Lions in Australia

Gatland hails Lions 'guts'

2013-06-08 17:39
Warren Gatland (Gallo Images)

Brisbane - Head coach Warren Gatland praised a gutsy effort by the British and Irish Lions on Saturday after they held off a fierce assault by the Queensland Reds to register their third straight win.

Gatland said the tough 22-12 victory, in a Test-style atmosphere at the venue where the Lions will play Australia on June 22, was just what his players needed after two big scorelines against the Barbarians and Western Force.

"It was exactly what we wanted," Gatland said. "We knew we were going to be a little bit heavy, or flat physically in the legs. It was a reminder to the players of what it means to an opposition team playing against the Lions."

In front of 50,000 fans at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium, the Reds flew out of the blocks and established an early lead after a brilliant solo try from Luke Morahan.

Scrum-half Nick Frisby also went over in the second half as the Reds scored two tries to the Lions' one. But a steady six-from-six kicking performance from fly-half Owen Farrell helped the visitors over the line.

"They came at us at 100 miles an hour in that first 20 minutes and the boys soaked up the pressure," Gatland said.

"From that point of view it was exactly what we wanted, realisation for the players about what it means to Australian players.

"And for us to soak up the pressure, and guts it out and come up with a win, I'm very proud of that performance."

The win came at a cost with Irish wing Tommy Bowe ruled out of the tour with a suspected broken hand -- the third casualty in two days, after props Gethin Jenkins (calf) and Cian Healy (ankle).

But centre Manu Tuilagi was cleared of serious injury after leaving the field after 19 minutes. And the performance of Farrell, whose handling errors and brittle temper caused concerns against the Barbarians, also cheered Gatland.

"I thought he was great today," Gatland said of the young Englishman. "His composure, goal kicking, he ran well. Strong defensively.

"If he's not quite on form in one game, you rarely see that backed up the next time."

The Lions will be seeking their first Test series win since 1997 when they play their three games against Australia on June 22, June 29 and July 6.

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