British and Irish Lions: Warren Gatland relieved with victory after Kurtley Beale slip sees Lions home
Coach Warren Gatland admitted he was relieved not have succumbed to another last-minute defeat to Australia as Lions take first Test win
Warren Gatland admitted his relief after Australia’s Kurtley Beale missed a last-gasp penalty to hand the British and Irish Lions a narrow 23-21 victory in the first Test in Brisbane.
Beale’s standing foot slipped as he made contact with the ball, and the resulting kick fell just short and wide of the posts, which the Lions let roll into touch as the clock turned red.
Gatland said: “My first reaction was 'this isn't going to happen again'. It's happened before in the last couple of minutes - but they only kick those goals against Wales. Then my reaction was relief.
"We tried to play a bit of rugby, probably too much in the first half. We knew it was going to be tight, there's not a lot of difference between the two sides," he said.
"Like a sparring match the teams were finding out a bit about each other in the first Test.
"Both teams will get better after that hit out. It wasn't the prettiest performance, but it was the victory we deserved."
Gatland also confirmed that wing Tommy Bowe and centre Manu Tuilagi have both recovered from a hand and shoulder injury respectively to be considered for next week's second Test.
The Lions boss also spoke of his frustration with referee Chris Pollock’s performance, with the New Zealander awarding two late penalties to Australia as they attempted to snatch the victory.
"There were a few decisions that didn't go our way, but we'll take that on the chin," Gatland added.
"It was tough at the breakdown. He's penalised Mako Vunipola for coming in at the side when he's made the tackle.
"He spoke to Brian O'Driscoll early in the match after penalising him when he was clearly on his feet.
"Brian said to me he was afraid to compete at the breakdown after that because he was afraid of there being a yellow card situation.
"We created some stuff but the referee said advantage over when we were in goalkicking range.
"There were a few chances we missed out on. It's a huge step up for referees to come in from provincial to Test rugby in terms of intensity."
George North’s try in the first half got the tourists back into the game following a try from Australian debutant Israel Folau, with the two giant wingers going head-to-head throughout the game.
North could very well have had a second try had the TMO not ruled him to be in touch, while Folau picked up his own brace – his first coming after a moment of brilliance from scrum-half Will Genia and his second of his own making as he jinked through the Lions defence.
"George North still thinks he scored that try that was ruled out,” Gatland added. “He said he clearly had it down. We had two quality wingers up against each other out there.
"The guy who does a bit of speed work with us - a guy called Frans Bosch - said to me a couple of years ago that he had worked with two people who he thinks are incredibly special athletes - Israel Folau and George North. They're exceptional talents."
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