The British & Irish Lions recorded a comfortable 0-64 win against a weak Combined NSW/QLD Country opposition at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle this afternoon.
The Lions were always expected to win the match comfortably, which they did, but it wasn’t as straight forward as many pundits and fans alike were expecting. A spirited performance from a scratch NSW/QLD Country side resulted in a solid defensive effort which restricted the Lions scoring.
Stuart Hogg, playing at fly half in his first match since his school days started the game solidly and controlled the show calmly. He was also handed the kicking duties and did not falter on the big stage kicking his first conversion from out on the right hand touchline straight through the posts.
The combination of Brian O’Driscoll and Jamie Roberts was put together once again outside Hogg which will have given him the expereince he needed to control the attack. After a slow start from both sides this was rewarded early on with three quick fire tries in 5 minutes from Alex Cuthbert, Conor Murray and then Hogg himself.
The match was only going one way at that stage with further tries from George North, Richard Hibbard and North again puts the Lions in at half time 0-38 up.
In the second half Combined Country stepped up their defensive effort and restricted the Lions to just 19 points from three tries from Brian O’Driscoll, Leigh Halfpenny and Sean O’Brien with only two minutes to go.
Unfortunately for Country though, some tired legs in the defence allowed the Lions to score a try in the last minute by substitute Jonathan Davies following a perfectly weighted grubber kick through from Brian O’Driscoll. Halfpenny of course kicked the conversion to make the final score 0-64.
Overall, a decent performance form the Lions with a few areas to work on. There were a number of handling errors from both sides which the Lions will be keen to iron out ahead of the tests, but more seriously the line out was a bit wobbly at times. They’ll need to spend time working on the line out, but to be fair, the Lions had two “number 4′s” on the field in Ian Evans and Richie Grey. Neither of whom are used to calling and running the line out. Come test match time we’ll likely see at least one of Paul O’Connell or Alun Wyn Jones who are used to running the line outs for their countries so it should be less of a concern for the tests.
The Lions now step up again in intensity when they take on NSW Waratahs in Sydney. This will probably be the best opportunity for the Lions to test their potential test match combinations. Good opposition one week out for the test series and the Lions will be looking to use the match to set down a real marker and ask the player to put their hands up for selection. The business end of the tour really starts now!
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12:20 All in all, the Lions were probably in a no win situation here. They were expected to win and win comfortably. They did get the win, but not by the cricket score that they should have done. A very spirited performance from Combined Country in the second half restricting the Lions to just 26 points when they were tiring was a sterling effort from the hosts. Onwards to a much more difficult test again New South Wales Waratahs on Saturday.
12:20 …and they do. A little grubber kick through from Brian O’Driscoll is picked up by Jonathan Davies and he scores . Good finish. Halfpenny steps up for the conversion and fires it through the posts. Final Score 0-64
12:15 The Lions are still on the attack as the hooter goes. They will want to score from this final play.
12:10 More pressure for the Lions against a spirited but tiring Country side. O’Driscoll gets the ball down in the corner, but his foot was in touch under pressure from two defenders. No try. Since half time, Country have restricted the Lions to just 19 points so far which is a tremendous effort.
12:10 Solid scrum from Country for once and they apply a bit of pressure to the Lions line. They spin it wide, but another handling errors lets them down and the Lions hack it upfield to the half way line and it goes into touch.
12:10 Another potential calamitous moment for the Lions as Leigh Halfpenny makes a hash of an up and under which is then hacked on by Country, but Maitland is there to dot down in his own goal area for a Country attacking scrum.
12:05 Mike Phillips is on for Murray.
12:05 Pandemonium in the Lions defence. The ball comes off the Dale Ahwang’s boot following an attempted interception for Country, Ahwang is stopped just short of the tryline, but the TMO is called for and adjudges the interception as a knock on. A moments panic there for the Lions.
12:00 Solid scrum from the Lions once again and the Lions put the pressure on the Country defence which creaks and Sean O’Brien powers over. Halfpenny converts. 0-57
12:00 Quite a few handling errors from both sides, but the Lions ruck the Country off the ball and attack in the left corner through Halfpenny and O’Driscoll. Murray picks up the ball and dives over but is held up over the line.
11:55 The Lions push it into the corner again, but concede the penalty after a loose throw in from Best.
11:55 Some lovely hands an running from the Lions creating a number of open field chances. Country slow it down and regain their shape but concede the penalty for going offside. The Lion punt for the corner. Best fires it in and the Lions set up the maul but Country turn it over and they kick it out to Maitland who launches another attack.
11:50 Jonathan Davies comes on for Jamie Roberts.
11:50 Try for Leigh Halfpenny. Turnover by the Lions following a great tackle from Sean Maitland out wide. The lions run it through the hands across the field and Halfpenny picks a line and breaks the tackle and uses his power to score. He lines up the conversion himself and whacks it between the posts. Normal service resumed. 0-50
11:50 Toby Faletau comes on for Jamie Heaslip.
