BRISBANE − Kurtley Beale had a chance of redemption in the most glorious fashion against the British and Irish Lions yesterday but slipped as he was attempting what would have been a winning penalty and ended up in a heap on the Lang Park turf.
Suspended for hitting his Melbourne Rebels captain on the team bus in March, his time with the Super Rugby club was effectively ended by another breach of discipline related to the consumption of alcohol; he has spent much of the last four months in rehab.
Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, though, has shown great faith in the talented back’s ability to beat his personal demons and named him as a replacement for the first match of a series on the back of just one run-out for his club Randwick.
The 24-year-old, who ended last season as Wallabies flyhalf, was plunged into the game just before halftime when Berrick Barnes suffered another of his career-blighting head injuries.
With nominated placekicker Christian Leiliifano having departed the contest after less than a minute and flyhalf James O’Connor struggling, Beale was called up to assume kicking duties in the final quarter of the match.
Beale is no stranger placekicking at test level and famously converted a long-range effort to give Australia their first win over the Springboks on the high veldt at Bloemfontein in 2010.
Yesterday, he slotted his first two attempts on goal, the first from 48 meters and the second after the sort of searing break that has had Australia salivating over his talent since he was a teenager in high school. The latter kick put Australia within two points of the Lions at 23-21 and Beale had a chance to put the home side ahead with five minutes to go, only to miscue his kick.
Fortune, and the controversial refereeing of New Zealander Chris Pollock, was to provide him with one more attempt to win the contest. With the clock running down to the final seconds, he stepped up to launch the ball toward the posts from 46 meters but lost his footing, leaving the Lions to start celebrations.
“KB did as well as he could, no one is blaming anyone, we did well to get ourselves in that situation,” said Wallabies captain James Horwill.