 35 metres to restore the eight-point lead.

The Brumbies continued to be the aggressors up front, the quality of their tackling emphasised by flanker Faingaa’s blockbusting midfield hit on Hogg.

There was more frustration for the Lions as a decent drive in their own half was spoiled by foul play from prop Ryan Grant, and Mogg mopped up with his third successful penalty for 14-3.

A good kick chase from Kearney and a ruck penalty won by O’Brien provided some much-needed inspiration, and more importantly another three points from Hogg.

The reinforcements in the pack propelled the Lions scrum forward shortly afterwards, however Hogg’s difficult penalty attempt from the right came back off the woodwork.

The fresh legs did increase the pace of the Lions’ play – allied to the growing influence of number 8 Toby Faletau – and replacement out-half Farrell made it a five-point game after punishing a ruck infringement from Josh Mann-Rea.

Hopes of a come-from-behind win grew as Kearney found an excellent touch deep inside the Brumbies’ half, giant lock Gray followed up with a lineout steal and a subsequent 46-metre penalty from Farrell made it 14-12 with eight minute left.

Just when it looked like the Lions were turning the screw – Kearney did well on another kick chase and Zebo made a half-break on the right – scrum half Murray lacked support as he was brought to ground in the 22 and the Brumbies won a relieving penalty.

The Lions had a second bite at the cherry from a well-positioned scrum, however a costly turnover allowed the Brumbies to kick downfield through the ever reliable Mogg and their forwards did the rest as the Lions suffered their first midweek defeat since losing to the New Zealand Maori in June 2005.

A disappointed Rory Best was typically forthright when giving his assessment of the game afterwards, admitting: “We got physically beaten up up front, they put a lot of pressure on the set piece and we got a bit nervy, and all credit to the Brumbies they were hungrier than us right across the board.

“We were feeling very confident, we knew it was going to be a tough task but we just didn’t turn up tonight. Right from the very off they just wanted it more, they took their chances and you have to give them massive credit.

“I don’t think we’re looking for excuses, we brought in quality players. When you looked across the team we had a quality team, we just got beaten up at the breakdown tonight.

“We definitely got nervy. At this level if you can’t secure that ball you’re always going to be under pressure. The forwards will stand up and take a lot of the heat, and deservedly so.”

The Ireland hooker added: “We let our standards drop tonight and it’ll be up to the 15 and 23 guys picked this weekend (against Australia) to raise those again.

“We didn’t want to lose the momentum that we’ve gained on the tour, but we’ve done that and now we have to dust ourselves down and see where we go from here.”

TIME LINE: 5 minutes – ACT Brumbies try: Tevita Kuridrani – 5-0; conversion: missed by Ian Prior – 5-0; 20 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: missed by Stuart Hogg – 5-0; 31 mins – ACT Brumbies penalty: missed by Jesse Mogg – 5-0; 38 mins – ACT Brumbies penalty: missed by Ian Prior – 5-0; 40 mins – ACT Brumbies penalty: Jesse Mogg – 8-0; 40+3 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Stuart Hogg – 8-3; Half-time – ACT Brumbies 8 British & Irish Lions 3; 46 mins – ACT Brumbies penalty: Jesse Mogg – 11-3; 54 mins – ACT Brumbies penalty: Jesse Mogg – 14-3; 56 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Stuart Hogg – 14-6; 60 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: missed by Stuart Hogg – 14-6; 64 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Owen Farrell – 14-9; 72 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Owen Farrell – 14-12; Full-time – ACT Brumbies 14 British & Irish Lions 12

ACT BRUMBIES: Jesse Mogg; Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Andrew Smith, Clyde Rathbone; Matt Toomua, Ian Prior; Ruan Smith, Siliva Siliva, Scott Sio, Leon Power, Sam Carter, Scott Fardy, Colby Faingaa, Peter Kimlin (capt).

Replacements used: Josh Mann-Rea for Siliva (57 mins), Jordan Smiler for Carter (67), Robbie Coleman for Rathbone (72), Etienne Oosthuizen for Power, Zack Holmes for A Smith (both 76). Not used: Jean-Pierre Smith, Chris Cocca, Mark Swanepoel.

BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: Rob Kearney (Leinster/Ireland); Christian Wade (London Wasps/England), Brad Barritt (Saracens/England), Billy Twelvetrees (Gloucester/England), Shane Williams (Mitsubishi Dynaboars/Wales); Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England); Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland), Rory Best (Ulster/Ireland) (capt), Matt Stevens (Saracens/England), Ian Evans (Ospreys/Wales), Richie Gray (Scotland), Sean O’Brien (Leinster/Ireland), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys/Wales), Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons/Wales).

Replacements used: Richard Hibbard (Ospreys/Wales) for Best, Dan Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons/Wales) for O’Brien, Alex Corbisiero (London Irish/England) for Grant, Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers/England) for Stevens (all 57 mins), Conor Murray (Munster/Ireland) for Youngs, Owen Farrell (Saracens/England) for Hogg, Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers/England) for Evans (all 60), Simon Zebo (Munster/Ireland) for Williams (69).

Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)