By Sarah Mockford at Allianz Stadium in Sydney
In a nutshell
The Lions produced their most complete performance of the tour to date, but it did come at a cost – Jamie Roberts limping off with what looked like a hamstring strain. The tourists started with a huge intensity and were rewarded with an early try from Johnny Sexton. The Waratahs clearly targeted the Lions half-backs, but they stood up well to that pressure, the backs clicked excellently, the forwards impressed at the set-piece and the all-round physicality was of the highest level.
The big concern for the Lions – other than Roberts’s injury – was a few flaws in defence. They were exposed out wide a number of times, Leigh Halfpenny coming to the rescue when Sean Maitland was caught out of position, and the same happened when Simon Zebo rushed up in the second half. They need to address these issues before the opening Test against the Wallabies in Brisbane in a week.
Leigh Halfpenny’s try just before the break. The Lions had been under the cosh at the opposite end of the pitch with Drew Mitchell causing problems, but they regrouped for the final minutes of the half, produced decent phase play and Halfpenny was on hand to make the most of the overlap out wide.
Star man – Jonathan Davies
The Welshman may have come on this tour in the shadow of Brian O’Driscoll, but he’s now secured his Test spot. He was superb throughout this game, running hard and straight, defending strongly and providing numerous try-scoring passes. The big question now is who will he line up with in midfield?
Test watch – Hot
Leigh Halfpenny – He could easily have been the star man with his points haul of 30. He attacked the line far more often than he does for Wales and with great effect, while his value in defence also came to the fore. Nailed-on Test starter – and the Wallabies will be wary of the distance from which he can slot penalties.
Paul O’Connell – Immense work-rate, popping up all over the pitch, linked well and solid at the set-piece too. An injury doubt a few months ago, he’s now in the Lions’ engine room for the Tests.
Alun Wyn Jones – Like his second-row colleague, he made a huge contribution. He stood out for his physicality and made a good few carries with ball in hand.
Sam Warburton – There was no flashy stuff from the Lions captain, but the sheer amount of hard graft he puts in during a match was evident. Solid, physical and he’s proved his match fitness at a perfect time before the first Test.
Test watch – Not
Sean Maitland – Had an opportunity to push for a Test spot but caught out too often in defence. The Lions coaches won’t want to risk that against the Wallabies.
Jamie Heaslip – This is a little harsh on the Irishman but the fact he let the ball spurt out at a scrum in the Waratahs’ 22 could count against him in his battle for the No 8 spot with Toby Faletau.
The Lions made 11 clean breaks to the Waratahs’ four.
Sam Warburton was the Lions’ top tackler with 12, while Jonathan Davies clocked up a handy 115 metres.
Waratahs – Tries: Carter 2. Cons: McKibbin 2. Pen: McKibbin.
Lions – Tries: Sexton, Halfpenny 2, Croft, Davies. Cons: Halfpenny 4, Farrell. Pens: Halfpenny 4.Like Rugby World? Subscribe to the magazine for the latest comprehensive content.