CLASSIC MATCH: North’s Brisbane brilliance lifts 2013 Lions

The British & Irish Lions arrived in Australia in 2013 chasing a first series win in 16 years. [more]

CLASSIC MATCH: North’s Brisbane brilliance lifts 2013 Lions

The British & Irish Lions arrived in Australia in 2013 chasing a first series win in 16 years.

Not since the famous 1997 series against the world champion Springboks had the tourists claimed victory.

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Their place in the history books was enshrined in Sydney with their third Test thumping, but the groundwork was laid in Brisbane.
Forwards coach in 2009, Warren Gatland took on the top job four years later and surrounded himself with the likes of Graham Rowntree and Rob Howley – who were also in South Africa – while Andy Farrell came in as defence coach.

Sam Warburton was the captain for the Tour, a bold decision considering legends like Paul O’Connell and Brian O’Driscoll were also in the touring party.

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Wales had just won the 2013 RBS 6 Nations with a 30-3 thumping of England in Cardiff and there was, as a result, a strong Welsh component to the squad.

Backs like George North, Leigh Halfpenny and Jonathan Davies were to be ever-present in the Test series while Ireland’s Jonathan Sexton pulled the strings at fly-half.

Up front Tom Youngs and Richard Hibbard shared the hooker duties but Adam Jones and Alex Corbisero were the main props charged with taking on the Wallaby scrum.

In the second row O’Connell – later replaced by Geoff Parling – and Alun Wyn Jones brought the ballast while the back row was ultra competitive with the likes of Warburton, Tom Croft, Dan Lydiate and Sean O’Brien all sharing time on the flanks with Jamie Heaslip and Taulupe Faletau the two No.8s.
From the outset many thought they had a strong chance against Robbie Deans' Wallabies.


Their first five warm-up games had all ended in victory – including an impressive 47-17 win over the Waratahs with what looked like the bulk of Gatland's Test side in place.

But in midweek before the first Test the Lions had come undone against the Brumbies and lost some of their momentum.

Throw in some injury concerns – North was recovering from a hamstring injury sustained earlier in the tour, Jamie Roberts had already been ruled out as had two loosehead props in Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins and the Test was tough to call.

So when Gatland named his starting XV – made up of eight Welshmen, four Irishmen and three Englishmen –Lions fans breathed a sigh of relief to see North included.

From the Wallaby point of view much of the build-up focused on Deans' inclusion of league-convert Israel Folau on the wing while James O'Connor was handed the No.10 shirt.

Also in the back line Christian Leali'ifano was given his Test debut at inside centre while up front James Horwill captained a pack that had been robbed of both George Smith and David Pocock through injury – although Michael Hooper was a pretty handy deputy on the openside.
The opening stages of the Test match at a raucous Suncorp Stadium were notable only really for a couple of missed kicks at goal by James O’Connor, and the premature end to Leali’ifano’s debut through injury.

But the game burst to life soon after with Folau’s first try in Test rugby, the winger dotting down after Will Genia’s superb tap and go from inside his own half had ripped the Lions to shreds.


Halfpenny reduced arrears with what would become a familiar routine from the kicking tee and then North hit his stride.

Having fielded a poor clearance from Berrick Barnes, the youngster brushed past Pat McCable, left O’Connor for dead then rounded Barnes and beat Genia in a race for the corner and an iconic Lions try.

Halfpenny added the extras and a subsequent penalty and it looked like the Lions would go in at the break leading 13-7.

But there was twist still to come in the opening period when Folau produced another gem, stepping his way into the right corner for his second try of the night.

However, after the break Alex Cuthbert’s score off a first-phase move put the Lions back out in front at 20-12.

Still the Wallabies refused to yield however, and despite a mounting injury list it took two penalty misses in the final ten minutes from Kurtley Beale for the tourists to secure a 23-21 victory.


George North, Wales and Lions winger: 
"My thoughts after I caught the high kick for my try was 'just run' and luckily I saw a gap which opened up, and it was then a case of stepping and trying to finish it off," recalled North after the game.

He was denied a second try by the TMO before Folau produced his second moment of magic. 

He added: "I thought that second one was a try but it goes to the TMO and he said it wasn't, so that's it. I was pretty chuffed with my try in my first Lions Test."
Israel Folau, Australia winger
"I've got to say it's on another level [to State of Origin], with the fans the Lions bring over, they're very passionate and there's a lot of noise throughout the game," said the former rugby league and AFL star.

"It's great. The main thing for me is that I'm really enjoying [Rugby Union] and hopefully the next few weeks, we'll see how we go."
Brian O’Driscoll, Lions legend 
"We had a good position on the scoreboard yet came within a missed kick of losing. Australia always find a way. Always. They are so hard to shake off.

"They are riddled with injuries and they still manage to stay in.


"They missed 14 points in kicks, so deduct a two-point margin of victory for us, that is a 12-pointer for them. They will latch on to that and so should we. There will be no complacency going to Melbourne. No, no chance of that.

"You know Australia are going to be a lot better second time around. They will not allow any thought of us leaving Melbourne with a 2-0 series in the bag. They are not made up that way. They will be mad for it. We have to match that."

The team that won first Test in the Lions' previous two tours Down Under in 1989 and 2001 ended up losing the series.

And it looked like history might be repeating itself when Adam Ashley-Cooper’s late score lifted the Wallabies past the Lions in the second Test in Melbourne.

But in the end that just set the stage for the famous Lions third Test thumping, a 41-16 victory that will live long in the memory.

Australia 21 British and Irish Lions 23

Tries: Folau 2
Conversions: O'Connor
Penalties: O'Connor, Beale 2

Tries: North, Cuthbert
Conversions: Halfpenny 2
Penalties: Halfpenny 3

Australia: Berrick Barnes; Israel Folau, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Christian Leali'ifano, Digby Ioane; James O'Connor, Will Genia; Benn Robinson, Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander, James Horwill (capt), Kane Douglas, Ben Mowen, Michael Hooper, Wycliff Palu.
Replacements: Saia Fainga'a, James Slipper (for Robinson, 68), Sekope Kepu (for Alexander, 58), Rob Simmons (for Douglas, 68), Liam Gill (for McCabe, 47), Nick Phipps (for Ashley-Cooper, 77), Pat McCabe (for Leali'ifano, 2) Kurtley Beale (for Barnes, 38).

Lions: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, Brian O'Driscoll, Jonathan Davies, George North, Jonathan Sexton, Mike Phillips; Alex Corbisiero, Tom Youngs, Adam Jones, Alun Wyn Jones, Paul O'Connell, Tom Croft, Sam Warburton (capt), Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Richard Hibbard (for T Youngs, 65), Mako Vunipola (for Corbisiero, 52), Dan Cole (for A Jones, 52), Geoff Parling (for AW Jones, 70), Dan Lydiate (for Croft, 73), Ben Youngs (for Phillips, 62), Owen Farrell, Sean Maitland.

Scoring sequence: 13' Folau (T) 5-0, J.O'Connor (C) 7-0, 24' Halfpenny (P) 7-3, 26' North (T) 7-8, Halfpenny (C) 7-10, 32' Halfpenny (P) 7-13, 35' Folau (T) 12-13, 49' Cuthbert (T) 12-18, Halfpenny (C) 12-20, 51' J.O'Connor (P) 15-20, 62' Beale (P) 18-20, 66' Halfpenny (P) 18-23, 69' Beale (P) 21-23.

Referee: Chris Pollock (NZ)
Attendance: 52,499
HT – 12-13 


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