Lions vs Brumbies
Lions vs Brumbies, June 18 at Canberra Stadium. Photo: Mark Metcalfe
Former British and Irish Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward has led the international media’s praise of the ACT Brumbies, describing their breakdown performance against the Lions on Tuesday night as "spectacular".
As much of the post-match reporting of the Brumbies’ 14-12 upset win at Canberra Stadium focused on the Lions’ readiness to face the Wallabies in Brisbane on Saturday, there was plenty of recognition of Jake White’s young history-making team.
Not one known for his praise of Australian rugby, Woodward, who shares with White the elite company of World Cup-winning coaches, said the ACT was the rightful winner.
‘‘The Brumbies were spectacular at the breakdown in terms of their technique and ferocious intensity,’’ Woodward wrote for The Daily Mail.
‘‘They eclipsed the Lions because they were stronger and better drilled. Their stats in this area are remarkable in the Super 15, with a ball retention rate of 96 per cent.
‘‘I have never seen figures like that, but Tuesday’s game showed why they are riding high in the competition down here.’’
The first encounter between the teams since their epic encounter in 2001, pit a second-string Lions team against a Brumbies squad missing almost a dozen of its top squad.
Writing for The Independent, Chris Hewett said the Lions couldn’t offer up any excuses after becoming the first team to lose to an Australian provincial team since 1971.
‘‘The Brumbies may be the best team in Australia, with the obvious exception of the Wallabies themselves, but they were every bit as weakened by injury as their more illustrious opponents and had no great expectation of victory.
‘‘When [Rory] Best, the Irish hooker and captain for the night, acknowledged a few moments after the final whistle that the hosts had shown more appetite for the contest, it was a terrible admission. Hunger should never, ever, be an issue for the Lions.’’
The Mirror took a similar view.
‘‘Instead of going into the record books as the first British Isles squad to win all of their matches on a tour, the 2013 vintage find themselves inducted into the Lions' hall of shame,’’ wrote Alex Spink of The Mirror.
‘‘What, you might ask, did the Lions expect when they picked such a scratch team against Australia’s best provincial side, albeit one missing 11 first-choice players?’’
Brumbies players singled out for praise included backline players Jesse Mogg, Matt Toomua and the night’s only tryscorer Tevita Kuridrani.
But it was loose forwards and Canberra products Colby Fainga’a and captain Peter Kimlin who won the major plaudits.
The Independent’s Hewett described the duo as ‘‘superb’’, while Robert Kitson of The Guardian said Kimlin’s attacking of the Lions’ lineout throws was criticial to the Brumbies’ success.
‘‘There were particular issues up front, where the Brumbies dominated the breakdown and preyed on Rory Best's increasingly fallibility at the lineout. Eight Lions throws went astray in all and the uncertainty spread like ripples across the nearby Lake Burley Griffin.’’
While almost all the analysis suggested the Brumbies had delivered a big dint to the Lions’ confidence ahead of the first Test in Brisbane, Sir Clive Woodward curiously found a dark lining to the silver cloud for Wallabies coach Robbie Deans.
"In a funny way, the Brumbies’ victory piles yet more pressure on [Deans],’’ he wrote.
‘‘Now a provincial side has beaten the Lions, the Australian public can smell more blood. It highlights the error Deans made by not releasing the Wallabies to play these games; more matches like yesterday’s and the Lions would not have put together so many confidence-building wins.’’
According to ESPN , the Brumbies’ win was only the fourth by an Australian provincial team over the Lions since World War II, putting them in the same company as the 1971 Queensland team, and the NSW teams of 1950 and 1959.