Planet Rugby

The British & Irish Lions


Lions sweat to heavy victory

01st June 2013 14:33


Mako Vunipola Lions v Barbarians

Wet and wild: Mako Vunipola

The British and Irish Lions began their 2013 tour with a 59-8 victory over the Barbarians in an intensely humid affair in Hong Kong.

Eight tries from the Lions including doubles from Mike Phillips and Alex Cuthbert set them on the road to success as encouraging moments were mixed with multiple handling errors - the Lions coming into their own to produce an excellent second half.

The humidity, at one point reaching 94 percent, turned both sets of shirts into waterslides - with the state of Paul O'Connell's kit after the opening quarter telling the story.

Overall, greater cohesion in the set-piece and fitness from the Lions were enough to create a comfortable victory.

Flashes of brilliance from young stars such as Richie Gray, Stuart Hogg and Jonathan Davies all showed that they will be challenging for Test places, but the assuredness of Lions veterans Phillips and O'Connell - the first two try-scorers - truly guided the Lions ship through their opening fixture with eventual ease.

A heavy tackle from Casey Laulala on Hogg offered a reminder that this occasion would be far removed from the exhibition the Barbarians served up at Twickenham - but it was Farrell who racked up the game's first points with a penalty.

Farrell's early composure then sorely let him down. Punched by his Saracens team-mate Schalk Brits after holding him at the ruck, Farrell angrily reacted but the penalty against him was then reversed - with Brits instead sent for ten minutes in the sin-bin.

Sean Maitland came close to a debut Lions try, but the distance and bounce of a clever kick through by Davies proved too much. Farrell's second shot at goal, after a busy few minutes, then flew wide to the left of the posts.

Wasps youngster Elliot Daly added a long-range penalty to put the Barbarians on the board but it was the Lions who showed the greater promise early on.

Trying to juggle a ball as slippery as an ice cube turned handling into a nightmare - but the scrum though was an area of greater certainty, early Lions dominance resulting in another penalty for Farrell who this time comfortably converted.

Slippery the ball might have been, but the Lions put together a persistent five minutes of possession to bring them right up to the Barbarians try line. Phillips went close but was held up by a brilliant Martin Castrogiovanni tackle - but O'Connell was not to be denied, the first try-scorer of the 2013 tour burrowing over.

A second try was not far behind. The communication between Phillips and Farrell appeared to be under construction, but the Welsh scrum-half's individual carrying was strong and a break through the defence saw him this time reach the line.

Continued struggles for the Barbarians at the scrum compounded any territory or continuity they were able to build up. The Lions won another penalty before half-time for Farrell to convert - leading 23-3 at half-time.

Phillips had been difficult to contain in the first half and he didn't let up, scampering over after the interval for his second try of the match. Gliding through a gap at the back of the lineout after Sam Jones slipped for the Barbarians, there was no stopping him from close-range.

Mako Vunipola's offload then released Justin Tipuric under the posts but excellent defence from Joe Rokocoko denied the Osprey from close-range.

It was nearly followed up a mesmeric team try, starting at the back with Hogg and Alex Cuthbert and ending after good work from Maitland and Justin Tipuric with Farrell's pass being cut off by Dimitri Yachvili. End to end, more fitting of a real Barbarians fixture, with the Lions looking confident.

The Barbarians though can play. Rokocoko's defensive work had been his best work so far until he left Toby Faletau for dead with an inside step, feeding Kahn Fotuali'i to score.

Davies' try for the Lions was less pretty, Jamie Roberts and his Welsh centre partner fumbling their way to touching the ball down for the tourists after confirmation from the TMO.

Alex Cuthbert got in on the act with a sprint down the right touchline after more good work from Roberts and he was at it again minutes later - Conor Murray coming off the bench and like a replica of Phillips slicing through a gap and finding the winger on his outside.

Time remained for Dan Lydiate to add a score of his own, pouncing from the back of a rolling maul to bring up the 50-point mark for Warren Gatland's side.

There was time left for another try, carrying on the trend of the night coming another Welshman, this time by Alun-Wyn Jones who cantered over after a fine pass from Sexton.

It sealed a strong win, as much a battle against the conditions as it was a battle against the Barbarians, with links forged and tries aplenty to send the Lions on their way to Australia.

The scorers:

For Barbarians:
Try: Fotuali'i
Pen: Daly
Yellow Card: Brits

For British and Irish Lions:
Tries: O'Connell, Phillips 2, Davies, Cuthbert 2, Lydiate, AW Jones
Cons: Farrell 3, Sexton 2
Pens: Farrell 3

Barbarians: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Elliot Daly, 12 Casey Laulala, 11 Taku Ngwenya, 10 Nick Evans, 9 Dimitri Yachvili, 8 Sergio Parisse, 7 Sam Jones, 6 Samu Manoa, 5 Dean Mumm, 4 Marco Wentzel, 3 Martin Castrogiovanni, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Paul James.
Replacements: 16 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Jim Hamilton, 19 Imanol Harinordoquy, 20 Andrea Lo Cicero, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 James Hook, 23 Mike Tindall.

British and Irish Lions: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jamie Roberts, 11 Sean Maitland, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Mike Phillips, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Justin Tipuric, 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Paul O'Connell (c), 4 Richie Gray, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Jamie Heaslip, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Johnny Sexton, 23 George North.

Date: Saturday June 1
Venue: Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong
Kick-off: 19.30 (11.30 GMT)
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Angus Gardner (Australia)
Television match official: Matt Goddard (Australia)

by Ben Coles