SYDNEY, June 24 (Reuters) - British and Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland thinks Australia contributed to their own downfall in the first test by not insisting Kurtley Beale wore proper studs on a slippery Lang Park surface on Saturday night.
Beale missed two penalties in the last five minutes, the second at the end when he lost his footing on his ru-up, to hand the tourists a 23-21 victory and first blood in what looks like being a close three-match series.
Coaches often talk about the tiny details on which such contests can turn and Gatland, who also coaches the Wales team, believes Beales’s footwear was one.
“If I was the coach, and looking at Kurtley Beale coming on to that field wearing moulded boots - the last kick he slipped over and he slipped over a couple of times - I’d be thinking ‘why is he coming on with that sort of footwear in those conditions?',” he told reporters in Brisbane on Sunday.
”We’ve had these issues a lot with Welsh players at the Millennium Stadium because it’s quite a slippery surface, and on a lot of occasions we’ve said to players ‘make sure you’ve got the right sort of footwear’.
“You’ve got to turn up with the right tools, haven’t you?”
Despite taking a 1-0 advantage in the series and coming through the match unscathed while the Wallabies suffered injuries to five players, Gatland said there was good reason why his players would be taking nothing for granted in next week’s second test in Melbourne.
“I don’t think there’s going to be any complacency at all, these players are aware they have the opportunity to create their own history,” he said.
”In 2009, one of the aims of the coaching group was to put some respect back into the Lions jersey (after the 2005 tour) and that was a series we could have and, probably should have, won.
”This series isn’t about respect it’s about delivering. For the Lions to continue we need to be successful, and I think the world of rugby wants the Lions to be successful.
“When you see that crowd and that atmosphere - that’s something incredibly special.”
Gatland renewed his assault on first test referee Chris Pollock, particularly his rulings at the breakdown, which could have cost the tourists the match had the Australians kicked more accurately, and how quickly he called an end to advantage during the match.
Perhaps wisely, though, he said he anticipated better officiating when South African Craig Joubert took charge for the second test in Melbourne this weekend.
“We’ll put last night behind us and we’re looking forward to the number one referee in the world next Saturday,” he said. “We’re just looking for some consistency there, that’s all.”
Gatland also revealed that he would not have started George North, who scored a spectacular individual try in the match, had he not been convinced that Irish winger Tommy Bowe would have recovered from his hand injury in time for the second test.
“Tommy’s one of the best players available to us, if Tommy wasn’t fit and available for this weekend, we probably wouldn’t have picked George North,” he said.
“The medical staff were saying there was a reasonable chance the hamstring wouldn’t last the 80 minutes.”
Despite the Wallabies injuries, Gatland said he thought the Australians might be able to field a stronger backline in the second test than in the first and said his squad were well aware of the fine line between success and failure in such contests.
“The problem with test rugby is it’s either agony or ecstasy, there’s nothing in between,” he said. “The ecstasy was ours because we won the game but had that kick gone over we’d have a completely different mental attitude today.” (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by John Mehaffey)