The British & Irish Lions beat the Melbourne Rebels to round off the provincial tour matches with a deserved victory 0-35.
First half tries from Connor Murray and Sean Maitland gave the Lions a 0-14 lead at half time. Further scores after the break were registered from Sean O’Brien, a penalty try and Ben Youngs.
Owen Farrell kept up his extremely high kicking percentage by converting all three tries from out wide he kicked. Farrell has now converted every single kick with the exception of one on this tour to keep the Lions other high percentage kicker Leigh Halfpenny on his toes.
Both sides eschewed possible penalty kicks at goal in the first half in favour of scoring tries, but neither side were rewarded from the set pieces to justify their decision not to kick.
Murray scored an opportunist effort following excellent work by the Lions scrum to force the Rebels almost back over their own line. The ball squirted out the back of the ruck and Murray picked it up and spun round to finish smartly.
Sean Maitland rounded off a complete move from the British & Irish Lions, with the ball running through a number of Lions hands before being well finished by the Scots winger.
After the break Sean O’Brien registered another score after some excellent line out work. Two previous line outs had not gone to plan so the decision to stick with the line out when a scrum could have been taken was a bold call and the Lions were rewarded for getting it right at the third attempt.
The Lions forwards were rewarded again for their efforts on the 62 minute mark when they rumbled a rolling maul imperiously towards the Rebels line. The hosts had no option but to cynically pull it down as the Lions were on the charge over the line and referee Glen Jackson had no option but to award the penalty try and bin the most culpable offender in the Rebels pack.
Ben Youngs rounded off the scoring with another opportunist try after taking the ball off the back of the line out and bursting through the Rebels defence to score under the posts.
The result was an emphatic response following the defeat against the ACT Brumbies last Tuesday in the last outing for the midweek side.
British & Irish Lions captain for the match Dan Lydiate said “We definitely had to up our game coming here. It was always going to be tough but getting the result on the weekend helped. A lot of the boys missed out on selection last week so it was important to play well tonight.”
Head Coach Warren Gatland said “It was really pleasing. I thought today our set piece was good, we defended strongly. I think a lot of the players made up for last weeks disappointment. Putting a scratch team together was tough on the players last Tuesday, but you can see having the players together and running a few combinations made a difference.”
“We talked about keeping the tempo up and keep playing and they had a licence to do that. I think you can see we’re in pretty good nick and the players have to just enjoy those moments.”
On the potential for players in this game to make the test side at the weekend he added “We haven’t really thought about the test side yet, but we’ll do that tonight. It’s not over yet, but we’ve got a chance on Saturday to finish things off. We said to the players there will be opportunities, its not just about the 15 or 23, it’s about the whole squad out here.”
The Lions move on to play the second test match against Australia also in Melbourne on Saturday.