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Nine-try rout for British & Irish Lions against Western Force

Brian O'DriscollThe British & Irish Lions have made a successful start to their tour of Australia with a convincing 69-17 win over the Western Force in Perth.

Apart from a strong display which saw them score nine tries, the biggest concern for Warren Gatland will be the fitness of Ireland’s Cian Healy.

The Leinster prop, who looked like every inch of the starting Test loosehead, was stretched off the field with an apparent ankle injury and was replaced by Mako Vunipola who had an outstanding game.

He was sent to hospital for scans but the Lions management were hopeful it would only be a sprain.

With Gethin Jenkins still recovering from a calf-injury he sustained in the Heineken Cup final with Toulon, Gatland will be hoping either the Welshman or the Irishman recover in time for June 22 and the first Test against the Wallabies.

Before his injury though, Healy was accused of biting scrum-half Brett Sheehan and will have to wait to hear if he is cited for the incident or not.

Helped by their eight Irish players, the Lions played on the front foot for most of the game using their big ball carriers like Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip to make metres through the middle before stretching the defense and score in the corners.

For his first time on the pitch in this tour, Leigh Halfpenny was handed the kicking duties and, with a perfect 11 from 11 from the tee, the Welsh full-back made a big claim for a Test place.

His performance with the boot could be crucial in the Test series but it also means that Jonny Sexton can solely concentrate on organising the attack from fly-half.

The Lions started well as Tommy Bowe found a gap in the Force defence two minutes in to put the Australians on the back foot and earn a penalty for offiside a couple of phases later.

Halfpenny stepped up and put the tourist 3-0 up before Sexton threw a well-disguised inside pass dummy to score the opening try of the game and make it 10-0 in ten minutes.

Both sides missed two good scoring opportunities and, just after the half-hour mark, scrum-half Brett Sheehan reduced the deficit with a penalty.

It sparked a reaction from the Lions and only a minute later O’Brien, Brian O’Driscoll and George North combined well near the touchline to see the winger pass the ball back inside and send his captain in the corner, above.

Injury worries: Cian Healy being stretched off the field

Injury worries: Cian Healy being stretched off the field

Healy’s injury, right, stopped the game for a few minutes but, as the game resumed, Halfpenny added a penalty.

There was time for one more try though as Tom Croft went over untouched in the left corner.

Again, Halfpenny was on target with the touchline conversion and the Lions went into the interval 27-3 up.

The Men in Red started the second half in emphatic fashion running the Australian side off their feet to see Heaslip stroll over in the right corner.

But despite the score piling up against them, the Force didn’t give up just yet and former Wallaby No.8 Richard Brown barged his way over to bring the Aussies into double figures.

It was short live though with North making another strong run to the middle and two phases later, Vunipola was over in the corner for the Lions’ fifth try.

Centre Ed Stubbs was sent to the bin for a blatant offside near his try line and from the resulting five-metre scrum, Bowe dived over for yet another try in the corner.

The Lions made a few changes with Tom Youngs and Geoff Parling coming onto the field which saw the Force retaliate and score their second try through replacement flanker Lachlan McCaffrey.

But like in the first half, the reaction was instant and O’Driscoll went over under the posts after combining well with Tuilagi in the midfield.

First touch: Owen Farrell going over for his try

First touch: Owen Farrell going over for his try

Owen Farrell, left, was then introduced to the game and, on his first touch of the ball, he went over for a try which was a perfect copy as Sexton’s in the first half.

The Lions finished the game with 14 men though after Alun-Wyn Jones was sent to the bin for not releasing in the tackle metres away from his line.

But it didn’t halt the Lions ambitions and Parling rounded up a very good team display ahead of what should be tougher game on Saturday against the Reds in Brisbane.

For British & Irish Lions

Tries: Sexton, O’Driscoll 2, Croft, Heaslip, Vunipola, Bowe, Farrell, Parling

Conversions: Halfpenny 9

Penalties: Halfpenny 2

Sin bin: Jones

For Western Force

Tries: Brown, McCaffrey

Conversions: Sheehan 2

Penalties: Sheehan

Sin bin: Stubbs

British & Irish Lions: Leigh Halfpenny (Wales); Tommy Bowe (Ireland), Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland, Capt.), Manu Tuilagi (England), George North (Wales); Jonathan Sexton (Ireland), Conor Murray (Ireland); Cian Healy (Ireland), Rory Best (Ireland), Dan Cole (England); Alyn Wyn Jones (Wales), Ian Evans (Wales); Tom Croft (England), Sean O’Brien (Ireland), Jamie Heaslip (Ireland).

Replacements: Tom Youngs (England), Mako Vunipola (England), Matt Stevens (England), Geoff Parling (England), Toby Faletau (Wales), Ben Youngs (England), Owen Farrell (England), Sean Maitland (Scotland).

Western Force : Sam Christie; Dane Haylett-Petty, Ed Stubbs, Chris Tuatara-Morrison, Corey Brown; Sam Norton-Knight, Brett Sheehan; Salesi Manu, James Hilterbrand, Salesi Ma’afu; Toby Lynn, Phoenix Battye; Angus Cottrell, Matt Hodgson (Capt.), Richard Brown.

Replacements: Hugh Roach, Sione Kolo, Tim Metcher, Ben Matwijow, Lachlan McCaffrey, Alby Mathewson, Nick Haining, Junior Rasolea.

Star man: Sean O’Brien – British & Irish Lions

Referee: Glen Jackson

NICK VERDIER

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