Please refresh for updates Score: FORCE 17-69 LIONS
The Lions forwards certainly dominated in the loose and at the breakdown but the Force scrum never looked under undue pressure. Sexton controlled the game and gave the Lions the go forward they’ll need to trouble the Wallabies. The real high point for the Lions must surely be the 100 per cent kicking display from Leigh Halfpenny, the majority of whose 11 kicks came from touchline positions. “Pretty pleased with that,” says the Welsh fullback in his post-match interview. Vunipola was destructive deputising for Healy and is surely in with a shout of a test starting place. Gatland will nevertheless be hoping for good news on the Irish prop who was stretchered off in the first half.
12.53 – FULL TIME
A Force forward pass in the midfield brings the game to a close. It wasn’t a cakewalk for the Lions, but it was far from the challenge they would have been looking for. We’re sure to hear more about the Force’s policy of leaving out so many key players, but there are plenty of positives for Gatland’s men.
12.48 TRY Lions (Parling)
The Lions forwards’ domination continues with Vunipola slamming through two Force defenders; replacement scrum-half Youngs pops it up to O’Brien who turns a delicate inside pass to the charging Geoff Parling who powers over for the try. Do I need to say it? Halfpenny does what he does.
Great pressure from the Force comes to nothing after the imperious Halfpenny expertly intercepts a dabbed kick through, and following a fumble from Farrell, the Lions recover to clear. This is a really gutsy performance from this young Force side.
12.42 SIN BIN Lions (Jones)
The Welsh second row is sent to the sidelines for killing the ball, as the Force pile pressure on the Lions line.
12.39 TRY Lions (Farrell)
Just on for Johnny Sexton, who has played immaculately tonight, Farrell finds the ball from the reclaimed restart and with no one in front of him he cruises in between the posts. Halfpenny… yeah, obviously.
12.37 TRY Lions (BOD)
The lrish centre has his brace. Lions recover it from the kick-off, Sexton pops it inside to Tuilagi who breaks the line and offers it inside to O’Driscoll who saunters in to score. Halfpenny converts.
12.34 – TRY Force (McCaffrey)
Lions are pinged for a couple of penalties at the breakdown and the Force take a couple of quick pens. They’re stopped a metre out but McCaffrey hits the pop ball and is over to touchdown under the sticks.
12.30 – TRY Lions (Bowe)
From the scrum resulting from Stubbs’s penalty, the ball goes wide and Tommy Bowe is in in the corner for another Irish try. Halfpenny, almost unbelievably, from out on the touchline once again, slots his eighth kick of the night. This really is developing into one of the best goal kicking performances by a Lion in recent memory.
12.26 – SIN BIN Force (Stubbs)
The Lions have a line-out 5ms out following a penalty. The forwards are intent on getting a score for themselves but the Force resistance is strong. The ball is recycled but Force are penalised for killing the ball. And it’s a yellow card for Stubbs, and the Aussie outfit are down to 14.
12.20 TRY Lions (Vunipola)
A freight train called Mako Vunipola is over in the corner for the Lions. George North bursts through the midfield, and steps two defenders before being brought down just four metres short. The ball is worked out wide and the English prop smashes his way over. And guess what, from the touchline, Halfpenny once again converts. What a performance from the Welshman.
12.16 TRY Force (Brown)
Best is pinged for being offside and a quickly taken penalty sees the Force stopped just a metre out. Richard Brown hits the crash ball perfectly and gets over for the Force’s first try against the Lions.
12.12 TRY Lions (Heaslip)
And it’s a perfect start to the half for the Lions. Heaslip starts the move and ends it: First breaking the Force line and then taking a huge miss pass out wide, after a couple of phases of pressure, to touchdown in the corner. Leigh Halfpenny slots the conversion from out wide to make it six-for-six on the night.
Well that’s a good halftime for Healy, who, the Lions medical team think might have escaped with just a sprained ankle, and the alleged bite, it’s been conceded was probably an accident.
11.15 – HALFTIME
11.15. – TRY Lions (Tom Croft)
Just on Mako Vunipola smashes through two tackles, the ball goes out wide and BOD is almost in for a brace. A couple of phases later and ball goes back along the line and there are a queue of Lions ready to convert: O’Brien to Wyn Jones to Tom Croft and the flanker finishes comfortably in the corner. Leigh Halfpenny (who is staking a real claim here for the test kicking duties) keeps up his 100 per cent performance with another pure strike from the touchline to add the conversion.
