Norfolk’s Tom Youngs stars in Lions 23-21 first Test win over Australia
- Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images
Aylsham's Tom Youngs helped inspire the British and Irish Lions to a tense 23-21 first Test win over Australia in Brisbane on Saturday to claim a vital psychological advantage in the three-match series.
Youngs and his brother Ben became the first siblings since Scott and Gavin Hastings 20 years ago to feature in a Test match for the Lions. The duo were on the field together for a little under five minutes in the second period after scrum-half Ben replaced Mike Phillips at the Suncorp stadium. Tom was withdrawn shortly after for Welsh hooker Richard Hibbard after a superb all-round impact on his Lions' Test debut.
The former centre's latest heroics in the biggest game of his career capped a stellar 12 months that also saw him represent England in the Six Nations and named Premiership player-of-the-season after club side Leicester Tigers recently lifted the Premiership trophy at Twickenham.
Australia were ultimately punished for their goal-kicking lapses - 14 points went begging from the boot - as Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor struggled for consistency with Beale spurning two last-gasp penalties to inflict a damaging defeat on Warren Gatland's squad. In contrast, Lions' full-back Leigh Halfpenny landed five out of six shots, and the tourists now head to Melbourne knowing that victory next Saturday would give them a first Test series triumph since they toppled South Africa 16 years ago.
King's Lynn-born Welsh international George North scored a breathtaking 60-metre solo effort that will go down as one of the great Lions' tries, with countryman Alex Cuthbert also crossing the try line early in the second period.
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The Wallabies replied in kind with a brilliant try double from debutant wing Israel Folau in a game of brutal intensity which saw three Australian players - centre Christian Leali'ifano, full-back Berrick Barnes and substitute Pat McCabe - carried off forcing openside flanker Michael Hooper to play the final 30 minutes in midfield.
Welsh head coach Gatland had suffered plenty of heartache against Australia in the past and the New Zealander admitted he feared the worst again when Beale lined up the final penalty kick.
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'I thought, 'This can't happen again',' he said. 'It's happened to me the last four times with Australia, always in the last minute or so, so you need one of those to go your way. It was a tough game. In the first half we didn't scrum well and that was disappointing. It was poor game management. We've gone in front but then given away soft three-pointers and given them a chance to get back in it. It shows how close the series is going to be, but 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, but I'm really happy with the result.'
Captain Sam Warburton has already declared it only a 'job half done' after his side clung on to a priceless first Test win.
'That was entertaining, that's for sure,' he said. 'It was too close for comfort and the last 20 minutes were really hard. You have to give it to Australia, they went all the way and we'll expect a lot more in the next two Test matches. It's half a job done. It was like with Wales all over again (at the end). It's out of your control when there's a kick to the other team in the last minute. There's massive delight to get the first win and get some momentum, and to get the ball rolling. We'll look forward to next week now.'