Tom Croft Photo: Dallas Kilponen Captain’s run: Sam Warburton. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
MATCH STATS/AS IT HAPPENED
If there was ever any question about the menacing potential of the predator hulking north into Wallabies territory in six days, a clinical five-try effort settled the matter in Sydney on Saturday night.
Two tries to veteran NSW centre Tom Carter could not save the Waratahs from a comprehensive mauling at the hands of the British and Irish Lions, the home side going down 47-17 at Allianz Stadium.
The Waratahs displayed their characteristic attacking intent but they were no match for the superb midfield pairing of Jonathan Davies and Jamie Roberts.
And after competing for 50 minutes, an inexperienced NSW pack could not withstand the assault when Lions coach Warren Gatland emptied his bench.
The only silver lining for the Wallabies is that Roberts limped off with what appears to be a tour-ending torn hamstring. Otherwise, the Lions are one powerful outfit in attack and defence.
The Lions opened the scoring with a penalty in the fourth minute, following it up with a try two minutes later to five-eighth Jonathan Sexton.
It was a taster for the midfield magic ahead from Davies, who spent the entire game in the right position at the right time, ably assisting his playmakers over the line at every opportunity.
The Waratahs hit back six minutes later with a superb try to Carter, who was on the receiving end of a ball from winger Peter Betham. Halfback Brendan McKibbin, whose quick throw-in had triggered the chain of events a moment earlier, converted to make it 10-7.
Two penalties to the Lions put them six points in front before the Waratahs clawed it back to 16-10. But the Lions pounced again on the stroke of half-time, swarming over the advantage line and to within inches of the white paint before spreading it out wide with a series of sweeping passes to where Leigh Halfpenny waited, unmarked, on the right wing. He converted his effort to take the Lions into the sheds leading 23-10.
It took mere minutes for the tourists to wind up in attack and stretch their lead to 20 points after the break.
Davies was again instrumental, running a beautiful supportive line inside Roberts before delivering it into the hands of Halfpenny, who ran over for the Lions’ third try.
The Waratahs hit back for Carter’s second try, with towering second-rower Will Skelton offloading to his centre to make it 30-17 after the conversion.
It was the last time the Waratahs saw the try line, Warren Gatland’s impressive replacements running rings around the home side with two more converted tries and a fourth penalty goal.
Davies struck again in the 52nd minute, taking an intercept and turning it into a 15-metre break to set up a try for blindside breakaway Tom Croft, and once more before the whistle to etch his name firmly on Gatland’s team list heading into the first Test next weekend.
Waratahs youngsters Skelton, Jed Holloway and Ollie Atkins will be immeasurably improved for their education at the hands of their classy northern hemisphere rivals.
Bernard Foley was again excellent, and must be included in a Wallabies squad before the year is out, while veteran winger Drew Mitchell provided the attitude off which his younger teammates fed to remain competitive for much of the match.
LIONS 47 (Leigh Halfpenny 2, Tom Croft, Jonathan Davies, Jonathan Sexton tries Halfpenny 4, Owen Farrell cons Halfpenny 4 pens) bt NSW WARATAHS 17 (Tom Carter 2 tries Brendan McKibbin 2 cons pen) at Allianz Stadium. Referee: Jaco Peyper. Crowd: 40,805.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.