Austin Healey scored a try in injury time which Matt Dawson converted to give the British and Irish Lions a dramatic 30-28 win over the Super 12 champions ACT Brumbies on Tuesday.
The Lions’ second-string team were outplayed for almost the entire match but pinched victory after the bell with a remarkable score by Healey to avoid their second defeat in a fortnight and keep morale sky high after Saturday’s first test win.
Both Dawson and Healey had been in trouble with the Lions management at the weekend after newspaper columns criticising tour management.
The Lions trailed 19-3 midway through the first half after the Brumbies ran in three early tries through Mark Bartholemeusz, Willie Gordon and Des Tuiavii but slowly clawed their way back into the match, their last provincial game of the tour.
Healey scored an intercept try against the run of play to reduce the deficit to 22-10 at halftime before flanker David Wallace crossed after the re-start and Dawson kicked a penalty to cut the margin to two points.
After another goal apiece the Brumbies, fielding just four of their regular players who won this year’s Super 12 title, looked to have sealed the match when scrumhalf Travis Hall booted a late penalty to put his side five points in front.
Throwing caution to the wind for one of the few times in the match, the Lions spun the ball across the field three times before Healey tip-toed his way past two defenders to touch down on the left hand side to level the scores and Dawson held his nerve to kick the conversion.
The inspired Dawson said he had no doubts that he would find the target with the decisive kick.
“I had all the right things going through my mind,” said the England scrumhalf who has had a tough few days after criticising the Lions management in a newspaper column on Saturday.
“I had a lot of people behind me this week.
“We were very disappointed with ourselves early on and we showed a lot of character today.”
Healey, who also went public with his dissatisfaction last week after failing to earn a berth in the test XV, said: “It was a great team effort, we never gave up despite some of the decisions not going our way.
“We fought hard and just did it at the end.”
Asked about Dawson, he said: “It meant a lot to him. It sums up his character. He’s had a hard week but that redeems him to everyone — the squad, the management and the fans.”
Lions coach Graham Henry described the result unbelievable.
“The Brumbies were playing superbly…to come back to do what they did was marvellous,” he said.
“It will helps us a great deal. It will give confidence to the whole group.”
He also had special words for Dawson, who has since apologised for his comments.
Henry said the scrumhalf had been overcome with emotion in the changing room.
“He’s broken up in there,” said the New Zealander. “There was a lot of pressure on him and he handled it superbly.
“He had a bad week and he’s come through it.”
The Lions’ win was their seventh in eight matches on tour.
They lost their only match last week to Australia A. Their first-choice team play Australia in Melbourne on July 7 then again in Sydney on July 14 needing to win just one of those tests to clinch the series.