The ACT Brumbies Defeat The British & Irish Lions
The ACT Brumbies put in a remarkable performance last night to halt the touring British and Irish Lions clean sweep of their warm up games. Up until their arrival in Canberra, the Lions had defeated all comers since they left their native shores. But the young Brumbies, without any of their current Wallabies, took an early lead and managed to hold on for a narrow 2 point victory.
The Brumbies victory was the first by an Australian regional side over the touring Lions since 1971.
Tevita Kuridrani began the Brumbies assault, with the only try of the match, in the fifth minute. Jessie Mogg’s long cut out pass found Andrew Smith who released his centre partner Kuridrani into space and he was able to barge past the almost non-existent tackles of Christian Wade and Rob Kearney.
Wade, Brad Barritt and Shane Williams were all added to the run on side, after arriving as fill ins for injured players who had gone home. In fact very few, if any, of the Lions selected for this game are likely to be in the starting side for Saturday’s initial test against the Wallabies. But that can not serve as an excuse for the lack lustre performance of the side. The Brumbies were pretty close to a second string side themselves, with all of their current Wallabies unavailable as they are already in the training camp.
Mogg had a particularly good game converting three penalties and creating a number of breaks, ending the game with a major limp for the last 20 minutes or so. Mogg kicked his first penalty in the first half and the Lions almost ended the half scoreless, but for a Hogg penalty at the very end of the stanza.
Hogg was found sadly lacking, playing in the unfamiliar fly half role, while Sexton and Farrell were saved for the big game at the weekend. Lion’s captain on the day, Rory Best, also had a game he would like to forget, with some awful throwing into the lineouts.
The Lions changed their entire front row and half back combination and began to look like they would steal a victory. Sean Farrell converted two penalties to bring the Lions within 2 points of the Brumbies. But the home side’s desperation saw them hold out for the historic win.
How much insight this gives us for Saturday’s first test is questionable. The Lions have looked good in all of their games on tour up until this one, although some matches have been more competitive than the score lines suggested. Warren Gatland will obviously pick his strongest side, but they will face a bunch of Wallabies who are a level above the players they have met so far.
For me I suspect that the Lions will edge the first game, with a stronger pack and because of the Wallabies questions over who will play at Fly half and Kurtley Beal’s lack of match practice wherever he plays.
The first Lions Test against Australia of 2013 will take place on Saturday 22 June at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. Kick off is 8:00PM local time, that is 11:00AM in the U.K.
By Max Power