McGeechan hails 'first-class' Lions
June 3, 2009
Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll scores his first try for the Lions since 2005 © Getty Images
British and Irish Lions boss Ian McGeechan admitted his team's 74-10 demolition of the Golden Lions had "exceeded expectations."
The Lions were rampant at Ellis Park, running in 10 tries to blow away their first Super 14 opponents in South Africa this summer. Jamie Roberts, Tommy Bowe and Ugo Monye led the spree by claiming try doubles, while there were also touchdowns for skipper Brian O'Driscoll, Tom Croft, James Hook and Stephen Ferris.
Fly-half Stephen Jones kicked 18 points, with Hook slotting three late conversions as last Saturday's stuttering victory over the Royal XV in Rustenburg became a distant memory.
"We were very accurate and very disciplined in what we did," McGeechan said. "The performance exceeded expectations. We did the right things at the right times - the players' thinking on the field was first-class.
"It has given us a good sighter of what is possible, but we know we have to lift ourselves further. I probably wouldn't have written that score down on a piece of paper before the game, but we kept playing for 80 minutes and kept our focus."
O'Driscoll and Roberts already look a Test team centre combination-in-waiting, and their productive partnership was not lost on McGeechan. It was Roberts' second start in five days. "Jamie has just told me he wants to play again in four (three) days' time!," said McGeechan. "Our pack started well, and the centres used the space well, together with their work off the ball."
Roberts was quick to deflect praise from his strong-running contribution. "Let's not get too far ahead of ourselves," he said. "There is still quite a lot to work on, and it is up to the guys going out on Saturday now (against the Cheetahs) to raise the bar again. There were 15 man-of-the-matches out there. It was pretty special playing alongside Brian. Fingers crossed, I will get the chance again."
It was Ireland Grand Slam skipper O'Driscoll's first appearance in a Lions shirt since he was spear-tackled out of the New Zealand tour four years ago. And he responded in imperious fashion, creating numerous opportunities for his fellow backs before going off 20 minutes from time.
"Hopefully, this was the start of things to come. We don't want to get too far ahead of ourselves, but there is a huge amount of positivity. If you score 70 points against a Super 14 team, then someone has got to take some notice of it.
"We didn't concede a point in the second-half. We could have taken our foot off the gas, but we were adamant at half-time we were going to keep them scoreless."
Golden Lions skipper Cobus Grobelaar conceded his shell-shocked team had been outclassed. "They played very well. We tried our best, but it wasn't good enough," he said. "We tried to out pressure on them, but you must give credit where it is due. They were better than us in the scrum and they kept us under pressure all night, so they deserved their win."
McGeechan, meanwhile, reaffirmed that Ireland centre Gordon D'Arcy will link up with the squad in Johannesburg tomorrow. D'Arcy has been summoned as cover for midfield injuries, with Riki Flutey, Luke Fitzgerald and Keith Earls all currently recovering from various ailments.
"He will arrive in Johannesburg tomorrow, and then go down to Bloemfontein with us later in the day," McGeechan said. "He will do a day of rehab. If the medics are happy, we will involve him in training on Friday."
British & Irish Lions assistant coach Warren Gatland felt his side 'earned respect' after a clinical display. "We put ourselves under a bit of pressure last week. But tonight there were some reallly outstanding performances by a number of players," he told Sky Sports 2.
The Wales coach was also keen to point out that spending more time together in South Africa was key. "I think acclimatising and spending a few more days together was important. The boys were very motivted because we're not given much of chance coming here."
Captain Brian O'Driscoll made his first appearance in a Lions shirt since his 2005 tour of New Zealand was ended by a spear tackle and enjoyed his centre pairing with Jamie Roberts, who crossed for a brace to add to O'Driscoll's own first-half score.
"We havent trained together a huge amount but he (Roberts) runs great support lines and that's why he got two tries today. I'll look forward to trying to develop that relationhip and put pressure on everyone else."