By Sarah Mockford at Canberra Stadium
In a nutshell
DISJOINTED, LACKING intensity, a shambles at lineout time – just a few ways to describe the Lions’ performance against the Brumbies. Admittedly it got better when the replacements arrived in the second half – they actually managed to win a couple of lineouts! – but this woeful performance ultimately led to the Lions’ first defeat of the tour. Not ideal preparation ahead of the opening Test against Australia.
It was far from an enthralling game – too much kicking, too many errors and too little running rugby – but the Brumbies should be credited for an extremely organised and effective display. It was like feeding time at the zoo for them at the Brumbies – maybe they get extra treats the more turnovers they win – and their in-your-face defence gave the Lions little room to move.
Not that this back-line would have been able to do much had they had any space – first they would have needed the ball and the Lions’ fractured set-piece meant there was little of that. It was all too evident how little training the back-line had done together – miss-timed, inaccurate passes, a lack of ideas and players out of position all to common themes. There was a spark when the reinforcements arrived, but not enough to claw back the deficit.
The Brumbies steal at a scrum in their own half in the 77th minute. The Lions had opted for the scrum twice from a free-kick, banking on their previous superiority to give them a possible match-winning penalty. Instead, the Brumbies stole the ball, kicked downfield and the final minutes were played out in the Lions 22.
Star man – Jesse Mogg
Okay, we usually pick a Lion here but the Brumbies full-back produced a superb performance, showing why many believe he should be in the Wallabies squad. He has a great kicking game, with brilliant length and variety from hand and accuracy from the tee, is safe under the high ball, has a gliding running style and provided the long pass that led to Tevita Kuridrani’s early try. He’s sure to represent Australia sooner rather than later.
Hot and not is a little irrelevant after this game. Rory Best has probably ruled himself out of the Test series against Australia after one of his worst days at lineout time – he simply could not find the target – while the new boys had few chances to impress and when they did get ball they did little with it.
The replacements did make an impact, the front row steadying the set-piece ship and half-backs Owen Farrell and Conor Murray providing more control, but whether that is enough to promote any of them from the bench to the starting XV on Saturday remains to be seen.
Toby Faletau was undoubtedly the Lions standout performer, standing firm when on the back foot, particularly at scrum time, and providing go-forward with ball in hand. He made 16 runs – more than any other Lion – and will have given the coaches food for thought as to whether he or Jamie Heaslip should don the No 8 shirt. Rob Kearney also did well, defending strongly, kicking well and providing a voice of experience in the back-line, but it won’t be enough to usurp Leigh Halfpenny.
It was turnover central – the Brumbies conceding 17 and the Lions 14.
The Lions also lost eight of their own lineouts.
Brumbies – Try: Kuridrani. Pens: Mogg 3.
Lions – Pens: Hogg 2, Farrell 2.