|PIC : Reuters
BRITISH & IRISH LIONS 23 AUSTRALIA 21
Brisbane`s Suncorp Stadium was the sight for the opening test match of the British & Irish Lions series with Australia, As Warren Gatland`s men took victory in the first test of the three match series. Winning an enthralling and heart stopping match, beating the hosts Australia 23-21. Though it could have been all so different after Beale last gasp kick.
The British & Irish Lions tried to get over their 14-12 loss to the Brumbies on Tuesday; But the Lions welcomed back to the line up George North and picked Alex Corbisiero ahead of his England team mate Mako Vunipola.
For Australia they had three players making their debuts, with Christian Leali`ifano, Israel Folau and Ben Mowen.
After the Australian national anthem was played the anticipation for the game grown, Johnny Sexton kicked off and we got the First test underway.
Sadly it didn`t start the way anyone wanted to see, As Debutant for the Wallabies Christian Leali`ifano was stretchered off after he collided with Jonathon Davies elbow, when he tried to make a tackle on the Wales star.
Davies noticed as soon as he got up for the play that the Aussie player was badly injured and so Davies alerted the referee, getting his attention to let him know that he was hurt bad and ask for the medical team to come on.
After a delay, everyone in the stadium gave him a good applause as he was being driven off the pitch on the medical buggy and he put his thumb up to acknowledge the crowd as he went off the field wearing a neck brace to be checked out by the medical staff.
Play resumed with Australia or James O`Connor in particular, missing two chances. O`Connor missed two penalties both coming from Brian O`Driscoll being penalised for playing the ball off his feet.
The Lions were having the majority of possession and were camped in the Wallabies half as they pushed the men in gold back in there half.
|PIC :ESPN SCRUM
Match official Chris Pollack from New Zealand then gave the hosts a penalty at the breakdown, with Will Genia then taking a quick tap kick and flying up field on a counter attack.
He was joined in attack with Israel Folau while he turned the Lions defenders inside out with his zig sagging down the right channel. Genia then put a weighted little grubber kick through and Folau picked up and ran it over for a try giving the Home side first blood.
James O`Connor finally made a successful kick count as he made it a 7-0 score for the hosts.
The Lions then got awarded a penalty themselves, when Aussie Captain James Horwill came in at the side of the ruck and so “MR 100%” Leigh Halfpenny was given the task to kick the first points on the board for the Tourists as he made it 7-3.
Moments later Berrick Barnes put a high kick up and was caught by George North just inside the Lions 22metre line.
North then proceeded to run it back at the home side, as he beat the attempted ankle tap of James O`Connor and then used his pace to beat Barnes ,before seeing off Genia with his ankle tap too as went over for the try.
It will go down as one of the greatest Solo tries in British & Irish Lions history too, Leigh Halfpenny then added the conversion for Gatland`s men as they took the lead 10-7.
|PIC :ESPN SCRUM
They nearly added to the lead minutes later too, when the Lions had possession right near the Australian try line and so they worked among the short side, as they played it left to George North who crashed over the line, with Folau trying to hold the ball up and Genia holding on to North`s leg trying to stop his momentum too.
The Touch judge wasn`t completely sure if he had hit the white line before grounding it, so it was left to the TMO to review the play and based on the replays show, North`s elbow touched the whitewash just before the ball carrying arm came down also he didn`t manage to ground the ball either.
Result was a penalty to the Lions as advantage was being played prior to the try incident, so Halfpenny took the ball and started to set up for the penalty. Lions Captain Sam Warburton then decided to go for the three points, much to the disappointment of his forwards who wanted to go the try, but the Lions captain made the correct decision in taking the three points on offer.
Halfpenny kicked over and gave them a 6 points lead now for 13-7.
Australia responded straight away as the Wallabies play drawn the Lions players over to one side leading to them spraying the ball out wide to Ben Mowen, Whose pass found Folau waiting by the touchline.
Folau then ran at the Lions defence skipping past Johnny Sexton and then fending off two Lions challenges before going over, Folau scored his second try of the game and he was having a debut to remember.
It went upstairs to check for a forward pass, but replays shown it was fine and the conversion was once again missed by O`Connor who was having a shocker of a game with his kicking.
|PIC :ESPN SCRUM
Australia then found themselves with more injury problems as this time Berrick Barnes was on the floor injured, as a collision with his team mate Folau knocked him down and out. It was caused when North chased a ball with Folau and the Lions player gave a slight shove to him to in the back, causing the Aussie debutant head and shoulder to connect with Barnes, knocking him to the deck and as he lay injured on the touchline.
He was replaced by Kurtley Beale as he was stretchered off down the tunnel and the Wallabies players were dropping like flies now.
The Lions then had a great chance to extend their lead once again as the Aussies were penalised with feet off the ground, as they took Davies out of the play by the Wallabies 5 metre line.
Leigh Halfpenny was given the role of kicking over but pushing it just wide of the uprights, so as the hooter sounded the players went off the pitch to a massive ovation by all supporters inside the Suncorp stadium as the Lions held a slim 13-12 lead over the hosts at half time.
