By Sarah Mockford at Patersons Stadium in Perth
In a nutshell
The Lions scored nine tries as they made it two big wins from the first two matches of the 2013 tour, matches on two different continents it should be added! There were a few sticky patches when it was clear that the new Lions combinations hadn’t gelled completely and Western Force had their own spells of pressure, but overall it was an impressive attack-minded performance from the tourists. The backs linked well, the forwards hit hard, and the power and the pace they all brought to the Perth pitch was too much for a depleted Force side. The only sour note for the Lions was the fact that Cian Healy picked up an injury.
Brian O’Driscoll’s first try in the 34th minute was crucial. The Lions had been defending for a significant period after lurching into a slump, but they then sparked into life down the left wing with some great interplay, Manu Tuilagi and George North putting in neat passes to set their captain on his way to the corner. This gave the Lions breathing space heading to the break.
It should also be mentioned that O’Driscoll’s presence in midfield brought the best out of those around him. Tuilagi actually made more of an impact with his passing than his trademark battering-ram charges in this match and it was his pass to O’Driscoll that set up the Irishman’s second try.
Star man – Jamie Heaslip
The No 8 produced the sort of performance that he’s delivered consistently for Leinster in recent years and that Ireland missed during the Six Nations. He was a prominent figure at the breakdown and linked well in open play, his power game in contrast to his soft hands, and he grew in presence as the minutes ticked by.
Test watch – Hot
Johnny Sexton – The fly-half proved why he is the most important member of this touring squad. He was favourite for the No 10 shirt before the tour and has surely nailed it down with this display, conducting play superbly, guiding his new team-mates into space and showing sublime skills with hands and feet too.
Leigh Halfpenny – He simply didn’t put a foot wrong. He slotted 11 kicks in all, but more impressive than his consistency was the angles he was putting them over from. He had no problem converting from the touchline – just as well given the number of tries scored in the corner.
Conor Murray – He tried to play like Mike Phillips but couldn’t quite match the Welshman’s physicality. He blew a couple of try-scoring chances by going himself rather than taking the time to weigh up his options.
Jamie Heaslip contributed the most metres (118) and tackles (12), and beat the most defenders (8).
The Lions put in twice as many passes as the Force, 175 to 86, and made 540 metres to 197.
Lions – Tries: Sexton, O’Driscoll 2, Croft, Heaslip, Vunipola, Bowe, Farrell, Parling. Cons: Halfpenny 9. Pens: Halfpenny 2.
Force – Tries: Brown, McCaffrey. Cons: Sheehan 2. Pen: Sheehan.