Lions derailed by Brumbies in Canberra
Lineout a mess as basics let the tourists down days ahead of the crucial first Test
Rob Kearney of the Lions is tackled during the match against the ACT Brumbies and the British & Irish Lions at Canberra Stadium. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Shane Williams in pensive mood after being replaced. Photograph: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
A dejected British & Irish captain Rory Best. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Simon Zebo is tackled by Tevita Kuridrani of Brumbies. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Brumbies 14 Lions 12: Warren Gatland gambled on sacrificing the Lions’ unbeaten record by picking his non-test team and a makeshift backline four days out from the start of the series, and the tourists came up just short.
For much of the first hour a hugely committed and vastly less experienced Brumbies threw themselves into tackles, none more so than a retinue of youngsters in lock Sam Carter, openside Colby Faingaa, Tevita Kuridrani and the highly promising 22-year-old uncapped prop released by the Wallabies, Scott Sio.
There were also enough touches of class from outhalf Matt Toomua and fullback Jesse Mogg to justify the hype.
Critically, they also launched into the breakdown, where the Lions struggled for their customary quick ball, while the tourists coughed up seven of their own throws.
The lack of shape in attack was illustrated by one attempted sequence of attacks off a lineout in the middle of the pitch, Ben Youngs sluggishly recycled ruck ball as the tourists went backwards, before Stuart Hoggg was compelled to turn 360 degrees, with more defenders to his outside than attackers, and run into the human brick wall that was Faingaa, primarily because all but one of the Lions were clustered together on his inside.
Stuart Hogg also hit the post twice and having been 14-3 down the Lions brought on a heavy-hitting bench which made a big impact, but with a couple of key decisions late on going against them, it was just too little too late.
Dark clouds had been the prelude to a mid-afternoon thunderstorm which thankfully abated to give way to a cold if dry and still evening in Canberra, with temperatures inching towards minus two as the night progressed. Once again, although there was a good Lions contingent, home supporters were in the majority of the 21,655 crowd, with the main battalion of forecast invasion from the Britain and Ireland clearly targeting the weekend in Brisbane.
The Brumbies don’t normally run too much from their own half, preferring a territorial game, but with the weather having relented the Jake White/Stephen Larkham/Laurie Fisher Brains Trust were clearly mindful of where the Lions’ apparent Achilles heel was located _ namely all across a decidedly patchwork, not to mention jetlagged, three-quarter line featuring four players who weren’t in Australia last weekend.
So it was, that the Brumbies were quick and eager to count-attack from inside or around half-way, and they were rewarded within five minutes of the kick-off when fullback Jesse Mogg flung a huge crossfield pass to Andrew Smith. The
Lions had numbers but Smith straightened up at Christian Wade, not the most fearsome of tacklers in truth, to beat him, draw in Stuart Hogg and offload to Tevita Kuridrani, who fended off Wade’s second attempted tackle and Rob Kearney to score.