Gatland concedes Lions not good enough
The New Zealander bemoans a lack of intensity in the first half and a poor performance at the breakdown
British and Irish Lions’ captain Rory Best (centre) and replacement scrumhalf Conor Murray lead the team off the pitch after losing to the Brumbies. Photograph: David Davies/PA Wire.
The Lions went down 14-12 to the Brumbies at Canberra Stadium, and there could be few realistic complaints from a team outgunned up-front for an hour before head coach Gatland summoned reinforcements off the bench.
It was the Lions’ first defeat against an Australian provincial team since Queensland beat them 42 years ago. “We didn’t have the urgency and intensity that we needed in the first-half. We are disappointed,” said Gatland, whose squad had won five games in succession.
“All credit to the Brumbies. They played well, they frustrated us and it was a tough day at the office. “It’s a part of being on tour, regrouping. You have a bit of a knock, you take your disappointment and it is how you respond to it. A lot of us have been through it in the past — you just get back on the horse.
“We have been building nicely, there has been a lot of momentum. Maybe it’s sometimes not the worst thing to take a bit of a knock and get a bit of a reality check, and we had that today.”
The setback came just four days before the first Test against Australia in Brisbane, although Gatland’s likely Test team is currently wrapped in cotton wool ahead of the weekend.
“There are a lot of people disappointed,” he added. “It wasn’t a great game of rugby. The Brumbies didn’t play any rugby. We gave them a fairly soft try early on in the game, and then it was a battle of the breakdown for the next 75 minutes.
“From that point of view, there are a few things for us to work on. Maybe it is an indication for Australia that they may compete pretty hard at the breakdown.
“The Brumbies were really effective at what they did. They tried to frustrate us, and it was successful. It is important we learn from the experience, and we will make sure we are better for it the next time we have a hit-out.” Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani struck early for the game’s only try, while full-back Jesse Mogg kicked penalties.
The Lions, who were always behind, managed two Stuart Hogg penalties and two Owen Farrell strikes. Hogg twice saw penalties hit the post, but a new-look three-quarter line of Christian Wade, Brad Barritt, Billy Twelvetrees and 36-year-old Shane Williams featured in a team that looked devoid of quality preparation time. The backs were powerless at times, having to scamper and retreat as a disorganised and mistake-riddled
Lions pack performance helped the Brumbies’ eight dominate. And Lions skipper Rory Best gave a brutally honest assessment of where it had gone wrong. “We came here very confident we could win,” the Ireland hooker said. “We knew it wasn’t going to an easy task. We talked about not just matching the physicality but beating their physicality, and we didn’t even match it.
“The breakdown, they really smashed us there, and that is very disappointing. The confidence started to go. Our mini units just sort of fell apart, and we lacked that little bit of composure. The disappointing thing for us was that we didn’t front up.
“We’ve seen in the Reds and Waratahs games, there was a lot of physicality there and we were able to regroup after five or 10 minutes and bring our own edge to the game. Unfortunately today, we weren’t able to do that.”
The Brumbies’ victory provided another impressive addition in the career portfolio of their former South Africa coach Jake White, who has masterminded World Cup successes at senior and junior level. “It is a massive result,” he said. “This is a very young group of players that got together 18 months ago, and none of them would have dreamt about getting a win against the Lions.
“This is as big as it gets for anyone who has played at this level. “It means a massive amount for me. I missed the opportunity to coach against the Lions in 2009, but I appreciate and understand what Lions tours and series are. To beat them is obviously a massive achievement.
“I have no doubt the boys in the Wallaby camp will say it (beating the Lions) is do-able now. The first Test is going to be massive. There is massive psychological warfare - it’s do or die on Saturday.”