'Plod' Harrison has last laugh
July 15, 2001
Justin Harrison, revelling after his influential Test debut in the Wallabies' series win over the British and Irish Lions, had the last laugh at outspoken Lion Austin Healey.
It was the 27-year-old giant lock's crucial lineout win against Keith Wood's throw in the final minutes that thwarted the Lions from mounting a forward drive for a match-winning converted try.
Instead the Lions could not breach the world champions' defence and went down 29-23 here Saturday as Australia clinched their first-ever series win over the pride of British and Irish rugby.
Lions managers had been livid over taunts Healey made on the eve of the deciding Test, calling Harrison, among other things, "an ape, a plank and a plod".
Healey pulled out hours before the third Test with a back complaint, but in his case the damage had already been done with Harrison and his Australian teammates given the motivation to ram
Harrison, one of the heroes of Australia's tense victory, returned serve on Healey in the post-match press conference.
"Austin Healey wasn't playing tonight so he didn't have much of an effect," said Harrison.
"He doesn't seem to have such a strong command of the English language when he was calling me
"I'm pretty happy with the game I played and he can think about the game he should have played."
Lions manager Donal Lenihan said Healey's outburst had been "hugely disappointing".
"That aspect has been hugely disappointing. We've spoken about it before, I'm not going to go into it again, but there are problems there that need to be resolved.
"We've said from day one that Harrison was the outstanding lineout forward that we've come across in Australia and I think he can be proud of how he played in his first Test cap tonight."
Healey, along with fellow England teammate Matt Dawson, had been critical earlier in the tour of coach Graham Henry's rigorous training sessions, with Dawson having to apologise for his comments
Harrison will be long remembered in Australian rugby for robbing Lions captain Martin Johnson of his lineout throw as the tourists threatened the line with minutes to go, needing a converted try to win.
"The boys wanted to stay on the ground and stop the drive. I said let's have a crack at it, the easiest way to stop a drive is to win the ball in the first place," Harrison said.
"I knew that Johnson was the captain. I knew they'd look to him for inspiration and I was pretty sure he would call the lineout to himself. A lot of things had to go right and they did."
Outgoing Australian coach Rod Macqueen also mentioned Healey's criticism, saying there was a fine line between confidence and arrogance.
"As I said from day one we respect the Lions, but I hope that as long as the Wallabies exist that they'll always respect their opposition," he said.
"I always talk to the players about the fine line between confidence and arrogance. A confident side always respects their opposition, an arrogant side doesn't."
Macqueen absolved Lions' counterpart Graham Henry, describing him as a great coach.
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