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The British & Irish Lions

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Lions go 1-0 up

22nd June 2013 12:57

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Fine try: George North

Wallaby back Kurtley Beale missed two late penalty attempts as the British and Irish Lions held on to win 23-21 in the first Test in Brisbane on Saturday.

The replacement was unsuccessful off the tee as an Australian outfit decimated by injuries almost pulled off a famous victory against the tourists.

It was not to be for the home side who had lost Christian Lealiifano, Pat McCabe, Berrick Barnes and Adam Ashley-Cooper to respective injuries.

Instead the Lions managed to take a crucial 1-0 lead in the series with a result that will be best remembered for George North's impact on the wing - his impressive individual score in the first-half silencing the 42,499 at Suncorp Stadium.

Australia, who were handing debuts to Israel Folau, Lealiifano and Ben Mowen, lost two men during an enthralling opening 40 in Brisbane.

Their first to depart was inside centre Lealiifano, who was forced off inside a minute after being knocked out attempting to tackle Jonathan Davies.

That hard-running start from the Welshman was not reciprocated by his Irish midfield colleague though as Brian O'Driscoll coughed up two penalties. Luckily for the 34-year-old, both those offences were not capitalised on by Wallaby place-kicker James O'Connor.

The Lions would soon find their rhythm and enjoyed field position and possession in the opposition 22, moving through the phases until O'Driscoll was again penalised, this time for holding on at ruck time. That would be the moment that announced Folau on the Test stage.

From the penalty, Will Genia, as is his wont, went quickly five metres from his own line and promptly set off, causing a backtracking Mike Phillips several issues as the nine held off committing to the tackle. Genia's magic ended with a grubber to the supporting Folau who cruised in for the first try. Robbie Deans would have been delighted to see O'Connor knock over the simple two points for a seven-point lead with thirteen minutes on the clock.

Despite falling behind, the travelling Lions supporters will have been warmed to witness the first scrum of the game being dominated by the tourists. That battle up front was always going to be key so when Wallaby captain James Horwill was penalised for being all over Paul O'Connell at a line-out, Leigh Halfpenny would gratefully reward his forward pack's hard work to make it 7-3 with just over a quarter of the opening Test gone at Suncorp.

Things would get even better for the travelling supporters two minutes later when North collected a kick deep inside his own territory before sprinting through the defence to score.

Halfpenny's touchline conversion made it 7-10 before North almost barged over in the same corner but for TMO replays to show his elbow was in touch. Consolation was found via an earlier penalty offence, which Halfpenny slotted to continue his excellent kicking form.

Folau would then strike again, this time through all of his own good work as he slipped tackles before going in on the right. O'Connor's missed conversion meant that the Lions were 13-12 up at the half-time break, with the win there for the taking for both sides.

Upon the turnaround, the Wallabies would lose Barnes and McCabe to respective injuries which meant openside flanker Michael Hooper would move to centre in a make-shift line-up. And the Lions would capitalise on that fact when North's Welsh team-mate Alex Cuthbert ran through the midfield defence for a converted try that made it 12-20 at the Brisbane venue.

O'Connor would reply off the tee before replacement Beale landed three points to leave it 18-20 to the Lions with 20 minutes remaining. The tension was palpable in the final quarter.

Halfpenny and Beale traded shots inside the final fourteen minutes and with six minutes left, Beale had the chance to kick the Wallabies in front but he pushed his attempt wide.

Then at the death Beale had another kick to win it, but he dramatically slipped on his run-up as the chance went begging, sparking celebrations from the Lions players and fans.

Man of the match: Jamie Heaslip was solid, as was Jonathan Davies, Brian O'Driscoll and Leigh Halfpenny. But for his ability to change a game, George North gets this gong, seeing off opposition wing and two-try debutant Israel Folau. North's try was something special.

Moment of the match: Unfortunate that it has to be a mistake but Kurtley Beale's slip in the act of kicking his last-minute penalty effort ultimately saw the Lions hold on. Heartbreak for Beale, elation for the Lions who, like twelve years ago, take the first Test in Brisbane.

Villain of the match: Delon Armitage's wave to Brock James was given the thumbs down by us and the same goes to George North's finger wag. Let's cut that stuff out please guys.

The scorers:

For Australia:
Tries: Folau 2
Con: O'Connor
Pen: O'Connor, Beale 2

For B&I Lions:
Tries: North, Cuthbert
Con: Halfpenny 2
Pen: Halfpenny 3

Australia: 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 (c), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 Benn Robinson.
Replacements: 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: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 George North, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sam Warburton (c), 6 Tom Croft, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Alex Corbisiero.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Makovina Vunipola, 18 Dan Cole, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Dan Lydiate, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Sean Maitland.

Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Romain Poite (France)

By Adam Kyriacou