Lions maintain momentum with Rebels win

British and Irish Lions secure a comprehensive 35-0 win over Melbourne Rebels as Manu Tuilagi presses for selection.

    Lions maintain momentum with Rebels win
    The mid-week team bounced back from their upset loss to the ACT Brumbies last week [GETTY]

    Bustling centre Manu Tuilagi pressed his claims for selection for the second Test against Australia as a powerful but often sloppy British and Irish Lions scored five unanswered tries to beat the Melbourne Rebels 35-0 on Tuesday.

    After Conor Murray crossed to open the scoring in the 17th minute, one of Tuilagi's explosive runs helped to set up winger Sean Maitland's try in the 28th.

    Flanker Sean O'Brien typified the power of the Lions' forwards when he barged over on the blind side shortly after halftime, and an indiscretion from Rebels second-half substitute Jordy Reid gave away a penalty try that put the game out of reach for the home side.

    Second-half substitute Ben Youngs ran 30 meters to score from a lineout in the 73rd to seal the win.

    Gatland pleased

    After winning the opening Test at Brisbane last weekend, the Lions can clinch the three-Test series at Melbourne on Saturday.

    "I'm really pleased with that performance,'' Lions head coach Warren Gatland said.

    "It keeps the momentum from Saturday. I thought the set piece was good, defended well, so I'm really happy.

    "I thought the loose forwards were good. Sean Maitland was good on the wing. Richard Hibbard carried the ball strongly. These guys have been a real credit to the Lions and the four home nations. We're really proud of them so far.''

    Gatland said it was important for many of the players in the midweek team to "get back on the horse'' after last week's upset loss to the ACT Brumbies in Canberra, their first loss to an Australian provincial team since 1971.

    The Lions showed little respect to the Rebels from the outset, but despite dominating possession they were let down by poor handling until Murray made the breakthrough. The powerful Lions scrum, set five metres out, shoved its way to the Rebels tryline before somehow missed what should have been a pushover try.

    Instead, Murray grabbed the ball that squirted out after No. 8 Toby Faletau got near the line, spun out of a rushed tackle, and dived over.

    Becoming progressively expansive in their play, the Lions extended their lead in the 28th when Tuilagi made a tackle-busting charge from his own half that eventually culminated in Maitland's try on the far right.

    The Rebels, captained by former Wales backrower Garth Delve, refused to be overawed and continually challenged the Lions defence. That determination failed to pay off when offered a penalty metres from the Lions' line in the final minutes of the first half. The Rebels opted for the lineout, promptly lost possession, and went to the break trailing 14-0.

    No mistake

    The Lions made no mistake with a lineout from the same spot 10 minutes into the second half, sending O'Brien over from a set piece to widen the lead.

    The Lions looked certain to complete a pushover try in the 63rd until Reid came in from the side to pull it down and conceded a penalty try.

    The Rebels missed the kicking game of Wallabies pair James O'Connor and Kurtley Beale, often failing to clear the ball cleanly, and missing opportunities to gain valuable territory. They also struggled against the rushing, umbrella-style defence of the Lions which prevented the Rebels from spreading the ball to the fringes.

    Young's try showed up a weary Rebels defence as the scoreline was pushed beyond any doubt. That was the last chance for the second-string tourists to impress selectors for Test selection. Tuilagi, who missed the opening Test with injury, and O'Brien certainly pushed their claims for a spot in the 23-man match squad.

    "Disappointing looking at that scoreline,'' Delve, a former Wales international, said.

    "We probably didn't get the stability of our set piece we wanted. A quality team like that, they ran a few points on us.

    "Proud of my Rebels lads for the fight they put up tonight.''



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