11:50 The Lions collect the restart and run it back at Country but concede the penalty at the breakdown which allows Country to clear their lines.
11:45 Halfpenny takes over kicking duties and uncharacteristically misses. Full front row change for the Lions, Rory Best, Ryan Grant and Matt Stevens are on.
11:45 Good maul from the resulting line out for the Lions results in a penalty for the Lions. O’Brien takes it quickly and runs it at the defence. Multiple phases of possession on the Country line ends in a penalty for the defence going offside but they don’t need it as the Lions spin it wide and O’Driscoll scores on the overlap. 0-43
11:40 More handling errors from the Lions gives Country the scrum and clear from their own 22.
11:40 Good break from Sean Maitland who offloads to Roberts but he cant keep control and knocks on. Country run it out from under their own posts but then kick possession back to the Lions who run it back at them and they knock it on again.
11:40 Alun Wyn Jones and Leigh Halfpenny are on for Richie Gray and George North.
11:35 The teams are out again and Stuart Hogg gets us under way kicking from right to left.
11:20 The Lions win the penalty from the scrum and kick for the Line out. The hooter goes so this is the last play before half time. The ball is stolen by Country and they kick it out. Half time 0-38.
11:20 Ian Evans pinches the ball from the line out but it doesn’t fall kindly. The Lions turn it over again and run it back at Country but the Lions knock on.
11:20 More incisive running from the Lions results in Sean O’Brien dotting down in the corner, but he was almost certainly in touch before. It’s referred, but he was clearly foot in touch.
11:15 From the restart the Lions charge forward again into Country territory, but Murray passes forward to Cuthbert.
11:15 Big scrum from the Lions results in the penalty but there’s no need for that as they run it through the hands to North who scores in the corner. Simple stuff. Hogg lines up the conversion but misses wildly, but it was from a difficult angle out wide. 0-38
11:15 Turnovers are killing country, they work themselves into half decent positions and then either get turned over easily in the tackle or knock the ball on to present the Lions with ample attacking opportunities.
11:10 Comfortable attacking maul from the Lions and after a couple of probes, the ball works it’s way back to Richard Hibbard who spins off the back and scores very easily. Hogg pops it over for 0-33.
11:05 They pinch the ball at the line out and run it through the backs looking for the hole which doesn’t come but the penalty is conceded by Country. Attacking lineout for the Lions.
11:05 Good defensive work on half way for the Country and they win the line out. They run a backs move but get turned over easily by the Lions who punt down field for territory on the Country 5 metre line.
11:00 Backs move from Country is turned over by the Lions and they charge 90 metres down field through George North and Sean Maitland, Maitland passes back to North to score. Hogg converts. 0-26
11:00 They opt for the line out and secure the ball. A few more attacking phases from the forwards and they again win a penalty which they kick for touch.
10:55 As soon as I say that Maitland is charged down in his own 22 and concedes an attacking line out for Country on the 5 metre line, and they camp out on the Lions line for a number of phases in the forwards and eventually win the penalty.
10:55 This match is only going one way. Ten mins of resistance from Country at the start, but it really is men against boys now.
10:50 Try from Stuart Hogg. Complete gift from the Country. Poor lineout which Tipuric picks up comfortably and passes to Hogg who runs in unopposed. Hogg misses the conversion.
10:50 From the restart the Lions run it straight back at Country and score a fine try following a number of delightful passes from the Lions. Connor Murray scores under the posts. Hogg converts. 0-14
10:50 Stuart Hogg takes his first kick of the tour from the right hand touch line and fires it through the posts Excellent conversion. 0-7
10:50 An overthrow at the line out from Country and Justin Tipuric picks up the ball and charges at the defence. The ball comes wide on the right hand side to Alex Cuthbert who scores in the corner.
10:45 Excellent second scrum for the Lions as they march Country back and win the penalty, but O’Brien is driven into touch after the advantage is over.
10:45 Bitty start from the Lions. We’re expecting a thumping victory for the visitors, but the intensity isn’t there. A couple of early mistakes and the Lions win a penalty from a scrum inside the Country half, but opt to take the scrum again.
10:40 Angus Roberts kicks off for Combined Country.
1040: Big day for some of the Lions on show fighting for their test places, and indeed for some of the opposition who don’t usually play in games of this sort of intensity.
10:40 The Lions come out onto the field lead by skipper for the match Brian O’Driscoll clutching the cuddly Lion mascot.
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10:20 Good morning and welcome to our live match updates tracker again for this mornings match against the New South Wales and Queensland Country Combined XV. The players are out on the field and going through their warm up routines and we are getting ready to bring you another full mornings action live from Hunter Stadium in Newcastle.