Lions’ duo Rob Kearney and Rory Best rue the consequences of ignominious defeat to buoyant Brumbies
Players fail to enhance their reputation with Test places at stake
Lions’ captain Rory Best looks dejected after his team’s defeat to the ACT Brumbies at Canberra Stadium yesterday in Canberra, Australia. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Compounding the makeshift backline, being selected for a starting Lions team on the Tuesday before the first Test must feel like a double-edged sword, and the players cannot be immune from thinking about the consequences any more than the rest of us.
In truth, none of the starting team in Canberra Stadium did much to enhance their reputations last night, and of course, the ignominious defeat only compounded their woes.
Take Rob Kearney, the incumbent Lions full-back of a year ago whose tour was derailed by a slightly torn hamstring and then was left on the bench until past the hour mark last Tuesday in Sydney before making his first tour start behind a patchwork three-quarter line on the back foot from the carnage at breakdown and lineout time.
Asked specifically if he had thought about the consequences of this defeat for him personally, Kearney smiled ruefully and candidly admitted: “Yeah, of course, we’re always thinking about it. This was my first start in six weeks so I just wanted to get some time under my belt and put in as best a performance as I could. It wasn’t really a night for full-backs but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
“Obviously guys who were playing were disappointed but it’s important at the same time that we realise the bigger picture, and that’s Saturday, and that’s the three-Test series. We need to get back on our feet fairly quickly and realise that yes, this is one setback, but it’s not going to be what the tour is remembered for, and if the 23 guys on Saturday can get us back on winning ways, then tonight will be a distant memory.”
Kearney’s body language was that of a man who, deep down, probably knew he would be consigned to the stands this Saturday before one shot at redemption next Tuesday in Melbourne against the Rebels, but he and others had a responsibility to park it and move on last night.
“It’s really important and probably the biggest thing sometimes when it comes down to these touring sides and there’s a big group of 37 guys involved. It was one of the things that we spoke about, that the guys who played tonight have an onus to get back into the mix and hold our heads up high even though we might not really want to. But the big picture is Saturday, that’s all that matters and we have to do everything to make sure that whatever 23 that are selected are in the best frame of mind for it.”
For Rory Best, captaining the Lions proved a grim enough experience.
“Everyone is disappointed. We came here very confident we could win but we talked about beating their physicality and we didn’t even match it. They really smashed us at the breakdown and that was very disappointing. The lineout put a lot of pressure on us, the confidence started to go and our mini units fell apart. We lacked a bit of composure, which was very disappointing.
“We didn’t front up and match them. We saw a lot of physicality in the Reds and Waratahs games but we’ve been able to regroup and bring our own edge to the game, but unfortunately tonight we weren’t really able to do that.”