Australia 21 British and Irish Lions 23 match report: Lions get lucky after Kurtley Beale hits the skids

Thrilling first Test goes down to the last kick of the game but there must be sympathy for Wallaby recently out of rehab who buckles under the pressure

Brisbane

Sometimes the gods of rugby are simply too cruel. At the very last knockings of a compelling opening Test match, the Wallaby back Kurtley Beale, fresh out of rehab and not obviously in the optimum state to play a game of this magnitude, was asked to kick a 46-metre penalty that would win the game for his country. He slipped on contact, misconnected and had to be helped from the field by his colleagues, his emotions plummeting in a downward spiral of pure misery.

Few in the crowd would have wished such a situation on their worst enemy. Beale, who is still receiving counselling for his alcohol-related issues and started this match on the bench, had been forced to take on the kicking responsibilities because outside-half James O'Connor was having a rough one with the boot and every other kicker had been broken by the ferocity of the physicality.

He struck gold with his first shot, from pretty much the same place as he would miss his last one, and then brought the surging Wallabies to within two points with a short-range kick when the Lions lock Paul O'Connell was penalised at a ruck 13 minutes from time. But he shanked an opportunity on 74 minutes following a tough penalty call against the tourists' prop Mako Vunipola, and that failure wrecked his fragile confidence. In truth, subsequent events did not come as a complete surprise.

So it was that the Lions, powered by their confrontational pack for the first hour, made it across the finishing line.

The Wallabies were in bits come close of play – and not just in terms of their spirits. They lost Christian Leali'ifano, their debutant centre and No 1 goal-kicker, to a heavy concussion before a minute had passed; saw their full-back Berrick Barnes, another potential marksman, leave on a stretcher at the end of the first period; and then saw Pat McCabe, another midfielder, leave the fray with a neck injury within seven minutes of the restart.

When their last remaining centre, Adam Ashley-Cooper, was led from the field midway through the final quarter the home side found themselves playing with a flanker in the No 12 position and a substitute scrum-half where their left-wing should have been. Robbie Deans, their ashen-faced coach, was fully justified in describing his side's performance as "deeply courageous".

Deans will take some comfort from the fact that the sensational wing Israel Folau played his first rugby union Test as though it were his hundredth and looked for all the world like the game's next superstar. He scored two first-half tries, the first from a characteristically intelligent break by the scrum-half Will Genia to open the scoring in the 13th minute and the second towards the end of the first half.

This was a try to stun the mind. First, the former rugby league international and big-time Aussie Rules player picked a ball out of air, brushing aside Leigh Halfpenny as though the Welsh full-back were no more than a gnat. He then took a pass from the flanker Ben Mowen, beat three Lions all ends up – Jonathan Sexton, Alex Corbisiero and Halfpenny – and finished brilliantly to the right of the sticks.

It hit the Lions in the tender parts, for they had seemed in control. Their tight forwards, particularly Corbisiero, had the measure of their rivals from the start, both at the set-piece and in open field, while the centre Jonathan Davies, who had knocked the unfortunate Leali'ifano spark out on his first carry – accidentally, but comprehensively – often unsettled a skittish Wallaby midfield.

And then there was George North, the Lions' Folau. His try early in the second quarter, with the tourists 7-3 down, was every bit as jaw-dropping as his opponent's: a powerful surge from his own 22 took him through McCabe and away from O'Connor, and when he slipped on the dancing shoes to beat the covering Barnes, there was nothing even the outstanding Genia could do to interrupt his glory run to the left corner.

With Halfpenny continuing to nail his kicks – he would miss only once, while the Wallaby kickers let 14 points slip away – the Lions kept their noses ahead, and when the wing Alex Cuthbert took ruthless advantage of the Australians' make-do-and-mend back-line with a roaming try behind Brian O'Driscoll's dummy run, it seemed they would win with something to spare.

These Wallabies are made of stern stuff, though. Having been outscrummaged for threequarters of the contest, they turned the tables at two late set-pieces. The first mugging of the Lions pack allowed them to escape from a perilous position deep in their own 22. The second earned them the last-ditch penalty shot that might have won them the match. But, as they discovered to their bitter regret, "might have" is the most useless phrase in sport.

Australia: B Barnes; I Folau, A Ashley-Cooper, C Leali'ifano, D Ioane; J O'Connor, W Genia; B Robinson, S Moore, B Alexander, K Douglas, J Horwill (capt), B Mowen, M Hooper, W Palu. Replacements K Beale for Barnes, 38; L Gill for McCabe, 46; P McCabe for Leali'ifano, 52; S Kepu for Alexander, 57; J Slipper for Robinson, 68; R Simmonds for Douglas, 68; N Phipps for Ashley-Cooper, 76.

Lions: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, B O'Driscoll, J Davies, G North; J Sexton, M Phillips; A Corbisiero, T Youngs, A Jones, A W Jones, P O'Connell, T Croft, S Warburton (capt), J Heaslip. Replacements M Vunipola for Corbisiero, 51; D Cole for A Jones, 51; B Youngs for Phillips, 61; R Hibbard for T Youngs, 64; G Parling for A W Jones, 70; D Lydiate for Croft, 72.

Referee C Pollock (New Zealand).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power