British and Irish Lions side show improvements in solid hit-out.
The British and Irish Lions showed signs of what they are capable of in their 47-17 victory against the NSW Waratahs at Allianz Stadium.
Crisp backline play was combined with power at the breakdown and set-pieces by the side’s forwards gave Wallabies coach Robbie Deans a better indication of what his men will be up against in a week’s time.
The Lions made a sensational start to the game when Simon Zebo raced down the left wing in what was his first touch, to score in the corner.
However, the Irishman was denied when his foot just touched the sideline a fraction of a second before he touched down thanks to an excellent cover tackle by Drew Mitchell.
Rob Horne was penalised for a dangerous tackle and Leigh Halfpenny slotted the penalty from half-way to give the Lions a 3-0 lead.
Jonny Sexton capped off a sensational counter-attacking move as Zebo again created space out wide as the score became 10-0 after just seven minutes
It was all the Lions early but the Waratahs counter-attacked brilliantly when they took a line-out quickly before a wide kick sparked a break as Peter Betham found a flying Tom Carter with an excellent flick pass.
Halfpenny slotted another penalty chance off the back of a turnover by the Lions as they took their lead to six.
Zebo was heavily in the action in the middle of the field despite starting on the wing as he pushed early for his claims to be in the first Test side after being a late inclusion to the tour.
Bernard Foley began to organsie the Waratahs backline well as the continue to find holes in the Lions’ defensive line.
However, the Waratahs continued to be punished by the accurate boot of Halfpenny as he made the score 16-7.
The Waratahs earned a penalty for the Tom Youngs was penalsied for being offside at the breakdown and Brendan McKibbin kept it just inside the right upright to make it 16-10.
The Lions’ quality at the breakdown saw the home side continue to be put under pressure but the Waratahs fought fire with fire.
Jonathan Davies was also solid for the Lions in the midfield as he provided a solid running option.
New South Wales continued to test the flanks of the Lions defence, much like Queensland did the week before, as they chanced their arm to score one more try before half-time.
After a constant build-up, the Lions cracked the Waratahs’ line as Halfpenny was the recipient on the right wing as the Lions made the score 23-10 at the break.
Sensational backing up by the Lions backs led to Halfpenny’s second for the game as visitors broke through the middle of the Waratahs’ defensive line soon after half-time.
The try was the perfect start for the British and Irish in the second half, as their attack in general began to look very sharp ahead of the first Test in Brisbane.
A penalty given away by the Lions led to Will Skelton and Carter combing as a maul broke down to see the NSW inside centre crash over to put the home side back in the game.
McKibbin continued his good night with the boot to make it 30-17 in favor of the Lions.
A Halfpenny penalty took his personal tally to 28 as he set a new record for a Lions’ player on Australia on tour, passing Ronan O’Gara in 2001, as the men in red led 33-17.
After an intercept pass, the Lions spread the ball to their left edge as blindside flanker Tom Croft raced down the sideline to score making it 40-17.
Despite their dominance on the scoreboard the Lions were not perfect at the breakdown as they, at times, were isolated, and the penalty count will not please coach Warren Gatland.
The Lions rung the changes at the hour mark in the game with a massive substitutions being made, in a bid to save the legs of several stars who are likely to be in the starting side for the first Test in a week’s time.
Inside centre Jamie Roberts limped off the field for the Lions with a hamstring strain, in what was a worrying sign for Gatland.
Davies capped off the win as he was put into a yawning gap on the blind side to stroll across the line untouched as the margin blew out to be 30 with seven minutes left.