Cracking stuff in Brisbane this morning. The Queensland Reds gave the Lions a real match and tore into them from the off. It was a classic northern v southern hemisphere clash with the Reds looking to run the ball at every opportunity and the Lions seeking sanctuary in set pieces and forward play where they held a significant advantage.
It was a hard but fair game and the Queenslanders lost four players during the contest, two to gaping head wounds from clashes and two stretchered off semi-conscious from thundering tackles. It wasn't a game for the faint hearted and heads and bodies were put on the line. The Lions didn't go unscathed with Tommy Bowe breaking a bone in his hand which will end his tour and they will all be carrying knocks and bruises this evening.
Owen Farrell kicked the Lions in front but the Reds landed the first try when the impressive Luke Morahan shimmed his way through the Lions rearguard before kicking and out-running Stuart Hogg to touchdown under the posts for a superb individual try. Farrell's boot and a fortunate Ben Youngs score which ran well for him from a ruck gave the Lions a 16-7 lead which looked like it would be good enough.
Queensland Reds battled on and Nick Frisby ran in to reduce the arrears but an easy conversion was squandered. Farrell landed two more penalties to secure the victory. The Lions kicking was booed at every attempt by the Queenslanders in the 50,000 crowd who had come to see running rugby.
As well as Morahan, Quade Gooper looked the Wallaby he is but he has fallen out with the Aussie management after critical comments and looks unlikely to get another chance on this tour. Ben Lucas looked incredibly quick and dangerous in the opening half and Beau Robinson looked like a wrecking ball on the field until he collided head on with Mako Vunipola and was knocked out cold before he hit the turf.
The game was played in a great spirit and the players were genuine in their congratulations, hugs and handshakes at the finish. Farrell looked to have scored an excellent try at one point but as the referee called for the replay, Farrell could clearly be seen telling him that he lost control before touching down that I thought was an entirely appropriate gesture for this match.
Three more warm-ups before the first Test and it's Combined New South Wales on Tuesday next. If Gatland picks the right 15 it could be Wales v New South Wales, something I suppose the early settlers could never have imagined.