QUEENSLAND REDS 12 BRITISH & IRISH LIONS 22: The Queensland Reds rolled the dice and came up just short but it was fun watching them try to out-wit the Lions given they were never going to tame their power.
The tourists’ set-piece strength forced the Reds to also live on the edge at the breakdown and this in turn enabled Owen Farrell’s accurate goalkicking to keep the scoreboard ticking for a hard-earned win.
Alas, it came at a cost. Ireland's Tommy Bowe suffered a broken bone in his right hand hand that will require an operation and may end his tour.
Manu Tuilagi departed after 20 minutes with a shoulder injury but was able to return to the pitch for the post-match handshakes .
On a night when the Suncorp Stadium went wild whenever the Reds did likewise on the pitch, the Lions would have been grateful for a more meaningful game and the win.
They lost their attacking shape in the face of a far more aggressive defence, with less oomph and work-rate in the loose from the pack, Farrell at times ponderous and Jonathan Davies providing little creative spark.
Once again, the locks hardly showed, but Toby Faletau went well and though sucking diesel at times, Sam Warburton came through all but the last six minutes, while Ben Youngs was good, and George North was sensational,
The Reds moved the ball swiftly, usually hard on the gain line, with a high tempo, high risk strategy as the Lions defence was initially stretched to the limit, to the delight of an excited home crowd in this atmospheric ground.
The home team had been billed as Quade Cooper and the Lion Tamers, and the enigmatic one - in vintage Carlos Spencer mood - set the tone by moving the ball wide from the very off deep inside his own 22. On the left wing, one could see why Luke Morahan had been training with the Australian Sevens, and one could also readily understand why he had been released for this game.
Morahan was on fire, and was quickly released for the first of two perfectly executed kick and gallops up the left tramline. Alex Cuthbert brilliantly staved off the first threat before a perfectly weighted box kick by scrumhalf Nick Frisby again forced an attacking throw and the Lions were relieved that the Reds line-out malfunctioned both times.
Soon though, a stunning break by centre Ben Tapuai left Geoff Parling for dead and Tommy Bowe kept Rod Davies out before Beau Robinson knocked on. The first scrum, in the sixth minute, also afforded the Lions their first chance to flex their pecks and influence the game in anything other than a defensive capacity.
An ill-advised counter by Stuart Hogg had them on the back foot again before good work by Toby Faletau on the deck led to a wonderful break by Tommy Bowe. He continued infield and linked with Alex Cuthbert only for the pacey Morahan to deny the Welsh winger by tackling him into touch short of the line.
Unfazed, Hogg countered superbly with his centres and another scrum penalty enabled Farrell to open scoring but soon the Reds’ early threat was realised in thrilling fashion, and unsurprisingly, it was the flying Morahan again.
The Reds’ left wing fielded a poor kick by Farrell inside his own ten metre line and spun out of Cuthbert’s tackle in the same movement before stepping inside Ben Youngs, beating Manu Tuilagi and then delicately chipping Stuart Hogg before gathering and taking the full-back’s tackle to score a quite wonderful 60 metre solo try under the posts.
Cooper and co continued to live on the edge, and a blind pass by the outhalf intended for Ben Lucas would have coughed up seven points had Jonathan Davies not over struck his kick ahead. Compensation came by way of another Farrell three-pointer before Cooper missed a kickable penalty.
The Lions had lost Manu Tuilagi at the end of the first quarter, forcing Tommy Bowe into outside centre, where he acquitted himself well. But it also meant the introduction of George North, who ala Morahan, gave the Lions their X factor on the left wing.
North made a stunning break up the left touchline and passed superbly inside to Farrell who rolled with the tackle from Morahan to reach out for the line, whereupon Morahan _ having already saved one try and scored one _ knocked the ball from his grasp.
Ultimately, Morahan’s efforts were wasted as Ben Youngs ripped the ball from the hands of home number eight, tapped it over the line and pounced for an opportunistic scrum-half’s try. North made another stunning break up the middle - at this juncture he seemed utterly unstoppable - and a brilliant dummy and pass even gave Sam Warburton a run to the line, but a combination of Cooper and Tapuai denied him a try. But when Tapuai subsequently didn’t release after the tackle in first-half overtime, Farrell made the score 16-7 at the break.
It was a flattering lead for a team that had lived by their wits off just 37% of the first half possession, but in the second-half they dominated possession and especially territory to keep the ever dangerous Reds at arm’s length. That said, their attack was ponderous on an increasingly sticky surface made worse by a second-half drizzle.
That said, Farrell took a good line off a Youngs' offload and extended the lead with another penalty. A horrible clash of heads between Mako Vunipola and Robinson led to the latter being taken off on a stretcher after a five-minute delay. But the game and crowd alike were awoken from the ensuing lull when the Reds' policy of having a go from anywhere - nand for most of the second-half that was from their own 22 - was handsomely rewarded.
From a quick throw and then a recycle inside their own half, scrum-half Nick Frisby spotted space on the blind side to release Rod Davies and showed good speed to maintain his inside support line and take the return pass to score. Wastefully, Mike Harris missed the eminently kickable conversion to close the gap to five points.
Instead, the Lions brought on the cavalry up front and Paul O’Connell won the turnover penalty at the breakdown from which Farrell put the game beyond reach.
Scoring sequence: 14 mins Farrell pen 0-3; 18 mins Morahan try, Cooper con 7-3; 23 mins Farrell pen 7-6; 34 mins Ben Youngs try, Farrell con 7-13; 40 (+3 mins) Farrell pen 7-16); 51 mins Farrell pen 7-19; 64 mins Frisby try 12-19; 77 mins Farrell pen 12-22.
Queensland Reds: Ben Lucas; Rod Davies, Ben Tapuai, Anthony Fainga'a, Luke Morahan; Quade Cooper, Nick Frisby; Ben Daley, James Hanson, Greg Holmes, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Ed O'Donoghue, Eddie Quirk, Beau Robinson, Jake Schatz.
Replacements: Albert Anae for Daley (24 mins), Jono Owen for Holmes (35-40 mins), Radike Samo for O'Donoghue (12-18 and 55 mins), Jarrad Butler for Robinson (55 mins), Jono Lance for Frisby (65 mins), Mike Harris for Fainga'a (53 mins), Dom Shipperley for Morahan (44 mins).
British & Irish Lions: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Manusamoa Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers/England), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets/Wales), Tommy Bowe (Ulster/Ireland), Owen Farrell (Saracens/England), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England); Mako Vunipola (Saracens/England), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England), Matt Stevens (Saracens/England), Richie Gray (Scotland), Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers/England), Dan Lydiate (Dragons/Wales), Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues/Wales, capt), Toby Faletau (Dragons/Wales). Replacements: George North (Scarlets/Wales) for Tuilagi (20 mins), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/Ireland) for Bowe (46 mins), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys/Wales) for T Youngs, Dan Cole (Leicester/England) for Vunoipola, Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales) for Stevens, Paul O'Connell (Munster/Ireland) for Gray (all 65 mins), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys/Wales Warburton (74 mins).
Not used: Conor Murray (Munster/Ireland),
Referee: Jerome Garces (France).