Jump to main content


Lions Emerge Victorious From Brisbane Battle

Lions Emerge Victorious From Brisbane Battle

George North and Alex Cuthbert scored a try in each half and Leigh Halfpenny kicked 13 points as the British & Irish Lions made a winning start to the Test series against Australia.

Australian replacement Kurtley Beale missed two penalties in the final five minutes – he slipped during his run-up to a last minute kick – as the Lions held on for a hard-earned first Test success.

The Australian and Lions fans created a superb atmosphere in the opening half at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, and the 52,499 spectators watching Wallaby debutant Israel Folau run in two high quality tries.

Google Ad Manager – 300×250 – In Article

In between, George North sailed through for a tremendous individual score which really lifted Warren Gatland’s men who had struggled with referee Chris Pollock’s interpretation of the breakdown – especially in the first quarter.

James O’Connor, playing at out-half for the Wallabies, missed his first two shots at the posts before converting Folau’s 13th-minute try which was inspired by a slick Will Genia counter attack.

The Lions responded with the first of Leigh Halfpenny’s three penalties and North’s piece of brilliance, coupled with five more points from Halfpenny’s boot, had the tourists 13-7 clear.

Folau floated away from three covering Lions to complete his brace, making it 13-12 for the interval, but a series of hampering injuries threaten to derail the Wallabies’ challenge.

They lost three backs to injury – debutant Christian Leali’ifano, Berrick Barnes and Leali’ifano’s replacement Pat McCabe – all within the first 47 minutes, and centre Adam Ashley-Cooper was also forced off in the closing stages.

McCabe’s injury led to flanker Michael Hooper moving to inside centre with Liam Gill, the youngest member of the Australian squad, sent on in the pack.

The disruption was ruthlessly exposed when Jonathan Sexton, aided by a couple of decoy runners, sent Alex Cuthbert hurtling through for the Lions’ second converted try of the night.

But the Wallabies showed impressive resilience to stay in the hunt and with the Lions’ rising penalty count beginning to hurt them – they leaked 12 penalties to Australia’s seven – two three-pointers from O’Connor and Beale closed the gap to 20-18 by the hour mark.

The Lions were unable to push home their advantage in the scrum and in a suffocating final 20 minutes, another Halfpenny kick was cancelled out by Beale who made a slashing beak in the build-up.

Beale took centre stage but fluffed his lines when missing a kickable 75th minute penalty that should have sent the brave Wallabies ahead.

And in a nervy conclusion, the relief for the Lions was palpable as Beale’s standing foot gave way and his 80th minute kick was pulled low to the left to confirm a narrow win for Gatland’s side.

Reflecting on that breathless finish, Brian O’Driscoll, who made 11 tackles during the game, said: “Hearts were in the mouth at the end, we probably should have lost it. We conceded those two penalties at the end but we didn’t deserve to.

“We didn’t get much luck – a couple of deflected kicks that went askew seemed to bounce in their arms – so maybe we got our break at the end.

“We felt fairly in control, obviously their (first) try was a counter attack off a quick tap, the second was disappointing, a couple of bad decisions.

“But a couple of times we gave up penalties, we turned ball over. Every time you get down there, you’ve got to put points on the board.

“I spoke to the lads and said we need to try to finish it next week. We’ve got to knuckle down, look to where we can improve massively and put in a bigger performance than we did today and hopefully we can be in the mix.”

Leali’ifano’s Wallaby debut lasted just 54 seconds as he got caught head on when tackling Jonathan Davies and the centre required the stretcher.

The intensity was high right from the off, the Lions controlling possession before Sexton hung up a cross-field kick for Cuthbert near halfway.

The Wallabies defended it well and set up a long range penalty for O’Connor, who did not have the required distance for the fifth minute shot.

O’Driscoll was harshly pinged for the first penalty and he was also singled for the second – Pollock saying he went off his feet before competing for a ruck ball – but O’Connor slid his seventh minute kick to the left and wide.

