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Lions win what the doctor ordered, but they pay the price

Three players crucial to the Lions’ chances are homeward bound from Australia.

Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

THE GAME WAS exactly what Warren Gatland would have wanted. The fall-out from it, the last thing he needed.

Seven days on from the Tour’s opening fixture, the Lions finally found an opponent able to push them for more than 40 minutes.

The manner in which the Reds dominated the opening exchanges of their 12-22 defeat should not cause be of great concern.

Queensland’s Super XV side pride themselves on the bubbly free-flowing style that Quade Cooper delivers. Australian, with or without Cooper, are a totally different kettle of fish.

Having dispatched the hard-living Barbarians in the sauna-like conditions of Hong Kong, and cruised to victory over the Western Force’s second stringers, the trip down under looked like it was quickly running out of steam. Being run close in Brisbane will sharpen the focus for the Tests, now just a fortnight away.

From the very first minute, the Reds threw caution to the wind and threw the ball to the wing. Tommy Bowe was very fortunate to avoid a yellow card for a high hit on Ben Tapuai as the centre was about to release Rod Davies for a first-minute sprint up the touch-line.

Bowe’s presence became crucial, as he demonstrated vastly superior defensive nous to Alex Cuthbert on the opposing wing. It was one of a handful of Cuthbert errors that led to Luke Morahan’s superb individual run under the posts for the first of only two Reds scores.

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Even with a 10-point gap, an even with the Lions guilty of some less than clinical finish; the cut and thrust of a truly competitive game with a packed out Suncorp Stadium baying for every decision will battle-harden this group.

Ben Youngs was fortunate to claim his score, but the initiative he showed to dispossess Jake Schatz and claim seven points.

“The boys worked very hard.” Youngs told SkySports after playing alongside his brother. “Queensland brought it to us. The boys dug in. We knew we would be under pressure at times. We know we will get it right next time.”

Most of that digging in, arrived after the Lions took a 7-16 lead into half-time interval. With an untimely tropical rain coating the Suncorp, the game fell into the tourists’ hands and they were able to stymie the momentum the hosts needed to threaten the try-line.

‘Character’

Once the cavalry arrived from the bench, the screws were being well and truly tightened and it was fitting that Paul O’Connell would force the penalty that put the game out of reach.

“Pretty happy with that one,” said Gatland. “It was a tough game and the weather conditions didn’t help. I thought we showed great character.

“They threw everything at us in the first 20 but we toughed it out. They just kept working hard. They keep digging for what was required. A couple of decisions didn’t go our way but the boys stuck at it.”

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©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

That’s the pleasing part, but the matters which will give him concern will be echoed by whoever is in charge of the logistics budget.

Flights home had already been booked for Cian Healy and Gethin Jenkins this week. The two leading contenders for a single Test position, gone, with Alex Corbisiero and Ryan Grant winging their way in the opposite direction.

Now, Bowe will join them. The man who normally wears a smile from ear to ear could not hide his despair after being informed that the broken bone in his hand would need an operation.

A big question mark still hangs over Rob Kearney and he will be joined for hamstring treatment by Jonathan Sexton after the out-half received some in-game treatment to loosen up the muscle.

It’s a balancing act to keep the squad happy and your front-liners fit. Just now, it seems things are beginning to wobble.

Broken bone brings premature end to Tommy Bowe’s Lions Tour

The winners and losers from the Lions’ hard-fought win over the Reds

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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