In front of a bumper crowd of 21,655 a courageous young Brumbies team have tamed the British & Irish Lions 14-12 at Canberra Stadium tonight, ending the tourists unbeaten streak on the DHL Australia 2013 Lions Tour.
The Brumbies led 8-3 at half time thanks to a superbly taken try by Tevita Kuridrani, the only try of the match.
In recording the historic victory over the Lions the Brumbies became the first provincial team in Australia to defeat the Lions since Queensland in 1971 and the first provincial team to beat them anywhere in the world since Northern Transvaal, now the Blue Bulls, in 1997.
With the temperature hovering around a crisp 7 degrees at kick off the big crowd and both teams were relieved that the hail that had bombarded Canberra Stadium earlier that afternoon stayed away.
The field was slippery but firm and hopes were high for some open, running Rugby to warm up the chilly ACT air.
The Lions started well and recalled Welsh wizard Shane Williams was bundled into touch metres from the line in the first minute.
But it was the Brumbies who were first to score through a sharp counter attack in the fifth minute. A clearing kick was fielded by fullback Jesse Mogg who floated a long pass to returning centre Andrew Smith.
Smith charged down the left flank before passing inside to young centre Kuridrani, who had two to beat. But with ease the 22-year-old shrugged off English winger Christian Wade while simultaneously stepping inside Irish fullback Rob Kearney to score. Scrumhalf Ian Prior hit the post with the conversion to leave the score at Brumbies 5 Lions 0.
Scottish flyhalf Stuart Hogg had the chance to reduce the deficit on 20 minutes but his well-struck penalty also struck the upright.
The Brumbies were almost in again three minutes later but good defence from Kearney this time cut out flanker Colby Fainga’a’s pass to the unmarked Smith, who had a clear run to the line.
Mogg missed a long range penalty on 31 minutes that would have put the Brumbies further ahead, as did Prior six minutes later – two missed opportunities that the home team might come back to rue.
But Mogg had another chance a minute later and this time the bearded fullback was successful to put the Brumbies up 8-0 in the shadow of half time. But after the siren the Lions were given a penalty for a breakdown infringement and Hogg reduced the deficit to 8-3 as the teams headed for the sheds.
The Lions had most of the play early in the second half but with Irish hooker Rory Best’s lineout throws misfiring spectacularly the Brumbies held firm and after another breakdown infringement Mogg put the home team further ahead 11-3, with a sweetly struck penalty.
A reckless tackle from Scottish prop Ryan Grant on 54 minutes allowed Mogg to stretch the lead to 14-3 and the Brumbies looked home but a breakdown infringement two minutes later allowed Hogg to cut the lead to 14-6.
Lions coach Warren Gatland sent for the cavalry on 57 minutes bringing on Welsh hooker Richard Hibbard for Best, English props Dan Cole and Alex Corbisiero for Grant and fellow Englishman Matt Stevens, Irish scrumhalf Conor Murray for English counterpart Ben Youngs and Welsh flanker Dan Lydiate for Irish backrower Sean O’Brien.
Hogg incredibly hit the post with another penalty shot on 59 minutes but that was his last action of the match being replaced by young English flyhalf Owen Farrell who brought the Lions back to 14-9 with a penalty on 63 minutes.
Farrell landed another ice cool penalty from 40 metres on the angle and with eight minutes left the Brumbies clung to a 14-12 lead.
With Farrell’s swift ball movement and clever distribution changing the complexity of the match, suddenly the Lions looked dangerous.
The crowd warmed to the chant of “Lions, Lions, Lions” as the tourists poured on to the attack but the Brumbies held firm.
With the clock stopped for an injury with two minutes remaining the Brumbies had a scrum on the Lions 22 with the Lions needing to go 75 metres to save the match. But the young Brumbies kept their nerve, and the ball, to close out the match, Jake White’s side leaping into the air to celebrate a famous victory at the final whistle.
DHL AUSTRALIA 2013 LIONS TOUR
FULL TIME SCORE
BRUMBIES 14 (Tevita Kuridrani try; Jess Mogg 3 penalties) defeated British & Irish Lions 12 (Stuart Hogg, Owen Farrell 3 penalties) at Canberra Stadium. (Crowd: 21,655, Half Time: Brumbies 8-3)