17th June  -  Canberra

The best way to describe Canberra is that most Australians wonder why on earth you'd go there. While I'm sure the city has more to offer than this simplistic viewpoint of outsiders, I'm afraid we didn't find anything to contradict it.

The 260km drive down from Sydney revealed a surprisingly lush and not unpleasant countryside, disappointingly our game of 'spot the kangaroo' didn't produce a winner. As we were an hour too early to get in our apartment we decided to acquaint ourselves with the city centre. We were shortly enjoying a pint of Coopers Pale Ale in an Irish bar, where we prised info from the bar staff about places to eat & drink.

It was soon time to meet Mechelle at the two-bedroomed apartment we'd call home for the next two nights. As it was within 10 minutes walk of the city centre the location could hardly have been better, that it took us until the last morning to actually find the quickest route was typical of our jaded faculties. It had everything we could possibly want and the welcome grocery pack encouraged a couple of home-cooked breakfasts drummed up by Ray & myself.

To be fair to Canberra, there was more than enough choice of restaurants to meet our needs and the biggest pub in town, King o'Malleys, was a perfect hub for the Lions-following hordes.

For no particular reason, we chose Suzies Kitchen for our evening meal and what a result that turned out to be! Not only was the food absolutely delicious but Andy & Owen Farrell were sitting at the next table. Not to miss a photo chance, Rob respectfully asked if they'd mind a picture when they were planning to leave, which they duly obliged us with later on. Best wishes were exchanged and off they went leaving us pretty damn happy as we wandered round the corner to King o'Malleys, inside which we were to encounter Trevor Brennan, Alan Quinlan and Donal Lenihan mixing with various touring parties.

I'd always held big Donal in high esteem as a player, especially as captain of the legendary Donals Doughnuts on a previous Lions tour, however I was to get a frosty stare when informing him they'd put extra guards on the Australian flag at the Parliament building when they heard he was in town . . . . . . well I thought it was funny!



On the advice of Ian in Sydney, I decided to enjoy the sunshine and visited the National War Memorial while the others caught up on some much needed sleep, poignant stuff indeed and well worth a visit if you're ever in Canberra. I had to laugh when this chubby little redhead, not unlike Sharon from Kath & Kim, told me how many lovely Welsh people she'd met, I quietly pointed out that we don't regard them in quite the same way J

It was then back to the apartment to get ready for that evenings match. King o'Malleys was heaving with excited fans and we somehow managed to get a table from which to order pizzas. We soon got talking to a couple of hefty local lads who'd originated from the delightfully named Wagga Wagga. As with Sydney, the conversation was all about wanting to see good rugby and mutual appreciation of the merits of players from both teams. The anticipated sledging just hasn't materialised, good humour for sure and there's nowt the matter with that.

From what had been a pretty nice day, the weather turned for the worse and we were hit with heavy rain, then hail and a drop in temperature to -2 degrees. Unfortunately, apprehension about the team selection proved to be well founded and the Lions got battered off the park by totally committed Brumbies side who were able to feed off an inability to get anywhere near the gain line, not helped by a hooker who couldn't hit a barn door whenever we did manage to gain some field position. Best thing to do was shrug the shoulders, shake hands with the opposition fans and forget it ever happened, something we managed to do easily by the time we reached the free bus back to town and a couple of final pints at the pub.

A good nights sleep, a hearty cooked breakfast and we were soon on our way to the airport for the flight to Brisbane.