MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Having missed the kick that would have given Australia victory over the British and Irish Lions in Brisbane’s first test, Kurtley Beale’s heart was in his mouth when Leigh Halfpenny lined up from the halfway mark in Melbourne after full-time.
Beale, who slipped on Lang Park’s churned-up turf during his ill-fated kick, could only watch helplessly as the laser-sharp Welshman strode in confidently to take the shot that would seal the tourists their first series victory in 16 years.
That it fell short from a player in red-hot form and well within his range was not lost on Beale, who thanked the heavens for forgoing the chance to dole out cruel irony.
“I was praying a little bit there,” Beale told reporters on Sunday, the morning after the Wallabies’ defiant 16-15 win over the tourists at Melbourne’s Docklands Stadium.
”I just knew deep down - obviously I was in the position last week. It’s a big kick, it’s a massive kick and there’s a lot of things going through you head.
”He was striking the ball pretty well. He struck the ball really well and it just fell short by a couple of metres there.
“We’re just very lucky in the end.”
Beale had two kicks in the final six minutes at Lang Park, either of which could have sealed the match for the Wallabies.
The appearance off the bench was the first senior rugby Beale had played for about six weeks, having been stood down by Super Rugby side Melbourne Rebels over alcohol-related problems.
Beale, who was also stood down for over a month earlier in the year for punching Rebels captain Gareth Delve and another team mate in a drunken incident on a team bus in South Africa, spent time in a private health clinic last month.
Still on an ongoing programme of rehabilitation, Beale tested his team’s patience by being found at a fast food restaurant in the early hours of Wednesday morning with friend and accomplice James O‘Connor.
With the series on the line, however, the Wallabies management decided it was better to have the pair on the park than off it, and Beale was promoted to fullback for the match at Docklands.
“I haven’t really thought about it much,” Beale said of his disappointment at Lang Park.
”I just, sort of, obviously had to keep moving on.
”I had to keep upbeat and keep my body language ‘up’ and I felt I did that.
“Obviously it did effect me a little bit, but in life you’ve got to go forward and it’s the same like in rugby. You’ve got to bounce back and we got a great opportunity last night.”
The Wallabies backline, which suffered a rash of injuries at Lang Park, remains a work in progress, and when the Wallabies controlled the match in the second half, a number of promising drives toward the Lions line were blown by handling errors and poor decision-making.
Beale paid tribute to his forwards, who held their own in the scrum late in the game to help set up the series-decider in Sydney next week.
”The front row had a great game. The piggies up front led us around the field very well and the direction of James (O‘Connor) and Willy (Genia) was outstanding. So there was a good mood within the camp.
“That’s our second game we played all year together and I feel the combinations are coming together really well.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury