British & Irish Lions
Johnson: We came up short
July 14, 2001
Lions skipper Martin Johnson apologised to the Lions fans after they were defeated 29-23 in the deciding match of their three-Test series with Australia in Sydney on Saturday.
Tries from Jason Robinson and Jonny Wilkinson had put the visitors in front, but three missed Wilkinson penalties proved crucial as Daniel Herbert crossed twice for the world champions and Matt Burke landed five vital penalties.
"I am sorry," Johnson told the sizeable Lions contingent in the 84,000-strong crowd at Stadium Australia. "It was a tremendous series and the players can be proud of themselves but we came up just short.
"I want to thank our fans for their excellent support during the tour. "I couldn't ask any more of the team in terms of effort but Australia deserved to win."
Australian skipper John Eales admitted the balance of power between the rivals was fine: "There is nothing between the teams," he said. "The whole series just turned on a few things.
"I felt we had a bit more control throughout the match and though the statistics might not back this up and I thought we had the balance in terms of territory and defence.
Eales also paid tribute to the performance of lock Justin Harrison, who outperformed an experienced Lions line-out on his debut.
"Under this sort of pressure, his display was very special.
"The key to the success of this team over the last few years is that people have performed to their potential."
For coach Rod Macqueen, it was an emotional end to his period in charge of a side which has seen them rise from southern hemisphere makeweights to the undisputed world kings.
"There is a tear in my eye," he admitted.
"It is a very emotional time and I have been privileged to work with a great bunch of people.
"We played against a very good side, who we respect a lot."
Lions coach Graham Henry admitted Australia were deserved winners of the match and series.
"Congratulations to Australia, they were more consistent under pressure," he said. "We didn't do too well at the line-out and the tackle.
"It has been an horrendous tour in many respects but I wouldn't have done anything differently.
"The players have shown a lot of guts and character and I am proud of what they have achieved.
"But the bottom line is that the tour is all about winning - and we didn't achieve it."