Lions 2013: NSW Waratahs 17-47 British and Irish Lions

By Bryn PalmerBBC Sport in Sydney
Leigh Halfpenny

The British and Irish Lions warmed up for the first Test against Australia with a powerful dismantling of New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney.

Tries from Jonny Sexton and Leigh Halfpenny, either side of a score from Waratahs centre Tom Carter, gave the Lions a 23-10 half-time lead.

Further tries from Halfpenny, who finished with a 30-point haul, Tom Croft and Jonathan Davies put the seal on their best performance of the tour.

The only downside was the sight of Jamie Roberts hobbling off with a leg injury 13 minutes from time.

The Welsh centre, along with many of the starting line-up, appeared to have earned his Test place before injury intervened.

But with Manu Tuilagi's availability for the opening Test in Brisbane uncertain, the Lions may instead turn to Roberts' fellow Welshman Davies, who enjoyed an outstanding game.

There were also power-packed contributions from locks Alun Wyn Jones and Paul O'Connell, the entire front row and Croft, while captain Sam Warburton also did enough to secure his spot.

Halfpenny, who has now landed 22 of his 23 shots at goal on tour so far, maintained his superb form, while new arrival Simon Zebo showed in the opening 40 minutes that he could challenge for a Test spot, with George North a doubt for next Saturday.

An electric start saw the Ireland wing denied a try 40 seconds into his Lions debut, Waratahs full-back Drew Mitchell forcing him into touch in the left corner.

But Halfpenny got the scoring under way with a penalty from halfway, and the full-back's charge-down paved the way for their opening try in the sixth minute.

Mitchell failed to find touch with his clearing kick, allowing the Lions to counter. Zebo released Davies, who sized up the situation, and a quick acceleration and inside pass to Sexton put the fly-half in.

A further chance went begging when Roberts lost the ball under pressure from Mitchell metres from the Waratahs line

The Lions' blitz defence, with Alun Wyn Jones prominent, stifled the hosts early on, but the Waratahs threatened the tourists out wide.

The Lions appeared disorientated after fly-half Jonny Sexton had been smashed late by giant NSW lock Will Skelton. The Waratahs took a quick line-out and a hacked cross-kick from Bernard Foley saw Peter Betham evade Sean Maitland's weak tackle to put Carter over.

Waratahs might have had a second try after a long cut-out pass had again stretched the Lions, forcing Adam Jones to concede a penalty. The hosts kicked it to touch and a quick throw saw Skelton come round the front, but Mike Phillips managed to hold up the 21-stone lock.

Tom Croft hands off Tom Kingston on the way to scoring for the Lions
Flanker Croft finished in style as he rampaged over for one of the Lions' five tries

Another superb Halfpenny penalty made it 16-7 but the Lions were forced to absorb some Waratahs pressure as the interval beckoned before Croft, after a big Roberts tackle, won a relieving penalty.

The Lions broke out, Sexton's chip over the defence putting the hosts on the back foot before powerful interventions from O'Connell, Alun Wyn Jones and Mako Vunipola allowed Davies to put Halfpenny over.

The full-back's conversion gave the half-time score a more comfortable look at 23-10, and the second half was only three minutes old when Halfpenny added to it, finishing off a sweet attacking move involving Sexton, Roberts and Davies.

The Waratahs hit straight back with a catch-and-drive try from a line-out after Zebo made his first mistake at the restart, Carter ploughing over for his second try.

But Halfpenny landed another penalty before a superbly judged interception from Davies created the Lions' fourth try, Croft handing off Tom Kingston before showing his pace to score in the left corner.

The Lions emptied their bench but there was no let-up in intensity, a sniping break from Ben Youngs giving Davies a deserved reward with his third try of the tour.

One more warm-up match against the ACT Brumbies on Tuesday still has to be negotiated, but this was a powerful statement of intent with the Wallabies looming.

Team line-ups

NSW Waratahs: Drew Mitchell; Cam Crawford, Rob Horne, Tom Carter, Peter Betham; Brendan Foley, Brendan McKibbin; Jeremy Tilse, John Ulugia, Paddy Ryan; Will Skelton, Ollie Atkins; Jed Holloway, Pat McCutcheon, Dave Dennis (capt).

Replacements: Luke Holmes (for Ulugia, 72), Richard Aho (for Tilse, 72), Sam Talakai (for Ryan, 72), Lopeti Timani (for Holloway, 49), AJ Gilbert (for McCutcheon, 55), Matt Lucas (for McKibbin, 72), Ben Volavola (for Betham, 72), Tom Kingston (for Carter, 46).

Lions: Leigh Halfpenny; Sean Maitland, Jonathan Davies, Jamie Roberts, Simon Zebo; Jonathan Sexton, Mike Phillips; Mako Vunipola, Tom Youngs, Adam Jones; Alun Wyn Jones, Paul O'Connell; Tom Croft, Sam Warburton (capt), Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Richard Hibbard (for Youngs, 59), Alex Corbisiero (for Vunipola, 59) Dan Cole (for Jones, 59), Geoff Parling (for O'Connell, 59), Dan Lydiate (for Croft, 59), Ben Youngs (for Phillips, 59), Owen Farrell (for Sexton, 49), Rob Kearney (for Halfpenny, 59).

Referee: Jaco Peyper (SARU)

Attendance: 40,805


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