With reference to the referee’s handling of the rucks and tackle area, the Ireland centre said afterwards: “There was big frustration with that. We were just talking on the pitch and in the dressing room. I felt I was the right side of the law with it but he adjudged it differently and he penalised it twice.

“James O’Connor obviously missed twice, but we’ll have to work on our interpretation and see if we can get that better for next week.”

A penalty-winning scrum gave the momentum to the Lions, drawing huge cheers from the visiting support, and the forwards muscled their way through a series of phases in the 22.

But the tourists lost a penalty advantage before referee Pollock handed the Wallabies a relieving penalty – another questionable call – and Genia needed no second invitation.

The wily scrum half ran from deep and dummied through with the Lions backing off. The supporting Folau then gobbled up Genia’s dinked kick to the right for a brilliant breakaway score.

O’Connor’s simple conversion made it 7-0 and Genia’s influence increased as he offloaded for prop Benn Robinson to stretch his legs, Sexton stemming the tide by holding him up and winning a scrum.

The Australians were strong at the breakdown but an offside decision allowed the Lions to return to the hosts’ half and build from a Paul O’Connell-won lineout.

A subsequent penalty, coolly thumped over by Halfpenny amid a chorus of boos, got the Lions off the mark in the 25th minute.

Two minutes later, the Lions had the lead. Berrick Barnes’ kick was too loose, North picked it on the 10-metre line and scythed through a gap with the big winger racing away from a third defender and finally Genia to score a smashing solo try.

Halfpenny’s sweetly-struck touchline conversion provided a further boost and the Lions soon got on the front foot again with a clever chip and gather from Sexton.

Davies’ kick to the left corner sat up nicely for O’Driscoll to hound Genia into touch. The Lions pack stormed through on a lineout maul, the Wallabies were forced to infringe and North was narrowly denied by Folau in the left corner.

Play was called back for the penalty and Halfpenny drilled over from the left to move the Lions six points clear.

Jamie Heaslip and Alex Corbisiero combined to tackle Australian captain James Horwill into touch, but the Wallabies struck for a second try before the break and once more it came from Folau.

Ben Mowen released Folau on the right wing and the covering Sexton sat off before the Waratahs star blitzed inside him, handed off Corbisiero and evaded Halfpenny’s last-ditch challenge to run in a classy double.

Both place-kickers had misses on the stroke of half-time with O’Connor off target with the conversion attempt, while Halfpenny was unable to punish the Wallabies for going off their feet.

Full-back Barnes had to be replaced after Folau, pushed by North, collided with him, and a rare kick out on the full from Genia was the first error of an edgy and defence-dominated second half.

Genia’s opposite number Mike Phillips failed to release on the deck, allowing the Wallabies to counter and they had a slice of luck when Genia’s kick was half-blocked and broke for Michael Hooper.

Openside Hooper had to move to midfield as Australia’s injury jinx continued – replacement McCabe becoming the latest Wallaby to be forced off. Flanker Gill took over in the pack.

The Lions wasted little time in exploiting the O’Connor-Hooper channel. From a Heaslip-won lineout, Sexton’s flat pass released Cuthbert past O’Connor and the powerful Welsh winger beat two more defenders to race in behind the posts.

Halfpenny converted but the Lions pack infringed from the restart, allowing O’Connor to claw back three points from a penalty on the 22.

Heaslip, rivalling O’Connell in his influence up front, did well again to clear up after another Robinson charge and the Lions almost prospered from going wide, O’Driscoll just knocking on a high pass from Tom Croft.

However, the penalties were beginning to stack up against the Lions – particularly at the breakdown – and replacement Beale whacked over a 46-metre effort for 20-18.

Sexton’s intelligent chip over the top and collect – the St. Mary’s College clubman used his big frame to reach for it – got the Lions motoring again with O’Connell quickly up in support.

Alun Wyn Jones and Heaslip both carried well before Halfpenny landed a steadying penalty from the right – only for Beale to light up Australia on the restart.

The tricky Melbourne Rebel carved open the Lions midfield and O’Connell had to concede a penalty at a subsequent close-in ruck, allowing Beale to cancel out Halfpenny’s latest strike.

Sexton’s boot had centre Davies challenging for the ball and with O’Driscoll making a further tackle, Australia were forced into a maul and conceded a scrum near their try-line.

The Wallabies relieved the pressure though as the ball squirted out of a wheeling scrum. Genia swooped on it to kick downfield for Folau to gather possession and set the hosts on the attack again.

The Lions had a let-off when Beale missed a kickable penalty, following a Mako Vunipola ruck offence, and Horwill lost the ball forward in contact as the minutes ebbed away.

The importance of having a reliable goal-kicker – step forward Leigh Halfpenny – was hammered home in the final seconds.

Kicking from outside the 10-metre line after the Lions scrum infringed, Beale had a last-gasp attempt to be the match winner, but the Lions escaped with a nail-biting victory as the tour and Test series moves on to Melbourne next week.

TIME LINE: 5 minutes – Australia penalty: missed by James O’Connor – 0-0; 7 mins – Australia penalty: missed by James O’Connor – 0-0; 13 mins – Australia try: Israel Folau – 5-0; conversion: James O’Connor – 7-0; 25 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Leigh Halfpenny – 7-3; 27 mins – British & Irish Lions try: George North – 7-8; conversion: Leigh Halfpenny – 7-10; 32 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Leigh Halfpenny – 7-13; 35 mins – Australia try: Israel Folau – 12-13; conversion: missed by James O’Connor – 12-13; 40 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: missed by Leigh Halfpenny – 12-13; Half-time – Australia 12 British & Irish Lions 13; 49 mins – British & Irish Lions try: Alex Cuthbert – 12-18; conversion: Leigh Halfpenny – 12-20; 51 mins – Australia penalty: James O’Connor – 15-20; 62 mins – Australia penalty: Kurtley Beale – 18-20; 66 mins – British & Irish Lions penalty: Leigh Halfpenny – 18-23; 69 mins – Australia penalty: Kurtley Beale – 21-23; 75 mins – Australia penalty: missed by Kurtley Beale – 21-23; 80 mins – Australia penalty: missed by Kurtley Beale – 21-23; Full-time – Australia 21 British & Irish Lions 23

AUSTRALIA: Berrick Barnes (NSW Waratahs); Israel Folau (NSW Waratahs), Adam Ashley-Cooper (NSW Waratahs), Christian Leali’ifano (ACT Brumbies), Digby Ioane (Queensland Reds); James O’Connor (Melbourne Rebels), Will Genia (Queensland Reds); Benn Robinson (NSW Waratahs), Stephen Moore (ACT Brumbies), Ben Alexander (ACT Brumbies), Kane Douglas (NSW Waratahs), James Horwill (Queensland Reds) (capt), Ben Mowen (ACT Brumbies), Michael Hooper (NSW Waratahs), Wycliff Palu (NSW Waratahs).

Replacements used: Pat McCabe (ACT Brumbies) for Leali’ifano (1 min), Kurtley Beale (Melbourne Rebels) for Barnes (39 mins), Liam Gill (Queensland Reds) for McCabe (47), Sekope Kepu (NSW Waratahs) for Alexander (58), James Slipper (Queensland Reds) for Robinson, Rob Simmons (Queensland Reds) for Douglas (both 69), Nick Phipps (Melbourne Rebels) for Ashley-Cooper (77). Not used: Saia Fainga’a (Queensland Reds).

BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues/Wales); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster/Ireland), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets/Wales), George North (Scarlets/Wales); Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/Ireland), Mike Phillips (Bayonne/Wales); Alex Corbisiero (London Irish/England), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England), Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Paul O’Connell (Munster/Ireland), Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues/Wales) (capt), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland).

Replacements used: Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers/England) for A Jones, Mako Vunipola (Saracens/England) for Corbisiero (both 52 mins), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England) for Phillips (63), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys/Wales) for T Youngs (65), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers/England) for AW Jones (71), Dan Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons/Wales) for Croft (73). Not used: Owen Farrell (Saracens/England), Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland).

Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)