The British and Irish Lions began their tour of Australia on a winning note when they overwhelmed the Barbarians 59-8 in Hong Kong yesterday.
Outstanding Welsh scrumhalf Mike Phillips and winger Alex Cuthbert led the eight-try rout, each scoring a double as the Lions dominated possession and territory to run out comfortable winners in the first clash outside of Britain between the two teams.
Skipper Paul O’Connell, Jonathan Davis, Alun Wyn Jones and Dan Lydiate also crossed for tries as the Lions breezed to an emphatic victory after having led 23-3 at halftime.
Flyhalf Owen Farrell, who was involved in an early bust-up with Barbarians hooker Schalk Brits, was in superb kicking form to total 15 points before handing over the duties in the second half to allow Jonathan Sexton to knock over two conversions.
O’Connell, the Irish lock standing in as captain to allow Sam Warburton time to recover from a knock to his knee picked up in training, opened the try-scoring when he reached over a pile of bodies on the line to plant the ball down.
The Lions dominated the set-pieces as well as the breakdown, and they cut loose in the second half by adding six tries with some enterprising rugby in moving the ball with authority.
The Barbarians looked a shadow of former sides and could not quite give the 28,000 fans at Hong Kong Stadium a taste of their famous running rugby with substitute Kahn Fotuali’i scoring a solitary try.
The Lions scored two tries in a stop-start first half punctuated by two official water breaks as the players struggled to cope with the high humidity and heat of Hong Kong.
Phillips, one of only six players in the opening game who had been on a previous Lions tour, gave a composed performance. His second try was a beauty, spotting a gap from the back of a lineout and covering 20m to score untouched.
Yet it was an off-the-ball incident which brought the 28,643 fans to their feet early in the first half when Brits swung a left hook to the face of Farrell, his teammate at Saracens.
Australian referee Steve Walsh had awarded a penalty to the Barbarians after spotting Farrell retaliate, but overturned his decision after replays on the giant screen at the ground indicated Brits had been the culprit. The South African was sin-binned. That flash point failed to spark the Barbarians, who struggled to stop the waves of red-shirted attacks.