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Lions Begin Tour with Runaway Win

Lions Begin Tour with Runaway Win

Paul O’Connell scored a first half try as he captained the British & Irish Lions to a 59-8 opening tour victory over the Barbarians in difficult conditions.

2013 BRITISH & IRISH LIONS TOUR: Saturday, June 1

BRITISH & IRISH LIONS 59 BARBARIANS 8, Hong Kong Stadium (Att: 28,643)

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Scorers: British & Irish Lions: Tries: Paul O’Connell, Mike Phillips 2, Jonathan Davies, Alex Cuthbert 2, Dan Lydiate, Alun Wyn Jones; Cons: Owen Farrell 3, Jonathan Sexton 2; Pens: Owen Farrell 3
Barbarians: Try: Kahn Fotuali’i; Pen: Elliot Daly

On an extremely humid night at Hong Kong Stadium, the Lions gave themselves some breathing space before half-time with tries from Paul O’Connell (28 minutes) and man-of-the-match Mike Phillips (32).

Owen Farrell kicked three penalties and two conversions to give the tourists a 23-3 interval advantage, with Elliot Daly kicking a lone penalty in reply.

Replacement scrum half Kahn Fotuali’i grabbed the Baa Baas’ only try in the second half, but the Lions cruised home with further tries from Welsh internationals Phillips, Jonathan Davies, Alex Cuthbert (2), Dan Lydiate and Alun Wyn Jones.

Warren Gatland unloaded his bench around the hour mark, bringing the likes of Ireland’s Cian Healy, Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton on for their Lions debuts as well as 2009 Test regular Jamie Heaslip.

Sexton kicked two conversions to open his point-scoring account as a Lion, with skipper O’Connell admittedly pleased to make a winning start.

“We’re delighted to get the win and to win really well (against a quality side like the Barbarians). We were very focused, we had a tough week’s preparations and the conditions were difficult,” he said afterwards.

“We were kinda worried that we’d get a backlash from them after they lost heavily to England at Twickenham. But we wore them down in the first half and the tries came pretty easy in the second half.

“At times we were better without the ball, it was that tricky. Once we retained the ball and built phases and the passes began to stick later on, the scores came.”

The two Irish provincial players in the Barbarians side, Ulster’s Jared Payne and Casey Laulala from Munster, were involved defensively early on with the latter putting in a crunching tackle on the advancing Stuart Hogg.

The Lions got off the mark thanks to a fourth minute penalty from Farrell, although the initial proceedings were pockmarked by loose kicking and mishandling of the increasingly greasy ball.

Farrell was charged down by Nick Evans as the Barbarians hunted for a response, but they had a penalty reversed after Farrell was struck in the face by his Saracens team-mate Schalk Brits.

The South African earned a yellow card for the punch and Farrell was fortunate to avoid sanction for his retaliation, however once the game settled down the Lions assumed control.

Jamie Roberts threatened on a typically powerful midfield run, while Sean Maitland just knocked on as he dived to gather a clever kick through from Roberts’ centre partner Davies.

Farrell missed his second shot at the posts and the Baa Baas were level by the 16th minute, a ruck steal by Martin Castrogiovanni teeing up Daly for a fine long range penalty.

Following the night’s first water break, the Lions continued to press with Laulala forcing a knock on from the onrushing Maitland and then the long-striding Richie Gray created an opening on the right.

A 34-metre penalty from the right saw Farrell move the Lions back in front at 6-3, and the ball just squirted free of Hogg’s grasp after he ran a good line off O’Connell.

However, the Munster lock grabbed the game’s first try just moments later, plunging over from a close range ruck after Phillips had been held up inches short.

The score came at the end of a strong set of carries from the Lions forwards, with Mako Vunipola, Toby Faletau and Justin Tipuric all putting their bodies about.

The tourists’ second try followed before half-time as Phillips’ sharp diagonal run from a ruck took him past Barbarians skipper Sergio Parisse and although Rokocoko hauled him down, the scrum half’s momentum took him over the whitewash.

Farrell added both conversion to extend the margin to 17 points, just reward for a business-like second quarter from Gatland’s men.

The Lions scrum won a succession of penalties as the Baa Baas front row came under pressure, and the final such infringement gave Farrell the opportunity to hammer home an impressive 50-metre penalty in added time.

Defensively, the Barbarians had been much more accurate and committed than they were in last weekend’s hammering by England, but they leaked a third try to the Lions early in the second half.

Two minutes in, Phillips ran strongly off a lineout and took advantage of a slip by Sam Jones to dart through for his second try in the right corner.

Farrell again added the extras and as the match continued to break up, the Baa Baas needed some determined defending from Rokocoko to hold up Tipuric under the posts.

Hogg then launched a classy counter attack from deep, Tipuric gobbling up a Maitland kick and the covering Payne did well to disrupt as Farrell attemped to find Maitland with the try-scoring pass.

The Baa Baas suddenly upped the tempo off turnover ball, a superb sidestepping run from Rokocoko creating a 57th minute try for the supporting Fotuali’i. It was a rare glimpse of the attacking quality at their disposal.

Evans was unable to convert before the teams took their next water break, after which the Irish involvement on the pitch was boosted to four players – Healy, Sexton and Murray were all introduced.

The good work in creating that try was undone though by a sloppy concession to the Lions, with pressure from Tipuric and Roberts leading to Davies hacking on and touching down to the right of the posts.

Sexton’s first place-kick of the tour saw him convert the Welsh centre’s effort, and the Lions registered the fifth try soon after with Murray involved in the build-up.

He scooped up turnover ball, linked with Falatau and Roberts then sent Cuthbert, who had initially forced the ball from Parisse’s grasp, racing away along the right touchline.

Replacements Murray and George North made an impact for the next Lions touchdown. The latter barged up through the middle and Murray broke from a ruck, handed off Leonardo Ghiraldini and passed for Cuthbert to complete his brace.

Sexton was unable to convert the Welsh winger’s tries from difficult positions on the right, but he was back on target when adding the extras to Lydiate’s try from a muscular lineout maul.

The eighth and final try for Gatland’s charges arrived in injury-time. An eye-catching carry from Healy set the attack in motion and closer in, quick passes from Murray and Sexton released O’Connell’s replacement, Alun Wyn Jones, for a simple finish out wide.

BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland); Alex Cuthbert (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Jonathan Davies (Scarlets/Wales), Jamie Roberts (Cardiff Blues/Wales), Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland); Owen Farrell (Saracens/England), Mike Phillips (Bayonne/Wales); Mako Vunipola (Saracens/England), Richard Hibbard (Ospreys/Wales), Adam Jones (Ospreys/Wales), Richie Gray (Scotland), Paul O’Connell (Munster/Ireland) (capt), Dan Lydiate (Newport Gwent Dragons/Wales), Justin Tipuric (Ospreys/Wales), Toby Faletau (Newport Gwent Dragons/Wales).

Replacements used: Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales) for O’Connell (28-37, blood sub; 63), Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England) for Hibbard (53), Cian Healy (Leinster/Ireland) for Vunipola, Matt Stevens (Saracens/England) for Adam Jones (both 55), Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/Ireland) for Farrell, Conor Murray (Munster/Ireland) for Phillips (both 58), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland) for Falatau (63), George North (Scarlets/Wales) for Roberts (67).

BARBARIANS: Jared Payne (Ulster); Joe Rokocoko (Bayonne/New Zealand), Elliot Daly (London Wasps), Casey Laulala (Munster/New Zealand), Takudzwa Ngwenya (Biarritz Olympique/USA); Nick Evans (Harlequins/New Zealand), Dimitri Yachvili (Biarritz Olympique/France); Paul James (Bath/Wales), Schalk Brits (Saracens/South Africa), Martin Castrogiovanni (Leicester Tigers/Italy), Marco Wentzel (London Wasps/South Africa), Dean Mumm (Exeter Chiefs/Australia), Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints/USA), Sam Jones (London Wasps), Sergio Parisse (Stade Francais/Italy) (capt).

Replacements used: Leonardo Ghiraldini (Benetton Treviso/Italy) for Manoa (11-19 mins, temp sub), Ghiraldini for Brits (45), Kahn Fotuali’i (Ospreys/Samoa) for Yachvili, Imanol Harinordoquy (Biarritz Olympique/France) for Mumm (both 53), Jim Hamilton (Gloucester/Scotland) for Wentzel, Mike Tindall (Gloucester/England) for Ngwenya (both 59), James Hook (Perpignan/Wales) for Laulala (68), Andrea Lo Cicero (Racing Metro 92/Italy) for Castrogiovanni (69).

Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)