Lions open Australian tour with win

Brian O’Driscoll leads the way with two tries as the British and Irish Lions thump a below-strength Western Force.

Richard Brown
The Lions are chasing their first series win since a 2-1 victory in South Africa in 1997, having lost to Australia in 2001, New Zealand in 2005 and the Springboks in 2009 [GALLO/GETTY]

The British and Irish Lions began their tour of Australia with a thumping 69-17 win over the Western Force on Wednesday, but the joy of victory was dampened by accusations of biting by prop Cian Healy who later suffered a serious-looking leg injury.

Lions coach Warren Gatland will be pleased with how his side retained possession to run in nine tries at the Subiaco Oval thanks to their powerful runners who, bar a few passages, made light work of the inexperienced Super Rugby side.

The Force had been criticised for fielding an under-strength 23 which featured seven players who had not played Super Rugby but the spirited side managed to score two tries of their own and disrupt a couple of lineouts.

Captain Brian O’Driscoll, who scored his first try for the Lions 12 years ago in Perth when they beat Western Australia, crossed for two more in a strong display in the centres as a number of tourists put their hand up for Test selection.

“Reasonably pleased with the performance, plenty to work on, particularly defensively but, yeah, we scored some good tries,” O’Driscoll, who was standing in for tour captain Sam Warburton, said in a pitchside interview.

“We have to continue building this … we need to keep moving it forward because we know what Test lies ahead of us against the Wallabies in a few weeks time. So, great aspects to the game but plenty to work on.”

Irish flyhalf Jonny Sexton scored the opening try in the 10th minute of an impressive display but he left the kicking duties to fullback Leigh Halfpenny – who was successful with all 11 attempts – in a move likely to be replicated in the first Test against the Wallabies.


The game was halted in the 18th minute for a lengthy period after Force scrumhalf Brett Sheehan accused Healy of biting him when defending at a ruck near their own try line.

The television match official, though, found no evidence when reviewing the tape.

The Lions re-gathered after the halt in play with O’Driscoll scoring his first try after switching passes with Wales winger George North, but the game was again stopped for a lengthy period in the 35th minute when Healy screamed out in pain as his leg twisted in the tackle.

Lions officials told Sky TV that he had twisted his ankle and would be taken to hospital for an X-ray.

After the prop was taken off on a stretcher, English flanker Tom Croft crossed for another score to send the tourists into halftime 27-3 up.

Impressive Irish number eight Jamie Heaslip added another try at the start of the second half before former Wallaby Richard Brown crossed for the Force after avoiding a tackle by Sean O’Brien.

The Lions roared back, though, and Healy’s replacement Mako Vunipola bulldozed over for another five pointer as the replacements came on to take advantage of a weary looking home side.

Tommy Bowe, O’Driscoll, Owen Farrell and Geoff Parling all crossed for tries in the final 20 minutes to inflate the scoreboard, while Lions second row Alun Wyn Jones saw his night end early with the tourists first yellow card of the trip for a ruck infringement.

The Lions next head to Brisbane to take on the Queensland Reds on Saturday at Lang Park, the venue of the first of the three Tests against the Wallabies on June 22.

“They’re a quality side but I think Australia will go well against them,” said Force captain Matt Hodgson.

Source: Reuters

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