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Brumbies make history as they take Lions’ record
The Brumbies became the first provincial team to beat the British & Irish Lions since Northern Transvaal triumphed 35-30 on 7 June, 1997, as they took the 2013 tourists’ unbeaten record at Canberra Stadium.
Overlooked full back Jesse Mogg was the home hero as he kicked three penalties with his reliable left boot and earned huge swathes of territory with his line kicking. If ever there was a nudge to a national selector then this was it – Robbie Deans will surely havve taken note.
The Lions had escaped by the sink of their teeth in Canberra in 2001, winning 30-28 having trailed by 12 points at the break, and everyone was predicting another tight squeeze against Australia’s top Super Rugby side. And that’s exactly how it worked out in a tense, territory dominated first-half.
New Lions recruit Christian Wade managed to get a turn over with his first touch in the red jersey and moments later his more experienced wing partner, Shane Williams, almost got over in the left corner.
There were difficulties at the line-out throughout the first half for the Lions, who had two calls for not straight as well as two lost throws, and after losing the first one the Brumbies used the possession to ultimately build enough pressure to allow centre Tevita Kuidrani to shove aside Wade and twist inside Rob Kearney to score wide out on the left.
Ian Prior’s conversion attempt hit an upright, but it was only the second time on tour that the tourists had been behind. Stuart Hogg had the chance to cut the gap midway through the half, but his penalty shot rebounded off the left upright and the chance went begging.
It wasn’t a good 40 minutes for the goalkickers of either side because Jesse Mogg was wide, albeit from 55 metres, and then Prior missed with a second penalty shot for the home side in the space of seven minutes.
Mogg then broke the streak with a successful shot from 45 metres to give the home side an 8-0 lead, but the Lions produced their best passage of play from the restart, keeping the ball after Wade had leapt high to regain the ball, and they enticed Brumbies skipper Peter Kimlin to go over the top at a ruck on the edge of his 22 and Hogg got the Lions off the mark with the last kick of the half.
The Lions finally managed create some space for Wade to show off his speed at the start of the second half and after he had raced into the home 22 the visitors picked up a penalty for a high tackle on their wing.
Kearney kicked deep into the corner, but the line-out was lost, and a golden chance with it. That steal gave the home side a boost and they were next to score when Sean O’Brien was penalised for not rolling away in the tackle.
Mogg hit the mark and was on target again 10 minutes later when Ryan Grant was penalised for pulling a Brumbies forward out of a rolling maul. Mogg stretched the lead to 14-3 with his third goal and the Lions were in deep trouble.
The eight point deficit was cut in the 57th minute by Hogg’s second kick of the game, but the Scottish outside half then hit the upright from 45 metres on the hour. Owen Farrell took over the No 10 role after that kick and moments after he had come on, along with Connor Murray and Geoff Parling, he was able to cut the gap to five points with a 25 metre penalty.
Another Farrell penalty from nearly 50 metres with eight minutes to go threw the result back into the melting pot and the reinvigorated Lions played their best rugby in the closing quarter.
But it was the home side who hung on to notch a famous victory – the first by an Australian provincial team over the Lions since Queensland in 1971 – and it means the Lions will go into the first Test in Brisbane against the Qantas Wallabies on Saturday with the first blemish on their record.
Warren Gatland knew it was a gamble to play such a patched-up team against the top Super Rugby team in Australia, but if it means he has a fully fit and fresh team to win the first Test at the weekend it will surely have been worth it.