Second half got underway, with Australia having the lion share of possession in the early stages as they were camped in their opponent half.
Wallabies then found themselves with yet more injury problems as McCabe was then hurt, when an accidental stray knee from Alex Cuthbert went right in between the shoulder blades of McCabe and the stretcher bearers were called out yet again, as he was the third Wallaby victim to be carted off in this game.
|PIC :YAHOO SPORTS
Moments later the Lions exploited the frailties in the Australian back line with players in foreign positions to what they normal play in, When they extended their lead with some good play lead to the red shirts spraying the ball wide to where huge gaps were appearing.
Johnny Sexton then spotted Alex Cuthbert after O`Driscoll had made a decoy run for the Lions and so Cuthbert spotted the gap and ran into it going over for the Lions Second try of the game. The Referee asked for the Video ref to make sure there wasn`t any problem with it, to which their wasn`t and so with the added points it was 20-12 score and the Lions were Roaring!
Australia responded from the restart when they won a penalty straight away, giving James O`Connor the chance to kick the Aussies right back into this game and his kick was successful and made it a 5 point ball game with the score 20-15.
The Lions then wasted a great opportunity with quick passes and good movement, when a move with a “Celtic connection” gave them the opening. It was Mike Phillips of Wales who started the move before finding Irish duo Sexton & Heaslip before playing to Welshman Jonathon Davies his Ball was then played to Tom Croft, who tried a pass over the head of an oncoming Wallabies player but his pass went slightly forwards and O`Driscoll couldn`t handle the pass and knocked it even further on to which North took it, but about 3 yards ahead of him and so play was brought back.
Australia then got awarded a penalty to which Kurtley Beale took over kicking duties from James O`Connor and his kick from 46m out which was straight and in front of the posts went over, to cut the lead down to 2 points for an 18-20 score line.
Johnny Sexton then created a chance, as the Irishman collected a long kick down field to which he then put a little chip kick over the head`s of the Australians and the ball bounced kindly for Sexton, who continued his run passing to his Ireland team mate Paul O`Connell and the from the following play brought a Lions penalty.
With less than 15 minutes remaining Halfpenny took resulting kick from just outside the Australian 22 metre line. Halfpenny dispatched it for a 23-18 lead and restores the 5 point advantage.
Kurtley Beale then ran at the heart of the Lions defence cutting them open and if it hadn`t been for Halfpenny`s intervention, then the Aussies would have had an almost certain try.
The ref then awarded a penalty to the Home side as play was slowed down and killed by the Lions as they stopped the Wallabies from playing, but gave them a kick to which Kurtley Beale stepped up and kicked over.
That meant the final 10 minutes of this riveting contest would be more tense with the team with the better composure would see them over the line.
Sexton who had a great game at Number 10, then put up a great up and under kick in the Wallabies half with Davies unable to take the catch and with the men in Green & Gold quickly pounced upon by the Lions forwards the official then awarded the tourists a penalty near the 5m line giving the Lions great field possession to try and close out the game with under 10 minutes left.
The Lions somehow managed to produce a horrible scrum as Genia stole the ball for Australia and his kick up field was chased by a Lion and Folau, To which Folau collected on the bounce and Australia poured forwards as the Lions defense had to hold firm now.
Australia then won another penalty when Vunipola was adjudged to have come into the ruck from the side. That meant it gave Beale the chance to kick the Wallabies into a lead with 7 minutes left on the clock.
Beale`s kick went horribly wide of the posts and the Lions breathed a huge sigh of relief at being let off. Australia then knocked on and gave the Lions the chance again to try and kill the game off once again.
As the players set up for the scrum formation there was 4 minutes left to play in this absorbing game and after two collapsing scrums, time was ticking away now and it looked like the Lions were nearly home and dry now.
However there would be one more twist to come. The Lions pack once again shot themselves in the foot as the Australian pack drove the Lions back and the tourist got in to a tangle causing them to concede a penalty with 2 minutes on the clock.
With the whole build up to the kick, it meant Beale would use up the whole time left in the game to full use as it came all down to this one last kick.
Surely this wouldn`t be a repeat of the Second test 4 years ago in South Africa, When the Lions were in a similar situation, they had done the hard work pulling level only to concede a penalty right at the death lose to Morne Steyn kick.
This was similarly in the same position that Steyn kicked over to condemn the Lions to defeat back in 2009, Would history repeat it`s self 4 years on. Beale composed himself as he walked up to the ball and just at the point of contact on the ball. He lost his footing and slipped over causing his kick to drift towards the posts but fall short and roll out of play for a dead ball.
|PIC :YAHOO SPORTS
Lions fans and players urged the referee to blow his whistle and he did meaning the wave of red shirts could celebrate the victory and gave the Lions a step closer to history, as they took a 1-0 series lead with the Second test match to be played in Melbourne next Saturday.
The Lions will know they have to play better and equally know, the Aussies will come back harder next game to draw the series up and force a decider.