Brisbane - The British and Irish Lions edged a thrilling opening Test 23-21
against the battered Wallabies on Saturday to seize the momentum in their
pursuit of a first series win in 16 years.
Both teams scored two
tries, but although replacement back Kurtley Beale twice had the chance
to kick the Wallabies to victory in the final minutes, he agonisingly
missed both penalty attempts.
The Lions, who have not won a series
since South Africa in 1997, remain unbeaten in eight Tests in Brisbane
since 1899 and are now just one victory away from a long overdue series
Leigh Halfpenny's goal-kicking ultimately proved the
difference with three penalties and two conversions to ease home over
the Wallabies, who missed five kicks at goal.
But the Lions were
made to fight to the very end by a Wallaby side that had three players
stretchered off with injury and finished with loose forward Michael
Hooper playing in the centres.
The tourists will now look to
clinch the series in the second Test in Melbourne next weekend, with a
third Test in Sydney on July 6.
The Test will be long remembered
by outstanding individual tries by Wallaby debutant Israel Folau and his
Welsh opposite George North in a pulsating first half.
Wallabies had a major setback when debutant Christian Lealiifano was
knocked out in making the first tackle of the match on Jonathan Davies
and was stretchered off inside the first minute.
Pat McCabe came into the game with Lealiifano's night over.
O'Driscoll was penalised twice in the ruck and got a ticking-off by
referee Chris Pollock, but flyhalf James O'Connor failed to capitalise,
missing both his penalty attempts.
The Lions forward pack gained
an early psychological blow when they pushed the Wallaby scrum backwards
to a huge roar from the fans in red in the 52,499 crowd at Brisbane's
The Wallabies defence held firm under pressure
but Will Genia broke free on a quick tap and when faced by fullback
Halfpenny, he kicked for winger Folau to pick up and run over for a try
on his Wallaby debut in the 14th minute.
Halfpenny kicked his first penalty in the 24th minute to steady the Lions after the shock of Australia's try.
But two minutes later, North put the visitors in front with a sensational solo try.
powerful Welsh winger fielded Berrick Barnes' aimless kick and beat
four Wallaby defenders -- McCabe, O'Connor, Barnes and Genia, to score
in the left corner to an ear-splitting ovation.
Halfpenny converted from the sideline to put the Lions in front 10-7, with the Wallabies under immense pressure.
had a big let-off when the marauding North went for the left corner in
Genia's tackle, only to put his elbow in touch in Folau's covering
Halfpenny kicked the Lions three points further ahead with his second penalty and a 13-7 lead.
Folau scored another extraordinary try six minutes before the break
when he was given space to run at the defence off a Ben Mowen pass.
He prodigiously stepped past Jonny Sexton and beat two more tackles for a try double on debut.
missed the sideline conversion to leave the home side trailing 13-12.
He left eight points out on the field in the first half.
Wallabies had a second player stretchered off when Berrick Barnes
collided with Folau's head under pressure from North and made way for
The Lions had a scoring chance in the final minute of the
half but desperate Australia conceded a penalty which Halfpenny could
not convert as the teams went into the break.
The Wallabies' cruel
luck with injuries continued when replacement McCabe became the third
Australian stretchered off with an apparent neck injury minutes into the
Liam Gill came on and openside flanker Michael Hooper went into the centres to replace McCabe.
Lions cleverly worked play towards Hooper with a sweeping backline move
and Sexton put Alex Cuthbert spearing through for a try after using
O'Driscoll as a decoy runner.
Halfpenny's conversion stretched the Lions' advantage to 20-12.
reduced the arrears to five points with a penalty, and then Beale,
taking over the kicking duties, knocked over another three-pointer from
45 metres to put the Wallabies two behind.
Halfpenny and Beale traded penalties inside the final 14 minutes with just two points in it.
With six minutes left, Beale had the chance to kick the Wallabies to the front but he pushed his penalty attempt wide.
at the death Beale had another kick to win it for Australia, but he
dramatically slipped on his run-up as the chance went begging.
Tries: Israel Folau (2)
Conversion: James O'Connor
Penalties: O'Connor, Kurtley Beale (2)
British and Irish Lions:
Tries: George North, Alex Cuthbert
Conversions: Leigh Halfpenny (2)
Penalties: Halfpenny (3)
15 Berrick Barnes, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Christian
Leali'ifano, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 James O'Connor, 9 Will Genia, 8 Wycliff Palu,
7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ben Mowen, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben
Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson
Substitutes: 16 Saia
Fainga'a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Sekope Kepu, 19 Rob Simmons, 20 Liam
Gill, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Pat McCabe, 23 Kurtley Beale
British and Irish Lions:
Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Jonathan
Davies, 11 George North, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Jamie
Heaslip, 7 Sam Warburton(captain), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Alun
Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Alex Corbisiero
16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20
Dan Lydiate, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Sean Maitland