Halfpenny shines in Lions victory
Published 15/06/2013 | 12:53
Leigh Halfpenny produced a commanding performance as the unbeaten British and Irish Lions beat NSW Waratahs 47-17 and delivered their best display Down Under just seven days before tackling Australia.
Wales full-back Halfpenny scored 30 points - two tries, four conversions and four penalties - while fly-half Jonathan Sexton, flanker Tom Croft and centre Jonathan Davies also added touchdowns to complete an outstanding team performance.
The Waratahs played their part - centre Tom Carter claimed two tries - but they were ultimately outclassed, with Halfpenny finishing just seven short of equalling the all-time individual Lions points record set by Alan Old in 1974. There was, though, another injury scare for the Lions when centre Jamie Roberts limped off.
There were outstanding displays by Halfpenny, Davies, Sexton, wing Simon Zebo - he enjoyed a high-class Lions debut just four days after arriving from America as injury cover - locks Paul O'Connell and Alun-Wyn Jones, plus hooker Tom Youngs.
The Lions made a blistering start, moving 10-0 ahead after just six minutes - and it could have been even more. Zebo thought he had scored with his first touch of the ball in a Lions shirt on 40 seconds, but Waratahs full-back Drew Mitchell completed a superb try-saving tackle.
Halfpenny, though, kicked a 50-metre penalty three minutes later, before superb approach work from the Wales full-back, Zebo and Davies created an opening for Sexton that he finished emphatically. Halfpenny landed the touchline conversion, leaving the Waratahs with an early mountain to climb.
Sexton then took a huge tackle from Waratahs lock Will Skelton, and as he was receiving treatment the Lions conceded a soft try, with Carter capitalising on some weak defensive work. Scrum-half Bernard McKibbin added the extras before another successful Halfpenny penalty ended a fast and furious opening quarter with the Lions 13-7 in front.
Another Halfpenny penalty extended their advantage to nine points. McKibbin then found his range from 45 metres, though, before Halfpenny converted his own try and the Lions trooped off well ahead at the halfway stage.
And they began the second period in similar fashion to the first by posting an early try when Sexton, Roberts and Davies combined at pace to give Halfpenny an easy run-in. Halfpenny's conversion gave him 25 points, and even though Carter claimed his second touchdown shortly afterwards - converted by McKibbin - the Lions still enjoyed control.
After another Halfpenny penalty, his fourth, Lions head coach Warren Gatland made six substitutions in one go with 20 minutes left, but they played the final 10 minutes with 14 men after Roberts departed, yet there was still time for Davies to sprint clear and claim try number five, with substitute Owen Farrell converting.