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Gatland relieved after narrow win

Warren Gatland voiced his relief after Australia's Kurtley Beale missed a penalty with the final kick of the game as the British and Irish Lions opened the Test series with victory in Brisbane.

Beale slipped during his run up and the ball fell short, enabling the tourists to finish 23-21 winners in a nerve-jangling contest at Suncorp Stadium. As Wales coach, Gatland - who revealed Tommy Bowe and Manu Tuilagi will be fit for the second Test - has seen his side concede last-gasp defeats to the Wallabies and he feared a similar outcome.

"My first reaction was 'this isn't going to happen again'. It's happened before in the last couple of minutes - but they only kick those goals against Wales. Then my reaction was relief," he said.

George North's stunning 26th-minute solo try helped the Lions to a triumph in a gripping contest and Gatland insisted the tourists were worthy winners at a ground perceived to be a Wallaby stronghold.

"We tried to play a bit of rugby, probably too much in the first half. We knew it was going to be tight, there's not a lot of difference between the two sides," he said. "Like a sparring match the teams were finding out a bit about each other in the first Test. Both teams will get better after that hit out. It wasn't the prettiest performance, but it was the victory we deserved."

Jubilant Lions captain Sam Warburton paid tribute to North, saying: "I've always thought that George is an immense athlete and is the best athlete I've seen. When he gets his hands on the ball he's extremely difficult to defend against. We're fortunate that we have a lot of wingers with exceptional talent."

Australia cancelled their press conference scheduled for later on Saturday to take stock of a startling succession of injuries that decimated their backline.

Christian Leali'ifano, Berrick Barnes and Pat McCabe were stretchered off, while Digby Ioane and Adam Ashley-Cooper played through the pain barrier to stay on the pitch.

"That was very frustrating. I'm proud of the effort. It was a courageous performance to stack up alongside any," coach Robbie Deans said. "To give themselves a chance of winning the game was a good effort, but obviously we didn't so now we go to Melbourne having to win. We'll assemble a team, go to work and put out a team next Saturday.

"There appears that there will be some need for some changes to the team, but I haven't had the feedback yet. Let's hope it's not as grave as appeared in the first instance. That was an epic struggle out there and either side could have won."


From Belfast Telegraph