Western Force 17 British & Irish Lions 69 match report: Aussies are taking cash and liberties with Lions, says Warren Gatland

 

Patersons Stadium, Perth

The Lions were leaving Western Australia today in a conflicted state of mind: a small part of them wished it could always be like this – a nine-try gallop on fast going, supported by a sublime goalkicking performance of the kind delivered by the Welsh full-back Leigh Halfpenny – while a larger part craved a wholly different kind of experience more relevant to the forthcoming Test series with the Wallabies, who do not always concede nine tries in a season.

They were also grappling with the first serious setback of the trip after Cian Healy, the Irish loose-head prop, suffered a nasty ankle injury in a tackle by the flanker Angus Cottrell shortly before the interval and was then cited for allegedly biting scrum-half Brett Sheehan. If the disciplinarians do not end the Leinster forward's tour – his case was due to be heard today – damaged ligaments almost certainly will.

One way or another, then, the head coach Warren Gatland (below) was just about as far away from ecstatic as a man with a 52-point victory in the bank could possibly be. He had wanted this to be a full-on scrap with full-strength Super 15 opposition, not an Indian Ocean jolly against an under-strength side armed with the back-division equivalent of a peashooter. And as he made clear afterwards, he did not buy the Force's argument that fixture scheduling problems were at the heart of the matter.

"I'm sure it will be a lot tougher when we play Queensland Reds this weekend," said Gatland sharply. "There is something special about a Lions tour and you have to embrace it. When you think of the amount of money this is going to generate for Australia rugby, they need to take it seriously." As the most popular estimates on the size of the windfall are somewhere in the region of £50m, it was difficult not to see his point.

For all that, there were reasons for Gatland to be cheerful, and Halfpenny was patently one of them. "I've had 100 per cent returns in the past, but I don't think I've kicked as many as that," said the Cardiff Blues man after landing nine conversions and two penalties in a wondrous expression of his difficult art. Might the Wallabies expect something similar when the major business begins in Brisbane a fortnight on Saturday? "I hope so," he replied. "If selected."

It is one of the ironies of rugby union that more often than not the most breathtaking tries ask the most of the marksman expected to maximise them. There were some eye-catching scores here: captain Brian O'Driscoll's predatory finish after a sweet exchange of passes with the wing George North; Jamie Heaslip's touchdown direct from an exquisite long pass from Jonathan Sexton; Mako Vunipola's demolition-derby finish midway through the third quarter. Each of them was completed wide out, forcing Halfpenny into a series of wickedly awkward acute-angled shots. He did not look like missing. Not once.

This was deeply reassuring for Gatland, who knows his Lions history and is fully aware how many series are decided by the boot. Equally reassuring was the form of some of his key backs. O'Driscoll's close-quarter footwork and combative breakdown work at outside centre were a joy to behold, as was North's straight-line power on the left wing. When these two were set free by the ever-inventive Sexton, the callow Western Force threequarters could not begin to find an answer.

Unfortunately, the story up front was rather different. While Michael Foley, the World Cup-winning Wallaby hooker and former Bath coach now running the Force, fielded a pack significantly fitter for purpose than the limp combination outside, most observers still expected the Lions to dominate at the set piece. As it turned out, a home front row featuring only one player with Super 15 experience worthy of the name was able to operate in a degree of comfort.

In addition, there were issues at the lineout, where the Irish hooker Rory Best committed the cardinal sin of overthrowing the ball and bringing the Force back-rowers into the equation on more than one occasion. Matt Hodgson, the captain of the Australian province and just about their most effective player, had himself a party.

Two close-range tries were conceded by the tourists, the first to the Wallaby No 8 Richard Brown and the second to Lachlan McCaffrey, who replaced the busy Cottrell and played an enthusiastic part in his side's strong performance at the breakdown. When you throw in the fact that Alun Wyn Jones, the Lions lock, was sent to the sin bin late in the game for a ruck offence, it was no great surprise when Gatland muttered darkly about "things we need to work on".

Despite the handsome scoreline, the jury remains out on O'Driscoll's newly-forged midfield partnership with Manu Tuilagi, whose rumbustious charges late in the game could not completely disguise the lack of a footballer's imagination when it came to the distribution duties – a pretty important part of the inside centre's job, all things considered. Still, the great Irish centre thought things went reasonably well, for a first effort. "It wasn't flawless, but we tried to read one another and play off each other," he remarked.

So it was that the Lions bade farewell to the largest state in this vast country for another 12 years. At least. They have been here five times now and never been adequately tested – their aggregate score in Perth now stands at 360-33. Scheduling issues may well have played a part in the way this Western Force team was constructed, whatever Gatland suggested to the contrary, but at some point, surely to goodness, someone must tell these people to put up or shut up. There are only so many lopsided contests a 35,000 crowd will countenance.

Lions or lambs

The players who helped or hurt their chances of Test selection:

Lions

Leigh Halfpenny Wilkinson-esque dedication to perfecting his goalkicking paid full dividends. A superb effort.

George North Some say he has not been up to much recently. Tell that to the Western Force backs.

Jamie Heaslip His performance, spiced with lung-bursting gallops in open field, matched that of his rival Toby Faletau in Hong Kong.

Lambs

Conor Murray Often dismissed as a "poor man's Mike Phillips", he did little to lose that reputation.

Rory Best Poor line-out throwing has been his weakness and there were some damaging examples.

Ian Evans An outstanding Six Nations performer, the Welsh lock was just a little quiet against the feisty members of the Western Force.

Western Force Tries R Brown, McCaffrey; Conversions Sheehan 2; Penalty Sheehan.

British & Irish Lions Tries O'Driscoll 2, Sexton, Croft, Heaslip, Vunipola, Bowie, Farrell, Parling; Conversions Halfpenny 9; Penalties Halfpenny 2.

Western Force S Christie; D Haylett-Petty (J Rasolea, 71), E Stubbs, C Tuatara-Morrison, C Brown; S Norton-Knight, B Sheehan (A Mathewson, 71); S Manu (T Metcher, 77), J Hilterbrand (H Roach, 78), S Ma'afu (S Kolo, 49), T Lynn (B Matwijow, 65), P Battye, A Cottrell (L McCaffrey, 52), M Hodgson (capt), R Brown (N Haining, 61).

British & Irish Lions L Halfpenny; T Bowe (S Maitland, 76), B O'Driscoll (capt), M Tuilagi, G North; J Sexton (O Farrell, 66), C Murray (B Youngs, 66); C Healy (M Vunipola, 37), R Best (T Youngs, 59), D Cole (M Stevens, 68), A Wyn Jones, I Evans (G Parling, 59), T Croft (T Faletau, 71), S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Referee G Jackson (New Zealand).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
film

News
Mock the tweet: Ukip leader Nigel Farage and comedian Frankie Boyle
peopleIt was a polite exchange of words, as you can imagine
Arts and Entertainment
Steven, Ella Jade and Sarah in the boardroom
tv
Life and Style
fashion
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is reported to be in final negotiations to play Doctor Strange for Marvel although the casting has not yet been confirmed
film
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
Life and Style
fashion

World Beard and Moustache Championships held last week

News
video
Arts and Entertainment
Copycat culture: the Chateau Zhang Laffitte in China, top, and the building which inspired it, in Paris, bottom
architectureReplicas of Western landmarks are springing up in unlikely places
Sport
Rolando Aarons watches as his effort finds the corner of the Manchester City goal to give Newcastle the lead
footballManchester City 0 Newcastle 2: Holders crash out on home turf
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain