Lions maul opponents as tour sparks into life

Golden Lions 10 British and Irish Lions 74
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The Independent Online

The British and Irish Lions put down the marker assistant coach Shaun Edwards demanded to give their South Africa tour lift-off.

The Lions mauled their Super 14 opponents with a display light years ahead of last Saturday's stuttering opening win against the Royal XV in Rustenburg.

Centre Jamie Roberts and wing Tommy Bowe were stars of the show, each claiming try doubles with performances that had Test class stamped all over them.

England wing Ugo Monye also crossed twice, while captain Brian O'Driscoll, flanker Tom Croft, fly-half James Hook and flanker Stephen Ferris added to the 10-try rout.

Fly-half Stephen Jones chipped in with 18 points from the boot, while Hook slotted three late conversions.

And such was the Lions' overwhelming degree of control that head coach Ian McGeechan was able to use all his replacements just past the second-half midway point.

The Golden Lions, whose build-up had been marred by the sacking of their coach and media speculation about player unrest, were blown away.

They had no answer up-front to a dominant Lions pack, and with a regular supply of ball, the visiting backs cut loose.

The win was a record success against the Golden Lions or their predecessors Gauteng and Transvaal, opponents the Lions first faced in 1891.

It was also the Lions' highest points total in South Africa since they beat South-West Districts 97-3 35 years ago.

And it put the visitors in great heart for Saturday's encounter against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

More to the point though, McGeechan would have been thrilled with the contributions of players like man-of-the-match Roberts, Bowe and Croft as he begins formulating a Test team to tackle world champions South Africa later this month.

The Lions, watched by just 12,000 at Rustenburg in their tour opener, were greeted by another disappointing crowd with row after row of empty red seats, especially behind both posts.

There was more urgency about the tourists than four days ago, although they suffered a seventh-minute injury scare.

Flanker David Wallace was hurt trying to charge down home full-back Louis Ludik's clearance, accidentally catching a stray boot into his ribs.

Wallace continued after treatment, but Ludik - a candidate for the Springboks number 15 shirt this season - was stretchered off nursing a serious knee injury.

The Golden Lions were in disarray, and the visitors immediately punished them through a well-worked try.

Croft and Alun-Wyn Jones took the ball up well, before slick passing saw O'Driscoll send his midfield partner Roberts over.

Jones slotted the touchline conversion, but worse was to come for the Golden Lions as they fell 14-0 behind after 11 minutes.

The home defence was again exploited, with Bowe stepping in off his wing and sending O'Driscoll across for a well-worked try that Jones improved.

The Scarlets number 10 followed up by booting a penalty, continuing an impressive opening quarter as the Lions rattled along at almost a point a minute.

Andre Pretorius opening the Golden Lions' account with a penalty, but it was a rare home highlight.

Another Jones penalty made it 20-3, and with the Lions monopolising possession, more points were inevitable.

Roberts was a handful for the home defence, and another midfield surge by the Wales centre found a work-hungry Bowe in support, and his floated pass enabled Monye to sprint over.

And it was no surprise when Croft posted try number four, galloping clear after more incisive running and crisp passing highlighted another sparkling Lions move.

At 32-3, it was game over, suggesting McGeechan had the breathing space to make early second-half substitutions.

The Golden Lions though, belatedly replied during a one-sided half when substitute Shandre Frolick scored on an overlap, with Pretorius converting.

But Roberts' second try took the Lions close to 40 points, as Jones converted.

Bowe then posted his double, and the entire Lions bench was on by the 65th minute, but the home side could not relax as Monye sprinted over for his second try - and the tourists' eighth.

With Jones off, Hook took over the kicking duties, adding the conversion as the Lions reached 60 points.

The visitors could even afford to play scrum-half Mike Phillips at centre for the closing 15 minutes, such was their overwhelming sense of control.

Hook then scored an interception try on a richly-rewarding night for the tourists, and there was still time for Ferris to claim a breakaway try, improved by Hook.

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