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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 15 October, 2019
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Game management almost cost Lions dear - Gatland

The Wallabies were second-best in almost every part of the game, yet somehow kept themselves in the running.

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

BOTH WARREN GATLAND and his captain Sam Warburton were united in a sense of gratitude that defeat, this time, had not been snatched from the jaws of victory.

The pair have experienced the reversed pain in the red of Wales against Australia. But this time, in the red of the Lions, it should never have come down to Kurtley Beale and his two failed efforts at goal.

When Alex Cuthbert scythed through the make-shift gold defence a after 48 minutes to make it 20-12, that should have been that. Instead, Gatland was left to bemoan his side’s decision making.

“In the first half our scrum did well,” Gatland told SkySports, “our line-out was good. I was disappointed with the game management. We got there and then gave them a couple of soft three-pointers to let them back in the game.”

Gatland’s normally trusty general behind the pack, Mike Phillips, struggled be wield his regular influence today and his position will come under scrutiny this week.

However Jonathan Sexton and his back-line will also be reminded of the need to kick long rather than dinking over the top, despite Gatland protesting that Jonathan Davies should have been awarded a penalty in one such instance that instead led to a Wallaby score.

“It shows how close the series is going to be, there were some great tries out there from both sides.” Gatland added.

“At least we’ll be here to the last day now. I’m pretty happy. It could have gone either way but we’ll take that.

“We’ve got some things to work on –  We spoke there in the box about trusting our systems, because defensively, we felt as long as we kept out line we’ll get an opportunity to turnover. We made a couple of system errors where they got in behind but it’s something for us to work on next week.

“I’m pretty happy. It could have gone either way.”

Warburton too honed in on the task at hand next week as much as what had just passed, saying the job is only half done.

The captain, himself with the bare minimum of game time under his belt after shaking off a knee injury, insisted that fitness was not an issue for the tourists despite the dip in intensity in the fourth quarter.

Chess match

“I think we felt okay.” Warburton said. “It was a chess match and a tiring one. We’re battle-hardened and it tees us up quite nicely.

“They came out very well in the first 20 minutes which is what we expected. It’s always a very quick first 20 minutes but we weathered the storm and put points on the board, and then it was to and fro from there.”

He added: “It’s out of your control when there’s a kick to the opposition team in the last minute. It’s just a massive delight to get the first win and get some momentum, and to get the ball rolling and we look forward to next week.”

‘Out of control’ is a worrying phrase to coaches, but the Lions got most things right in Brisbane. They just need the top 10% to get them over the line in Melbourne.

‘We probably should have lost it’ – winning feeling 12 years on for O’Driscoll

Match report: Lions scrape past battered Wallabies in Suncorp thriller

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Sean Farrell

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