Leigh Halfpenny put-in a performance that will remain in Lions history for some time as he scored a personal haul of 30 point in the Lions hard fought yet pleasing 47-17 victory over the New South Wales Waratahs, in a game which saw a number of cynically late tackles to try and rough up the tourist ahead of the Test series.
Halfpenny kicked all seven attempts at goal to add to the 11 out of 11 he delivered in the win over Western Force, but Warren Gatland will be fretting as the injury concerns continued with centre Jamie Roberts limping off with a right hamstring problem in the second half.
The Welsh full-back scored two tries and the others were claimed by Jonathan Sexton, Jonathan Davies and the impressive Tom Croft in a match of real intensity and commitment from both sides. Owen Farrell kicked a conversion to complete the Lions scoring.
The late hits by Waratahs forwards on both Sexton and Phillips continued for much of the first half with the referee warning captain Dave Dennis, but then failed to issue a yellow card for this obviously pre-planned tactic. Sexton took a huge hit off giant lock Will Skelton and needed treatment after having given the Lions an early lead with a well worked try which the remarkable Halfpenny converted from the touchline.
That was after six minutes but they could have scored a try after 45seconds but Simon Zebo had a foot in touch as Drew Mitchell made a last ditch tackle for the home side. The Lions were hampered by the Waratahs willingness to take the game to the touring side and despite a Halfpenny penalty which had established a 10-0 lead, the home team produce a moment of inspiration to delight the sell- out crowd.
Tom Carter sped over for a try after a cross kick had bounced up for wing Peter Betham who fended Sean Maitland out of the way and that will not have helped the Scot’s bid to become a test starter. Brendan McKibbin converted for the Waratahs who were competing strongly at the break down, highlighting Sam Warburton’s lack of match practise and the Lions skipper was thankful that Paul O’Connell and Tom Croft were stealing ball on the floor.
Halfpenny punished a late hit on Phillips with a long range penalty and then Skelton was unlucky not to grab a try from a short line out for the Waratahs but he lost the ball going over the line with Maitland helping save the day.
Halfpenny and Mc Kibbin swapped penalties before the Lions ended the half with a concerted attacking drive that saw Alun Wyn Jones drive to the line before the ball was passed out to Halfpenny who had a simple run to the line. His conversion gave the Lions a 23-10 lead at the break and the hard work had been done and the result was never in doubt.
The Lions racked their highest ever total against the Waratahs courtesy of that Halfpenny contribution and Warburton said;” I was very pleased with the all -round performance and it was about winning the collisions. It’s now game on for the test match.”