Qantas Wallabies full back Kurtley Beale says the atmosphere created by British & Irish Lions supporters at the Etihad Stadium made Saturday’s second Test one of the most memorable moments of his stellar career to date.
Beale played the full 80 minutes in Melbourne and he was amazed by the incredible level of support from all sections of the travelling fans.
“It was unreal. I heard we broke the (attendance) record there. It was an unbelievable feeling playing in Melbourne, at the Etihad Stadium. Although the crowd are a bit far out from the pitch, they definitely felt like they were on top (of you),” said Beale, who insists he is incredibly grateful to be involved in the series given his recent off-field problems.
“Hearing the ‘Lions’ chant throughout the whole 80 minutes was probably one of the best feelings anyone can ever dream of playing under. We’re very lucky to be able to be a part of it. I’m very lucky and I can’t wait for game three.
“To be a part of it is amazing. I’m very grateful, and now it’s up to me to do my role in the team and help out wherever I can. It’s a big game next week.”
A big game, indeed. But so was last week, and the week before.
Beale suffered the ultimate heartache in the first international when his two late missed kicks – including one with the very last play of a pulsating encounter – saved the Lions’ skin at the Suncorp Stadium.
Fast forward seven days and it was the tourists’ who were ruing a last-gasp shot falling just short as Leigh Halfpenny’s 55-metre effort narrowly missed the target.
Much has since been made of the need for Halfpenny to stay positive and put the missed chance behind him in the lead up to deciding Test in Sydney – just as Beale did when swapping his pain in Brisbane for much happier memories in Melbourne.
“I just had to keep moving on. I couldn’t let my role within the team affect the guys around me. I had to keep upbeat and keep my body language up, and I felt I did that,” added Beale.
“Obviously, it did affect me a little bit, but in life you’ve got to go forward, and it’s the same in rugby. You’ve got to bounce back and we had a great opportunity. The preparation all week was great: the guys all knew their roles, it was a great strategy, and we knew that we were in for a true Test match, and that’s how it proved.
“I was praying a little bit (when Halfpenny lined up his last-minute effort). I was in the same position last week. It’s a big kick, a massive kick, and there are a lot of things going through your head. He was striking the ball pretty well, really well, and it just fell short by a couple of metres. We were pretty lucky.
“It was a big ask, but he’d been striking the ball well all series – I think he’d only missed two. We were just very lucky in the end, but full credit to our guys for sticking to it for the full 80.”
Beale wasn’t the only Australian to put potentially damaging issues to bed last week, with the Rebels star quick to praise skipper James Horwill ahead of his disciplinary hearing this evening.
Horwill was cleared of stamping on Lions lock Alun Wyn Jones prior to the second Test but faces a second hearing in Melbourne at 8pm local time tonight.
Beale says his captain never let the issue distract his focus from keeping the series alive and insists it would be a huge boost to have him available for Round 3 in five days’ time.
“He’s a great man, a great leader. He leads by example in all facets of the game. He’s very inspirational and can say the right words at the right time to really get the boys up for the occasion.
“He had his own distraction in the week and the way he played was outstanding. Full credit to him for bouncing back and for continuing on with his role within the team.
“The guys respected that and there was a lot of support around the group, which was great. That’s what’s great about being a part of this special group – you’ve got guys who are willing to support you no matter what and you can feel that bond and vibe coming together very well now.”