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British and Irish Lions suffer first defeat on Australia tour

updated 5:04 PM EDT, Tue June 18, 2013
Coach Warren Gatland leaves the pitch after the Lions' first loss on tour, four days ahead of the first Test against Australia
Coach Warren Gatland leaves the pitch after the Lions' first loss on tour, four days ahead of the first Test against Australia
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • British and Irish Lions finally come unstuck in sixth match of ten-game tour of Australia
  • Brumbies are first provincial side to beat the Lions in 14 years
  • Lions' defeat comes four days before opening Test against Australia in Brisbane

(CNN) -- The British and Irish Lions' dream of going unbeaten in their tour of Australia was shattered in Canberra as provincial side ACT Brumbies won a tight game 14-12.

The tourists had widely spoken of their desire to become only the second team in Lions history to go undefeated but a combination of factors counted against them on Tuesday.

Primary among these was the desire to avoid any further injuries just four days ahead of the opening Test against Australia in Brisbane, with not one of the starting XV against the Brumbies likely to start on Saturday.

Instead, the Lions sent out a side comprising several players drafted in as replacements for those who have been ruled out of the tour through injury, with many of the new arrivals having had just one training session after only arriving in Australia a few days ago.

"It's disappointing but in fairness to the Brumbies, they played well and put us under pressure at the breakdown," coach Warren Gatland told the Lions' official website.

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"The first half performance was not good enough and we got what we deserved. We had that debate whether to let them work their way through it or make changes, and we had to think about Saturday as well.

"We made some changes and gave them a rocket at halftime, and I thought we were much better (in the second half)."

Read: Lions maul Barbarians in tour opener

Having sought to emulate the Lions team of 1974, who finished their tour of South Africa with 21 wins and a draw from their 22 games, the current crop's first defeat came in the sixth game of their ten-match tour.

Brumbies coach Jake White said the victory may even have even eclipsed the World Cup he won with his native South Africa in 2007.

"This is as big as it gets for me," said the man named Coach of the Year on two occasions by the International Rugby Board.

"I hold the Lions in high regard, it's an important of rugby union.

"I've won a World Cup, it was a massive achievement and I enjoyed that but I have to say I'm really honored to have had the opportunity to first of all coach against the Lions and now, with a little group of young players, to have something to be remembered in history.

"The players are over the moon -- I don't think they expected it at all."

The Lions fielded three players making their debut -- Christian Wade, Brad Barritt and Billy Twelvetrees -- but they still had a wealth of experience in the side, with a cumulative total of 580 caps far outnumbering the Brumbies' 28.

One of the most experienced was a player who would never have dreamed of playing just a matter of days ago -- former Wales star Shane Williams, who retired from international rugby two years ago.

The 36-year-old has been playing second division rugby in Japan of late but was called up to guard against further injuries.

Seven players have already been forced out of a tour just two weeks old, so allowing Williams to become the oldest back in Lions' history -- and the second oldest player overall.

The winger had his best chance after just two minutes, when forced into touch just two meters from the try line, and the Brumbies took advantage shortly after as Tevita Kuridrani crossed for an early try.

Despite missing a handful of injured first-teamers themselves, the hosts were 8-3 up at the interval and extended that lead with two further penalties from Jesse Mogg in the second half.

Substitute Owen Farrell reduced the deficit with two successful kicks himself but this was too little too late as the Lions paid the price for resting key personnel.

"We have to take it on the chin and start to focus on Saturday," said Gatland.

After the opening Test against the Wallabies on Saturday, the two teams meet again in Melbourne on June 29 and then in the final Test on 6 July, which takes place in Sydney.

The Lions have not won a series since triumphing in South Africa in 1997.

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