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Dan Lydiate celebrates his late score with Conor Murray in support.
Dan Lydiate celebrates his late score with Conor Murray in support.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Reaction: Lions pounce, but Farrell caught off-guard in rout

Timely interventions from Paul O’Connell ensured plain-sailing for the Lions on their way to Oz.
Jun 1st 2013, 3:54 PM 5,008 1

TOUR MATCHES, AND tour openers in particular, are often an opportunity for a side to catch the Lions off-guard in a once-off encounter.

In the suffocating heat of Hong Kong, however, the conditions were always more likely to make the hard-living Barbarians suffer more than the cryo-treated, Sam Warburton-led British and Irish Lions.

Eight tries and a 59-8 win is what Warren Gatland and co. can carry towards Perth. A thoroughly convincing win, ruthlessly taken despite the humidity making the task of executing skills and physical feats much more difficult than usual.

“Barbarians are a great side, but maybe their players aren’t in the same place mentally as we are.” Admitted Paul O’Connell to SkySports post-match.

While the BaaBaas began well and made life difficult for short periods, the change of pace in the second half was stark when Mike Phillips was allowed to coast over after a solitary dummied pass.

With two tries to his name and a controlling display from half-back, Phillips was a deserving man-0f-the-match, but while his performance was typical of the man, his humility was perhaps less so.

“My skills were very poor,” said the scrum-half “it was very difficult. I thought  all in all it’s a platform to work on and we can go and push on from here. It’s a good start and we’re looking forward now.”

He added: “There were far better performances than mine out there tonight. The boys in the pack were outstanding.”

In that aspect, O’Connell was a leader in every sense. Picking up the captaincy baton from where he left it, O’Connell tore off his marks on the opening kick-off to dispossess Marco Wentzl as he descended with the ball.

“Paul O’Connell,” Phillips said with near disbelief. “What a man to lead us. All the experience, when he speaks, everybody listens. You want to fight for him and play for him. What a guy to lead…”

Phillips noticeably had to stop himself in his stride to name-check his actual captain for Lions and country, “Warby as well.”

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From the moment O’Connell won possession, the Lions patiently ensured they would not blow all their gaskets in the opening half. Instead, they calmly went though the phases, O’Connell carrying twice more before the sequence ended in a penalty chance for Owen Farrell.

©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

The tone was set. Yet, while Farrell retained some composure off the tee, he was clearly there to be rattled in open play.

One kick from his hands required Phillips to scramble in order to prevent Jared Payne scoring off a straightforward counter. Few suspected it would be his Saracens team-mate who would attempt to derail him with all the subtlety of a bull in a china shop. It was, but the Brits’ hook back-fired and Farrell’s retaliation went unpunished.

The Barbarians would win the sin-bin period 3-0, but after the first quarter it was one-way traffic. O’Connell’s try came after Phillips had found another hole in the defence and the Welsh ’9′  made the score 20-3 within five minutes. All that followed were Lions players trying to balance a lust for a Test jersey with a wish to get off the field unhurt. The Barbarians, some with international summers ahead, merely wanted the former.

‘Banter’

In his post-match chat with Will Greenwood, Phillips was at pains to add that his combined Ash-Splash and Delon Armitage-style pointing to the try-line was not a show of bravado, but a little in-joke with his Bayonne club-mate Joe Rokocoko.

“I just want to say,” he interjected when he felt the interview coming to an end. “When I gave a bit of banter to Roks there; he’s my team-mate. It’s just a bit of banter, one-on-one. He’s my team-mate. I’m not being big-headed or anything.”

You can’t help but wonder how Brits’ own form of ‘banter’ on Farrell’s jaw will be welcomed when they meet up post-match or back in London for pre-season training.

Lions Tour begins with a bang as Brits punches club-mate Farrell in the face

The big winners and losers from the Lions’ thrashing of the Barbarians

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