Four Nations United

Winning the first test of the Lions tour

I found myself crying in arms of a big burly Welshman. To the right of me, a group of Irish lads were jumping up and down, singing ‘Ireland’s Call’, smiles stretched across their faces. And somewhere in the distance you could hear a set of bagpipes droning. The only place you’d witness such a scene is when sport is involved, and in this case it’s the British and Irish Lions; a team, and seemingly four nations, united.

This occurred just a few hours ago in the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane where the Lions beat Australia 23-21 in one of the most nerve-wracking matches you’ll ever see. With the match hanging in the balance, Australian fullback Kurtley Beale missed two late penalties, one in the dying seconds, to give the Lions the win. Phrases such as ‘snatching victory from the jaws of defeat’ spring to mind, and I heard a number of people say “we got away with that one.”

The match was a pulsating affair, and all 52,499 people in the stadium were put through an emotional roller coaster ride.

However, a win is a win and the Lions take a 1:0 series lead over the Aussies into next weekend’s second test in Melbourne.

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The thing that I found astounding was the atmosphere.

I’ve been on the Gold Coast since Tuesday and its been with anticipation that I’ve watched the build-up to the game.

With a record number of tourists coming over for the series, estimated to be about 25-30,000 people, I knew it was going to be exciting, but nothing could prepare me for seeing my first Lions game. I arrived at the stadium at 4pm to take it all in, and there was already a sea of red shirts. Everyone was hopeful that this would be the time to take down the Aussies, everyone said we would win.

Once I got into the ground the atmosphere was electric. You could feel the pride and passion reverberating around with every chorus of “Lions! Lions!”, and there was a hive of activity on the pitch.

With Men at Work singing their infamous song ‘Down Under’, you could tell the Aussies weren’t here just to make up the numbers; they wanted this just as much as we did.

One of the greatest things about Aussies is they’re so easy going. At the end of the game, one of them came up to me and said “we only let you have that one to make it interesting; we like repeating history!” (Australia famously came back after losing the first test to win the series 2-1 the last time the Lions toured in 2001.)

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Often, the only time people will forget past prejudices and let down their barriers is when there’s a common denominator, a shared goal; in this case, it was beating the Australians.

That’s what makes the Lions so special. In any other occasion you’d be hard pushed to get any four nations around the world to get along so closely, let alone England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but it’s that bond, that brotherhood, which brings people together.

There was no England or Wales, no Ireland or Scotland, only us. People were proud to be British. Whether we win or lose the series still remains to be seen, but if there’s one thing for certain, there will be pride and passion until the end…

This article was published on Gapyear.com.

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