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The 2013 British and Irish Lions team suffered their first loss on tour in Australia on Tuesday when they were upset 14-12 by the Brumbies, who put in a tenacious defensive performance.
The Lions – admittedly not a first choice team and burdening under injuries – were uncharacteristically nervous and hesitant in the face of the Brumbies determination, merely four days before the first test against the Wallabies on Saturday.
It was the first win by a provincial side against the Lions since Queensland beat the tourists in 1971 and they were also only the sixth Australian side to keep the Lions try-less.
The Brumbies were without six Wallabies but they still had enough to embarrass the Lions before 21 655 fans in chilly Canberra. They scored the only try of the match in the fifth minute through Tevita Kuridrani, while fullback Jesse Mogg converted three penalties.
“We got physically beaten at the breakdown and set pieces and the Brumbies were hungrier than us,” Lions skipper Rory Best said. “We were a little nervy out there and we misfired at times.”
Stiff resistance from the Brumbies rocked the Lions and they had no real answer to some committed defence. The Brumbies struck first when Fijian centre Kuridrani exposed some weak defence to score the opening try in the fifth minute. Mogg initiated the chance with a long pass to Andrew Smith who linked with Kuridrani on the left-hand touchline. Kuridrani easily beat the tackles from tour debutant Christian Wade and fullback Rob Kearney to score wide out.
The tourists resorted to high kicks but made little impression on the Brumbies. The Lions faced going in scoreless at half-time for the first time since the 1980 tour of South Africa against Orange Free State before Hogg kicked a penalty on the siren. The Lions squandered a couple of opportunities and had a rough day in the line-outs, losing three on their own throw-in and complimented that with three skew ones.
Coach Warren Gatland brought on six replacements to stir up the tourists and the introduction of flyhalf Farrell got some much needed attacking rhythm. Farrell kicked a penalty for the tourists to trail 14-9 with 16 minutes remaining, and the England number 10 pulled the tourists to within two points with another kick at goal with eight minutes left.
The Brumbies stoically held on to count down the clock to a famous win and left a shell-shocked Lions team wondering how that happened.
Saturday’s first test will be a riveting affair – stay tuned for more news.