A sparkling attacking display saw the British & Irish Lions defeat Combined NSW and Queensland Country 64-0 in the third match of the DHL Australia 2013 Lions Tour at Hunter Stadium in Newcastle tonight.
In front of a healthy crowd of 20,071 Combined Country punched above their weight early on, almost getting the better of the star studded Lions in the early exchanges.
But the Lions broke through after seven minutes with a try to Welsh winger Alex Cuthbert, nicely set up by Irish living legend Brian O’Driscoll. Two minutes later they were in again with Cuthbert this time cutting inside to set up Irish scrumhalf Conor Murray.
Scottish fullback/flyhalf Stuart Hogg landed both conversions to make it 14-0 after ten minutes and keep the Lions perfect record of 19 from 19 in shots at goal on tour. Hogg scored himself a minute later but this time his conversion hit the post and the run was ended.
Country were on the attack minutes later, after a charge down forced a lineout five metres from the Lions’ line. The courageous Country team bombarded the Lions fortress but after a solid four minutes Welsh flanker Justin Tipuric turned over the ball.
The ball came quickly to O’Driscoll and then giant Welsh winger George North who put Scottish fullback Sean Maitland off on a long run downfield. Maitland beat two before passing back inside to North to score under the posts. Hogg converted and the Lions were up 26-0 after a quarter of the match.
The Lions then camped in the Country 22 and some spirited defence was eventually punctured by Welsh hooker Richard Hibbard who dove over from a driving maul. Hogg was again successful with the extras making it 33-0 on 28 minutes.
A slick backline move from a scrum put North over for his second on 33 minutes but Hogg was unsuccessful with the conversion from wide-out. The Lions poured on the attack in the final minutes of the half but valiant Country held firm.
Coach Cam Blades clearly gave the Country boys a rev up at half time as they defended like men possessed at the start of the second half. The Lions dug in close to Country’s line but wave and wave of red jerseys was turned away, with tackle after tackle containing a little extra bite.
Eventually O’Driscoll broke through out wide. The conversion was missed by Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny, on for North, and it was 43-0 after 50 minutes. Halfpenny scored himself four minutes later and this time was successful with the extras to make it an even 50 on 56 minutes.
Again Country defended tenaciously, pulling off some superb try saving tackles, but finally Irish flanker Sean O’Brien broke over from close range. Halfpenny added his second conversion to make it 57-0 on 65 minutes.
Replacement Country winger Dale Ahwang, a Removalist from the Barron-Trinity Bulls in Cairns, got the home crowd on their feet as he dove over for what looked like a famous try three minutes later – but it was called back by referee Steve Walsh for the barest knock on.
Country continued to defend with passion and pride as the clock ticked down but a final flourish by the classy O’Driscoll saw him put a neat grubber through for replacement centre Jonathan Davies to score on the siren. Halfpenny landed the conversion from wide out to complete the scoring at British & Irish Lions 64 Combined Country 0.
DHL AUSTRALIA 2013 LIONS TOUR
FULL TIME SCORE
British & Irish Lions 64 (George North 2, Alex Cuthbert, Conor Murray, Stuart Hogg, Richard Hibbard, Brian O’Driscoll, Leigh Halfpenny, Sean O’Brien, Jonathan Davies tries; Stuart Hogg 4, Leigh Halfpenny 3 conversions) defeated NSW & Queensland Combined Country 0 at Hunter Stadium, Newcastle. (Crowd: 20.071, Half Time: Lions 38-0)