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British & Irish Lions
Tide turning in Lions' favour?
Tom Hamilton in Brisbane
June 23, 2013
Rob Howley enjoys the Lions' win over the Wallabies © Getty Images
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It was a night when the pendulum of fate swung the British & Irish Lions' way. While Chris Pollock's pedantic and overly officious take on the breakdown put a spoke in the Lions' wheel, the tourists still managed to come through with the all-important first Test win over the Wallabies.

Earlier this week - it is astonishing that our trip to Canberra was only a few days ago, it seems like it was on another tour, in another month - we spoke with Jake White. The Brumbies' coach said whoever wins the first Test will win the series.

But it could have been very different for Warren Gatland's men. While the penalties went against them, everything else went for them. The Wallabies were left counting the cost of a brutal encounter. Their goalkicker Christian Lealiifano lasted just 52 seconds before being carted off unconscious. It was a cruel, unsympathetic debut.

Worse was yet to come for the Wallabies. Pat McCabe and Berrick Barnes could not complete the full 80 - both are doubts for the next Test and McCabe was spotted later that evening in the Australian's hotel complete with neck brace.

Adam Ashley-Cooper also reportedly dislocated his shoulder. But they still had two shots to win the match with Kurtley Beale handed the kicking tee on both occasions. Thankfully from a Lions' point of view, he failed to adhere to the green and gold script and the kicks went wide.

For those of a Lions persuasion sitting in the stand, memories and emotions would have harked back four years to Pretoria where Morne Steyn knocked over the last minute penalty to win the second Test. It was a game where the Lions had five players in hospital post-match.

The first Test here was a bizarrely morphed opposed double from that game four years ago. Lady luck was smiling on Gatland. He knows all about heartbreak against the Wallabies - Wales' last three Tests have all been snatched away from them in the dying seconds of the match.

 
At the start of the tour the headlines concerned injury crises, biting and spying. Now it is a case of Bowe returning, opposition injuries, suspensions and slipping
 

But Beale's John Terry-esque slip saw the Lions emerge victorious. Gatland, though, was reluctant to hang out the bunting when he spoke with the press earlier today: "We know the performance wasn't brilliant, but it's all about the result. Australia took bit of a battering last night with injuries and we're in a good place at the moment."

News post-match also saw Wallabies skipper James Horwill cited. Looking at the replays, it looked a clumsy but reckless stamp on Alun-Wyn Jones and it should lead to a suspension - Gatland told the press: "I played in the days when rucking was allowed and I've still got some scars that bear witness to the ruckings I had, but for me the head was sacrosanct and you stayed away from that."

Off the field, the Lions are also experiencing their fare share of medical miracles. George North should not have been fit for the first Test, but he played the full 80. And Gatland will have Tommy Bowe at his disposal for the weekend's game, against all odds.

"The surgeon said that that injury is normally a six-to-eight-week injury, so to be fit in three weeks is magnificent," Gatland said. "It's important not to risk him on Tuesday."

At the start of the tour the headlines concerned injury crises, biting and spying. Now it is a case of Bowe returning, opposition injuries, suspensions and slipping; it all looks like the tide is turning in the Lions' favour. But they won't admit to that.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Tom Hamilton is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.
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Tom Hamilton was brought up near the stands of the Recreation Ground and joined ESPN in 2011. He is now Associate Editor of ESPNscrum.
Follow him on Twitter @tomESPNscrum