The lions escaped an opening game defeat in their series against Australia on Saturday by the smallest of small margins.
An amazing game that lived up to its billing was watched by an equally amazing record crowd at The Suncorp Stadium. The crowd, half filled with Aussie nectar-fuelled Brits, red jumpered and often red faced, were rewarded for their commitment and expense in travelling half way round the world for one of the biggest sporting events in recent Australian history.
From the opening minute, when Australia lost Christian Leali’ifano to a Jonathan Davies knee to the head (I would prefer to be the knee in that battle), to the last minute and action of the game when Kurtley Beale’s slip, and thus second penalty miss of the game, handed the game to The Lions.Viewers were treated to a war that reached epic levels and left you gasping for breath.
In truth The Lions should have lost. Australia missed four penalty kicks in all, two of them straight forward by international standards but equally The Lions should have been 12 points more to the good.
The Lions should have converted a power scrum early on for seven points but were not given a penalty advantage or even it could be argued a penalty try and North was only denied a try by a naughty body part kissing the touchline.
The first brilliance of the game came in shape of the now norm for world rugby of “a six foot five plus-16 stone plus wing who can run like a startled gazelle”, George North. He took a high ball just outside his 10 metre line five metres in from the left hand touchline and proceeded to run with pace, power and the feet of a fifteen year old Russian ballerina to score in the left hand corner of Australia try line.
There’s a lovely passage of play where North, with only the covering Will Genia to beat to the line, switches the ball into his left hand ready for the hand off but Genia gets nowhere near him and so he uses his spare hand to point at Genia as if to say “you’re miles away!”
Then there was the other normal winger in Israel Folau (six foot five plus-sixteen stone plus) who showed equal power and fleet of foot to score the first of his two exceptional tries slaloming through a bewildered Lions defense.
Folau was playing his first competitive game for Australia after a switch from rugby league, not a bad start!
The other Lions try was scored by the other normal winger (yes you know six foot etc etc) Alex Cuthbert. Again beautifully crafted by a dummy run from the evergreen O’Driscoll and a hop step and a swerve over The Aussie line from Cuthbert.
Beale will be blamed for the defeat for missing the last two penalties but I can see the flaw. It’s not his mental state, having only just returned from alcohol related rehabilitation, it’s not his lack of recent rugby action, it is a Samson related loss of power through the removal of his lip hair!
Beale without of lip beard is just not right!
Roll on next Saturday, I am going to have a bacon butty and a Guinness for breakfast!