Fifteen different Lions led by Brian O’Driscoll swept aside Western Force at Patersons stadium in Perth for the second match on the 2013 tour today.
New combinations were put to the test as the tourists ran out 69-17 winners, including an exciting back row of Tom Croft, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip and O’Driscoll partnering Manu Tuilagi in the centre.
Apart from Sean Maitland’s cameo appearance – where he gave away a penalty in the dying moments – Scottish interest was non-existent, but Stuart Hogg and Richie Gray are expected to feature in Saturday’s match against Queensland Reds.
Warren Gatland will have new selection headaches thanks to some big performances from Tommy Bowe, Heaslip and O’Brien in particular, but the Lions should have been more clinical.
Bowe stretched his legs early on with a break after just one minute after spotting a dog leg in the Western Force defence. A penalty followed and a metronomic Leigh Halfpenny made it 3-0.
After rolling up the field via several clean phases of side to side play, Jonny Sexton’s show and go opened up the Force defence and the Irishman bagged the tourist’s first try which Halfpenny converted.
With 80% possession inside first 15 minutes, the Lions dominated in attack and the Force could not deal with the running lines of Bowe and the aggression Warren Gatland’s men showed with ball in hand.
The Lions were guilty of wasting their superior possession and an overthrown Rory Best line-out took the Force up field and they enjoyed their first assault on the Lions try line.
An organised Lions defence held strong though, interestingly employing a rush defence despite Shaun Edwards’ absence from the coaching staff.
After half an hour the Force got on the board with a penalty but the Lions went straight up the other end and captain Brian O’Driscoll dived over in the corner after an excellent North offload out of the tackle.
The Lions back row then got motoring. First Jamie Heaslip barged his way through half the Force from kick-off then Sean O’Brien continued the trend.
A sad sight for the visitors was Cian Healy being taken off on a stretcher looking as though his tour is over. While the Irish prop was leaving the field, Halfpenny edged the Lions 20-3 ahead.
On the 40 minute mark Croft crossed after his customary lurking on the wing- an easy try from an overlap after the Force had failed to organise their defence despite slow ruck ball. Halfpenny’s touchline conversation made it 27-3 at half time.
Gatland’s back-row conundrum only got tougher at the start of the second half as Heaslip continued to punch holes in the Force defence before popping up on the left wing to finish off another overlap.
Best was pinged for being on the wrong side of a ruck 20 metres out from his own line and the Force took full advantage with number 8 Richard Brown tumbling over for a try from the resulting quick tap.
At 34-10, the Force needed the next score to rattle the Lions but the Lions simply looked like men possessed with ball in hand and after North sliced through the midfield, Mako Vunipola crossed after a quick recycle.
Bowe grabbed his second try as Halfpenny continued to kick like a machine but the Force, with a man off the field, defiantly scored their second try through Lachlan McCaffrey.
Then O’Driscoll did what he had been talking about all week – he followed Manu Tuilagi into contact. The England centre broke a few tackles and then popped to O’Driscoll on his shoulder to run in from the 22.
The Force began to crumble under the Lions intensity with 15 minutes left on the clock and substitute Owen Farrell, with almost his first touch glided through a splitting Australian defence to touch down.
Geoff Parling, tasting Lions action for the first time, scored towards the end as Gatland’s men ran out 69-17 winners.