No matter about Australia’s bad luck, Robbie Deans must now pick up the pieces
One missed kick marked the thin line between failure and success
Robbie Deans, coach of the Wallabies shakes hands with Israel Folau after losing the First Test against the British & Irish Lions at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Caxton Street is the pub-lined road that links Suncorp Stadium with the city of Brisbane. It is not the Champs Élysées, nor is it Park Avenue. It is tacky and dirty but not cheap. The publicans’ prices were outrageously high as they reaped in a once-in-12-year harvest. On Saturday, Caxton Street was an ocean of red that sang, clapped and cheered for hour upon hour before the game. Then, under the gaze of a full silver moon, the sea moved like a tide, to fill the upper tiers of Suncorp. Then two hours latter, the Red Sea amazingly flowed back to fill every nook and cranny of every pub in western Brisbane.
There was plenty of humour and humble pie served up to the locals but not one cross word. The Lions supporters were a great advertisement for all that is good about rugby. In so many ways It was a special day, on and off the park.
The event was so highly anticipated that I doubted it could live up to the expectation. I was wrong. “Brisvegas” defied the meteorologists’ predictions of rain and switched on a warm, clear and sunny day. Brisbane was at its big country town best.
The Wallabies followed that same theme and defied the predictions that they would be Christians thrown to the Lions of 2013. They were brave and courageous beyond words. The Lions should have won the game by a considerable margin. As it stands, the best team on the day lost.
Dared to win
With Michael Hooper playing most of the second half at inside centre, the Lions should have created many more scoring opportunities. To everyone’s astonishment in the latter stages, the Lions were twice driven off the ball on their own scrum feed. More than any other action in the match, that reflected the Wallaby attitude. They were beaten, and not only did they refused to submit, they fought back and dared to win.
I can’t recall a Test match in which four backs left the field injured. The disruption this must have created in the Wallaby performance can not be overstated. Nor should we understate the enormity of their response.
How Australia stayed in touch with a Lions team so vastly superior in talent and preparation can only be described emotively. Technique and tactics did not keep them in the game. Heart, courage and sheer bloody minded determination was produced in bucket loads.
Rarely do teams that show such fortitude lose. That tells you how talented the Lions are. Will Genia produced one of the finest performances I have witnessed by a Wallaby scrumhalf. He was the best player on the field by a country mile. Israel Folau was the biggest story for the journalists, but Genia was immense.
The Lions attack was predictable and easily read by Australia. Apart from the seconds leading up to the two Lions tries, the Wallaby defence was more than spirited. They defended 23 phases before breaking out for Folau’s first try.
While the officiating was tedious, I do not agree with the rants on social media that the refereeing was one-sided against the Lions. It is interesting for me to hear both sides of the argument. The Australians also feel that several key decisions went against them. The bottom line is, you have to adapt to the referee during a match and the Lions did not adapt as well as the Australians.
The last two penalties that should have won the match for Australia were just. The second last penalty saw Vunipola enter a ruck from the side. It was a dumb penalty. The referee had no choice but to award a very kickable match-winning opportunity.
International kickers get close-range kicks under pressure. O’Connor should have kicked the others earlier in the match, so he shares the guilt.
Before appointing a general Napoleon often asked “Is he lucky?” Deans was unlucky. Leali’ifano was the first-choice kicker. He lasted less than 50 second.
Warren Gatland is lucky. The Lions are lucky. When you get good luck ride it.
If Beale’s kick had bisected the posts Robbie Deans would be regarded as a good coach. The kick missed so now he is regarded as a bad coach. How utterly ridiculous. The Wallaby team were exceptionally well prepared. Deans is to be complimented on all but one decision.
In the heat of battle, when his players were falling like Anzacs on the Somme, he made an error. Phipps, the last back, and not Gill , an openside flanker, should have come off the bench. Phipps understood the backline defensive system.In the few seconds that it took Hooper to adjust, Cuthbert stole a try and the game.
The Lions have one hand on the Tom Richards Cup. They should lift it in Melbourne. What backline Robbie Deans assembles is anyone’s guess.
With no injuries the Wallaby team would be greatly improved in Melbourne after much needed match time in Brisbane. Now Deans has to pick up the pieces of a broken team and hurriedly add new players, perhaps even one he detests, Quade Cooper.
A great series has commenced.