Lions Tour - Beale slip sees Lions clinch first Test win over Australia

Australia's Kurtley Beale slipped and missed a decisive late penalty as the British and Irish Lions claimed a thrilling 23-21 victory in the first Test at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

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It was one of two misses from the replacement in the final 10 minutes and the Australians were made to rue poor place kicking all afternoon with James O'Connor also failing with two penalties and a conversion.

It was an incredible finish to a match that was in the balance for its entirety as George North and Alex Cuthbert both scored hugely valuable tries for the Lions, while Leigh Halfpenny slotted over three penalties and two conversions.

In a tense contest with very little between the two sides throughout, the Lions held a slender 13-12 lead at half-time with Australia having to deal with three backs all going off injured before the 47th minute.

The match was barely underway when Australia were forced to change their game-plan considerably, debutant Christian Leali’ifano colliding with Jonathan Davies, the Welsh centre calling for a stop to the match as soon as his Brumbies counter-part went to ground.

Leali’ifano’s Brumbies team-mate Pat McCabe represented a very different centre for the Wallabies, McCabe playing a more defensive game requiring a slight shuffle of attacking force from the hosts but would himself be forced off just after half-time.

Nonetheless it was Australia who had the first chance to take the lead, Brian O’Driscoll playing the ball off his feet and handing O’Connor a kick at goal. The Melbourne Rebels utility back, finally playing in his favoured fly-half position for Australia, missed the kick and then also a second in exactly the same place after a similar penalty from O’Driscoll just a minute later.

It took a moment of genius from scrum-half Will Genia, arguably the world’s best half-back, to kick-start the scoreboard; after taking a quick tap penalty inside his own half and making 50m, he proceeded to play in rugby league convert Folau with a clever kick for an easy touchdown on his Wallabies debut.

O’Connor this time succeeded with the kick, converting the early try, before the Lions belatedly got on the scoreboard in the 24th minute through the boot of Halfpenny.

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Halfpenny’s penalty was followed just two minutes later by an inspirational solo try from North, the Welsh winger collecting a poor kick from Berrick Barnes, skipping through the tackle of O’Connor and Barnes before just surviving Genia’s ankle tap to slide over the line.

Halfpenny added the extras before North almost got a second try just five minutes later. This time though Folau held the ball up just long enough for Genia to push North’s elbow into touch and the Lions were denied by the television match official’s decision.

The Lions extended their lead through the boot of Halfpenny before Folau combined with fellow debutant Ben Mowen for his second try of the evening. Again the TMO was involved, checking Mowen’s final pass was not forward as Folau slipped through the hands of three Lions to touch down.

Australia watched their second back stretchered off just before the interval. Folau did brilliantly well with the high ball, putting his body between North and Barnes as he collected, only for North to shove Folau into Barnes, the Waratah centre’s head smashing straight into Barnes’ sternum and leaving his NSW team-mate in all sorts of trouble.

While Leali’ifano gave the crowd a thumbs up on being stretchered off the field, and was later seen on the bench, Barnes was rushed straight down the tunnel – the 27-year-old having struggled with migraines and concussions in the past.

The usually metronomic Halfpenny missed his first kick of the tour just before interval to leave the tourists leading hosts Australia by just the one point at the break.

Robbie Deans’s injury woes only got worse after the interval though as McCabe, recently returned from a serious neck injury, was involved in a seemingly innocuous collision with Cuthbert.

The replacement centre took a knee to the back of the shoulder blades as both he and Cuthbert went to ground in search of the loose ball and McCabe quickly became the third Australian stretchered off the field inside 50 minutes.

With Nick Phipps the only replacement back left on the bench for Australia, flanker Michael Hooper moved to inside centre to make space for Liam Gill in the back row and the Lions immediately exposed the defensive weakness resulting from the move as Cuthbert cut a swathe through a hole in the Australian midfield to touch down.

Halfpenny added the conversion before O’Connor pegged the Lions back to five points with a penalty.

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The deficit was further reduced to just the two points when Beale, on for Barnes just before half-time, landed a brilliant kick from 46 metres out.

The final 20 minutes of the match were all about nerve, Halfpenny extending the Lions lead again before Beale almost completed his redemption after a year of off-field troubles by putting Genia in for what looked like being a well-deserved score.

The Lions illegally killed the ball though and Beale kicked the penalty that brought Australia back down to two points.

The Lions had a chance to wrap the match up with an attacking scrum, seven metres out. But while the tourists scrum had been dominant throughout the match, it all fell apart in the final 10 minutes.

Australia survived the attack, Genia again clearing the danger, before Beale was awarded the chance to put his side in the lead when the Lions scrum collapsed for the second time in as many minutes, only for him to pull his kick wide of the posts.

Another collapsed Lions scrum also gifted Beale the chance to steal the win with the last kick of the game, but this time his standing foot slipped from underneath him as he made contact, the ball dropping just short as the Lions maintained their unbeaten Test record in Brisbane.

The second Test will be playing in Melbourne in seven days time (after a tour match against the Rebels on Tuesday) before the series ends in Sydney on July 6.

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