As Healy trundles off the pitch on a stretcher Halfpenny slots another penalty.
Apparently the earlier mystery TMO came after a Force player told the referee that Cian Healy had bitten him. We’re sure to hear more on this.
Injury – legs definitely aren’t meant to bend that way. Cian Healy’s leg gets trapped under him in the tackle and it looks for all the world like a tour ender.
11.42 – TRY Lions (BOD)
Well that’s how to respond: Quick hands from BOD finds the mutant winger George North, who reverses a great pass back to the captain who finishes in the corner. Halfpenny adds the extras from the touchline.
11.39 – PEN Force (Hodgson)
The Lions, seemingly intent to play everything through the forwards, get pinged after some scrappy ball from the breakdown leaves O’Brien hanging on.
Another squint line-out from the Force hands the impetus back to the Lions after Healy was penalised in the scrum. It’s getting a bit scrappy.
The resulting line-out goes wrong as George North claims the ball at the tail, and the power of the Lions soon finds them on halfway with a scrum, for a knock-on which could easily have been a penalty.
BOD is pinged for stepping out too early and the Force are going for another line-out. Ballsy.
A 70m break from the Force and a charitable penalty decision against Murray and the Force have got their first attacking opportunity with a line-out on the Lions 5m line.
The TMO is on. And nobody seems to know why: 5m scrum.
Lions scrum 10ms out from the Force line, culminates with Bowe hitting a beautiful line to dissect the Force defence before offloading to Tuilagi on his inside who’s just held up a foot out from the line.
11.15 – TRY Lions (Sexton)
A couple of resets later and we’ve got the ball out. After several phases of Lions play on the Force 22, and some good pressure, Sexton throws a dummy which Richard Brown, the Force number eight, buys hook line and sinker and the Irishman is through under the sticks to score the first try of the game.
North latches onto a lovely chip from Sexton but stands up after being held in the tackle and concedes the penalty. The Force line-out goes a bit squiffy and we’ve got our second scrum.
Conor Murray flicks a forward pass into Heaslip’s bread basket from the kick-off. A first look at the scrum doesn’t turn up much: It’s sloppy and the Lions recover from the subsequent breakdown to clear.
The seemingly traditional bit of match-opening ping pong ends with a break from Tommy Bowe running a great angle in the midfield. Force are pinged for an offside and Leigh Halfpenny converts the kick. Sexton not on kicking duties then. Interesting.
Kick off just five minutes away now. The Lions’ loose forwards are sure to be a problem for the Force. As is the frightening proposition of BOD and Tuilagi in midfield. Forces’s centres, Stubbs and the yet-to-play-Super-Rugby Tuatara Morrison, are going to have their work cut out.
Former Lions coach Sir Ian Mcgeechan has slammed the Force, who are resting a number of their first team for their Super Rugby clash agains the NSW Waratahs this weekend, as ‘disrespectful’ to the Lions. He has accused them of playing politics ahead of the test series. Sounds like Sir Ian is expecting triple figures.
So Sam Warbuton is being saved for the weekend, and BOD captains the Lions. Here are the teams:
British and Irish Lions: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Brian O’Driscoll (c), 12 Manu Tuilagi, 11 George North, 10 Jonny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Jamie Heaslip; 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Tom Croft, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun-Wyn Jones, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Rory Best, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Tom Youngs, 17 Mako Vunipola, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Geoff Parling, 20 Toby Faletau, 21 Ben Youngs, 22 Owen Farrell, 23 Sean Maitland.
Force team: Sam Christie, Dane Haylett-Petty, Ed Stubbs, Chris Tuatara-Morrison, Corey Brown, Sam Norton-Knight, Brett Sheehan; Salesi Manu, James Hilterbrand, Salesi Ma’afu, Toby Lynn, Phoenix Battye, Angus Cottrell, Matt Hodgson, Richard Brown.
Replacements: Hugh Roach, Sione Kolo, Tim Metcher, Ben Matwijow, Lachlan McCaffrey, Alby Mathewson, Nick Haining, Junior Rasolea