Tuesday 12 December 2017

Brian O'Driscoll shines but Healy injury mars Lions win

British and Irish Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll dives over for his first try
British and Irish Lions captain Brian O'Driscoll dives over for his first try
Cian Healy receives attention this morning

By Conor George in Perth

BRIAN O’DRISCOLL has lost none of his predatory instincts, as his two try haul from tonight’s win over Western Force highlighted.

O’Driscoll grabbed his first in the first half when he somehow squeezed in the corner under the attempted tackle from Force full-back Sam Christie. O’Driscoll finished off a gorgeous break that saw him handle the ball twice before dotting down.

His second came midway through the second half when he, Jonathan Sexton and Manu Tuilagi combined beautifully to create a sliver of light for O’Driscoll to exploit as he slalomed through from just outside the 22.

It was a fantastic shimmy of his hips that bamboozled the Force defence. It was a performance that will again raise the stakes in the battle to be the starting outside centre in the opening Test against Australia on June 22.

"It's always nice to get on the end of good moves," O'Driscoll said.

"We are relatively pleased with the performance but there is plenty to work on, especially defensively.

"We have to continue building on this. We set a good standard in Hong Kong on Saturday. Tonight there were great aspects to the game, but plenty to work on."

This was a game of high entertainment and despite the lop-sided nature of the scoreline it wasn’t as one-sided a contest as that might suggest. Indeed the Force’s understrength side were plucky right to the end and were full value for their scores.

The final result was never in doubt though. The Lions were simply far too strong in front of a 35,103 crowd.

The night wasn’t without some controversy though. First there was a biting allegation levelled against Cian Healy in the first half and then the prop forward had to be stretchered off the field and rushed to hospital to have an X-ray on a suspected sprained ankle.

It was an ignominious end to Healy’s first start in a Lions shirt – he made his debut off the bench against the Barbarians in Hong Kong – and the hope is that his tour has not come to a premature end.

On the field the Lions were quickly into their rhythm with a nine try haul but the show was stolen by Leigh Halfpenny who had a 100% return from the tee with nine conversions and two penalties as he surely stole a march on the race to become the Test full back selection.

For the Irish the performances of Jamie Heaslip and Sean O’Brien in the back-row are to be celebrated while O’Driscoll, Sexton and Murray were also outstanding as the Lions played the first of their nine games in Australia.

O’Brien was one of the standout performers at openside flanker and he and Justin Tipuric have certainly thrown the gauntlet down to injured captain Sam Warburton.

The Lions now play Queensland Reds in Brisbane on Saturday.

Irish Independent

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