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British Lions hold on for nail-biting first Test win over Wallabies

updated 11:20 AM EDT, Sat June 22, 2013
Leigh Halfpenny, try scorer Alex Cuthbert and Brian O'Driscoll celebrate the decisive score in Brisbane.
Leigh Halfpenny, try scorer Alex Cuthbert and Brian O'Driscoll celebrate the decisive score in Brisbane.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • British and Irish Lions beat Australia in First Test
  • 23-21 victory in Brisbane in fiercely fought match
  • Two tries apiece from each team
  • Late penalty misses by Kurtley Beale for the Wallabies

(CNN) -- The British and Irish Lions held on for a 23-21 victory over Australia Saturday in a nail-biting first Test in Brisbane.

The opening match of the three-Test series swung on a few key moments and the Wallabies were left to count the cost of two late missed penalties from Kurtley Beale.

His first effort from just 30 meters out went wide of the posts and when presented with another chance from a little further out, Beale cruelly slipped as he was making his attempt.

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It left Warren Gatland's men and the thousands of their supporters who had turned the Suncorp Stadium into a sea of red to celebrate a famous victory.

"It was relief, but we deserved to win that game," Gatland told reporters after his side's narrow triumph.

Read: Lions suffer first defeat in Australia to Brumbies

They led 13-12 at halftime, despite two tries from Australia wing Israel Folau, who was making a sensational debut just five months after switching to rugby union from rugby league and Australian Rules football.

The Lions responded with a superb try of their own through Welshman George North, converted by Leigh Halfpenny, who also made two further penalties to give the tourists the edge.

Right wing Alex Cuthbert went over for a second Lions try -- again converted by Halfpenny -- early in the second half -- to leave them 20-12 ahead.

James O'Connor and replacement Beale kicked two penalties to give the Wallabies renewed hope, but the ever accurate Halfpenny's boot stretched the lead to 23-18.

Read: Welshman Warburton to lead Lions but no Wilkinson

But after yet another careless infringement by the Lions left Beale with the opportunity to close the gap to just two points after his own surging run led to a penalty.

Beale, returning to the Wallabies side, then wasted the two late opportunities to leave his side facing up to defeat.

"It was very frustrating but I'm proud of the effort we put in. It was a trying circumstance to put themselves in a position to win the game," Australia coach Robbie Deans said.

"It was a courageous performance that would stack up alongside any but it was disappointing not to get the reward."

His side will take heart from history because the last time the Lions toured Australia in 2001, they won the opening Test at The Gabba, but lost the series 2-1.

Next Saturday sees the second Test in Melbourne with the third and final match in Sydney a week later.

Meanwhile, world champions New Zealand beat France 24-9 in the the Third Test of their series in New Plymouth. The All Blacks had won the previous two matches and completed a clean sweep.

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