Lions march on with big win against Waratahs
June 15, 2013
Lions fly-half Jonathan Sexton celebrates scoring a try
© Getty Images
The British & Irish Lions made it five wins in-a-row with a comprehensive 47-17 victory over the Waratahs at the Allianz Stadium in Sydney on Saturday night.
Match Analysis by ESPNscrum's Graham Jenkins
Leigh Halfpenny produced a command performance as the Lions delivered their best display Down Under just seven days before tackling Australia in the first Test. Wales fullback Halfpenny scored 30 points - two tries, four conversions and four penalties - while fly-half Jonathan Sexton, flanker Tom Croft and centre Jonathan Davies also added touchdowns to complete an outstanding team performance.
The Waratahs played their part - centre Tom Carter claimed two tries - but they were ultimately outclassed, with Halfpenny finishing just seven short of equalling the all-time individual Lions points record set by Alan Old in 1974.
There was, though, another injury scare for the Lions when centre Jamie Roberts limped off midway through the final quarter. He appeared in considerable discomfort as he departed with what is thought to be a hamstring injury, adding his name to the Lions' injury list that is currently headed by juggernaut wing George North.
Watching Wallabies head coach Robbie Deans, though, would have been far more concerned by the Lions' quality of play, rather than any injury count. There were outstanding displays by Halfpenny, Davies, Sexton, wing Simon Zebo - he enjoyed a high-class Lions debut just four days after arriving from America as injury cover - locks Paul O'Connell and Alun-Wyn Jones, plus hooker Tom Youngs.
At times, the Waratahs were blown away by the Lions' pace, intensity and support play, and they will arrive in Brisbane seven days from now as favourites to take the opening Test series rubber. On today's evidence, Australia have got it all to do as the Lions target a first Test series triumph since they beat South Africa 2-1 in 1997.
The Lions made a blistering start, moving 10-0 ahead after just six minutes - and it could have been even more. Zebo thought he had scored with his first touch of the ball in a Lions shirt on 40 seconds, but Waratahs fullback Drew Mitchell completed a superb try-saving tackle.
Halfpenny, though, kicked a 50-metre penalty three minutes later, before superb approach work from the Wales full-back, Zebo and Davies created an opening for Sexton that he finished emphatically. Halfpenny landed the touchline conversion, leaving the Waratahs with an early mountain to climb as they faced a Lions side that had moved up a gear in terms of intensity.
Sexton then took a huge tackle from Waratahs lock Will Skelton, and as he was receiving treatment the Lions conceded a soft try, with Carter being freed in space and capitalising on some weak defensive work. Scrum-half Bernard McKibbin added the extras from wide out before another successful Halfpenny penalty ended a fast and furious opening quarter with the Lions 13-7 in front.
The game was of a similar pace to last Saturday's clash against Queensland Reds, but the Lions looked more composed under pressure than seven days ago, and another Halfpenny penalty extended their advantage to nine points.
McKibbin then found his range from 45 metres, though, before Halfpenny converted his own try and the Lions trooped off well ahead at the halfway stage. And they began the second period in similar fashion to the first by posting an early try when Sexton, Roberts and Davies combined at pace to give Halfpenny an easy run-in.
Halfpenny's conversion gave him 25 points in the game, and even though Carter claimed his second touchdown shortly afterwards - converted by McKibbin - the Lions still enjoyed control.
Another Halfpenny penalty, his fourth, made him the highest points-scorer in one match for the Lions against New South Wales, and with the Waratahs tiring, more opportunities looked set to present themselves.
Lions head coach Warren Gatland made six substitutions in one go with 20 minutes left, which included a first tour appearance for Ireland full-back Rob Kearney following his recovery from hamstring trouble.
The Lions played the final 10 minutes with 14 men after Roberts departed, yet there was still time for Davies to sprint clear and claim try number five, with substitute Owen Farrell converting.
Lions winger Simon Zebo attracts the attention of the Waratahs' defence © Getty Images
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