Thursday 22 March 2018

Lions learn nothing as amateurs dispatched like lambs to the slaughter

Combined Country 0 Lions 64

Conor George in Newcastle

IT’S hard to fathom what the Lions learned from this outing … nothing is the short answer for they were up against opposition so inferior this wasn’t so much a mis-match as it was an exercise in cruelty.

When the Lions brushed aside a weakened Western Force the question of why Australia A weren’t on the programme was raised.

After this morning’s outing the reasoning behind staging ‘The massacre of Newcastle’ is even more confusing. Combined Country were awful, out-classed and out of their depth. But it wasn’t their fault.

They were a team cobbled together with just a handful of professionals in among amateur players drawn from local club sides.

The real surprise was that the Lions scored only six tries in the opening half. A quick look through the Combined Country player profiles highlighted the gap in standard. When he isn’t propping against the best front rows in the northern hemisphere, Combined Country tighthead prop Tim Metcher, for example, fills his days selling bathrooms in Sydney.

It was a nonsense of a contest. Mercifully, the Lions escaped without shipping any more injuries as they face into the weekend’s clash with the Michael Cheika coached Waratahs in Syndey.

Brian O'Driscoll is halted by Tim Davidson during the match
Brian O'Driscoll is halted by Tim Davidson during the match
Brian O'Driscoll of the Lions is tackled during the match between Combined Country and the British & Irish Lions
Jamie Roberts of the Lions takes a bag of ice as he heads to the bench
Leigh Halfpenny of the Lions breaks away from Trent Dyer to score a try
Sean O'Brien is tackled by Alex Gibbon
Alex Cuthbert (centre) goes over to score the Lions' first try against Combined Country.
Conor Murray scores a try for the Lions
Alex Cuthbert scores a try as Lewie Catt fails to stop him

Wales Alex Cuthbert opened the scoring after just seven minutes when the Lions pounced on an overthrown line-out to flash the ball through four pairs of hands before putting the Welsh winger in for the first of those six first half try.

Ireland’s Conor Murray then bagged his first score in a Lions’ shirt just two minutes later when Cuthbert turned provider with a fantastic break that cut the Country’s defence wide open. He chose the perfect time to offload to Murray off his shoulder and the Lions were up and running.

Stuart Hogg then charted as wide a gap as you are ever likely to see for try number three after 12 minutes for a 19-0 lead.

To their credit the Combined Country side were gamey and when Richard Hibbard overthrew out of touch after 15 minutes they pounced, claimed the loose ball and surged up the field forcing the Lions to desperately defend their line.

To the delight of the crowd the Combined Country side twice chose to forgo three points and chased seven by kicking to the corner.

Alas, their efforts came to naught when the Lions regained possession and charged up the field with Sean Maitland and George North combining to send the latter in for the first of his brace on the night.

Hibbard and North completed the first half with tries for a 38-0 half-time lead.

The second half was played at a far more pedestrian pace. Brian O’Driscoll capped off an excellent first half with a try three minutes after the resumption. Sean O’Brien and Leigh Halfpenny also got their names on the score sheet before the night was out.

Combned Country went desperately close to a score that would have delighted the 20,071 crowd when replacement Sale Ahwang intercepted a Jonathan Davies pass to O’Driscoll. He was just held up short but play was called back for a knock-on.

Fittingly O’Driscoll, who did seem to be a little ginger on his ankle, orchestrated the final try of the night when he capped off an excellent performance with a little grubber for Davies to touch down. Halfpenny added the extras for the final points.


Scorers: Lions: G North 2 tries, A Cuthbert, R Hibbard, C Murray, S Hogg, B O’Driscoll, L Halfpenny, S O’Brien, J Davies tries, S Hogg 4 cons, L Halfpenny 3 con

COMBINED COUNTRY: N Trist, A Gibbon, L Catt (D Ahwang 62), TJ Siakisini, T Cox (S McCarthy 58), A Roberts, M Snowden (A McCormack 76), H Hirsimaki (D Evans 56), J Mann-Rae (T Kearney 62), T Metcher (R Abraham 72), P Battye (T Dwyer 30), E Blake, R Stanford (P Battye 65 (R Arnold 75)), J Butler, T Davidson.

LIONS: S Maitland, A Cuthbert, B O’Driscoll, J Roberts (J Davies 58), G North (L Halfpenny half), S Hogg, C Murray (M Phillips 70), A Corbisiero (R Grant 50), R Hibbard (R Best 50), D Cole (M Stevens 50), R Gray (A Wyn Jones half), I Evans, S O’Brien, J Tipuric, J Heaslip (T Faletau 53).

Referee: S Walsh, AR


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