The Lions mid-week team put their Brumbies debacle behind them to defeat the Melbourne Rebels and maintain the momentum generated by the first test victory over the Wallabies.
With the second test in this city on Saturday, the Lions wanted another confidence boost and to avoid any more injuries and got both in front of a sell out crowd. This was the 100 win for the Lions in Australia going back to 1888 and erased the hurt of that loss to the Brumbies a week ago.
Outside half Owen Farrell, lock Richie Gray, No8 Toby Faletau and flanker Dan Lydiate put in bids for test starting places while Ben Youngs made a try scoring cameo appearance late in the game. There was also plenty of work for Irish wing Simon Zebo while Manu Tuilagi came through his first game since the Queensland Reds fixture when he suffered a serious shoulder injury.
The Lions made a confident start with Owen Farrell firing out flat passes and bringing Manu Tuilagi into the action straight away, but the Rebels tackling was reliable and the England centre could not make the impact he was hoping to achieve to push his case for inclusion in the second test squad.
With Farrell mixing up his game intelligently, the Lion put together good phases of play but it was disappointing to see full back Rob Kearney appear short of real pace when put into space by long pass from Farrell. Another good attack ended with scrum half Conor Murray scoring a close range try after 15mins thanks to the pressure created by the pack. Farrell converts from the touchline and from the wrong side for a right footer.
The Lions kicked two penalties to touch close to the Rebels line, but couldn’t drive the line out or make any impact and when Sean O’Brien was ruled offside at the ruck after the home side broke out full back Jason Woodward wasted the scoring opportunity with a poorly struck kick.
Sean Maitland punished the Rebels with a try started by a Tuilagi break, continued by the right wing and after Faletau had appeared to kill the chance by falling over, Simon Zebo sent out a long pass for Maitland to take and score. Again, Farrell converted from wide out for a 14-0 lead.
The Lions had to defend for the final minutes of the half and were indebted to Ian Evans for stealing a Rebels throw five metres from his line and fellow lock Richie Gray was putting a in a big shift as tackler and ball carrier to ensure his team reached half time still 14-0 ahead.
It took the Lions until their fifth five metre line out and they needed a special call that sent Lydiate to the front and a pop pass put Sean O’Brien in at the corner and Farrell conversted for a 21-0 lead as the mid-week team started to move up the gears.
Farrell was then taken him off to save the No10 for the test and Stuart Hogg took over at outside half as the Rebels tried to find a way through the Lions defence. Four more replacements arrived minutes later and the game really started to open up. No8 Toby Faletau put his own case forward for a test place with a good all round performance.
Billy Twelvetrees came on to play No10 and the Lions moved further ahead with a penalty try when a maul was pulled down and Stuart Hogg converted as Jordy Reid was yellow carded. Ben Youngs grabbed a solo try late in the game which Hogg converted .
Lions; Kearney(Twelvetrees 60); Maitland, Tuilagi, Barritt, Zebo; Farrell(Hogg 52), Murray(Youngs 64); Grant(Court 54), Hibbard(Court 54), Cole(Stevens 54), Gray, Evans, Lydiate(capt(Croft 65), O’Brien(Tipuric 54), Faletau.
Rebels; Woodward; English, Inman, Sidey, Mitchell, Hegarty, Burgess; Henderson, Robinson, Weeks, Neville, Pyle, Saffy, Fuglistaller, Delve(capt).