The Lions held on to win the first Test as the Wallabies, who had multiple injuries to contend with, missed two chances to take the lead late in the game. The outcome of the series now looks as though it’ll be down to who adapts best to injury setbacks.
The Wallabies got off to an awful start as debutant Christian Leali’ifano was knocked out cold in the first minute after a strong carry from centre Jonathan Davies. It set the tone for the match, as Berrick Barnes, Pat McCabe, Digby Ioane and Adam Ashley Cooper followed.
At one stage in the second half the Wallabies had flanker Michael Hooper in the backline, but they showed great courage to hang on nevertheless, coming painfully close to snatching the win from two late penalty attempts.
Earlier brilliant tries were scored in a scintilating first half, with debutant Israel Folau scoring after a brilliant Will Genia break, and then George North scoring arguably one of the greatest Lions tries.
Folau got his second try with a sensational inside step and fend, before Alex Cuthbert crossed through the disorganised Wallaby midfield later in the game.
In the end it all came down to a penalty attempt from Kurtley Beale at the death. Beale, just having returned from time out of the game due to some personal issues, slipped on the chewed up turf, allowing the Lions to take the win and go 1-0 in a series that has already been a fantastic advert for the code of Union in Australia.
“KB did as well as he could. I told him not to worry about it… everyone in the team still loves him,” said captain James Horwill, who was later cited for a stamp.
Multiple players will undergo scans today and this week, and it looks as though Paul O’Connell is on his way home after suffering with a broken bone in his arm. Prop Alex Corbisiero is also under an injury cloud, so Australian born Ireland prop Tom Court joins the Lions squad as cover.
On the balance of the first Test, one might say that the Lions were lucky to take the win. They played some great rugby but the Wallabies had very little luck, missing early kicks at goal from James O’Connor, losing key players to injury, and of course missing those late Beale kicks at goal.
It’ll be interesting to see the approach to the next Test as both units will have to rebuild, restructure and reinvent themselves somewhat, especially the Wallabies, if they aim to take the series victory.
Feel free to share your thoughts on the game (and the incredible tries!) in the comments below.
Nick Heath chatted with Leigh Halfpenny post match, who said it felt like last year all over again.