The British and Irish Lions won their match against the Hong Kong Barbarians convincingly 69-8 at the Hong Kong Stadium on Saturday June 1.
The match was not a classic—perhaps that would be expecting too much. With only four days to go before the Lions were to face Western Force in Perth, it was never going to be an all-out battle, but expectations for a good match were high.
From the Lion’s point of view, it was a great opportunity to pull together the touring squad into a fighting force.
Drawing top players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, they had several training sessions in some pretty hot and sultry weather, and lots of social occasions to build team spirit. In these few days, players from these countries could get together and get to know and understand each other much better.
But the on-field quality was not great and shows that there is still a lot of work to do to build a well oiled machine. Admittedly, the conditions were not ideal for a fabulous display and one could say they put on a sound winning performance.
The ball was slippery, but handling, particularly in the first half, was poor—even in line-outs the ball slipped through player’s fingers. There was at least one occasion when a ball handed directly to a colleague dropped through his fingers.
Nearly all of the scrums collapsed and were either reformed and collapsed again or a penalty was awarded.
Things did improve in the second half, but it was plain that the Barbarians were never going to compete and the game soldiered on with the Lions racking up the score. There were a few good runs down the wing and a couple of scores between the post and the score kept ticking up, allowing team members plenty of time to take on liquid, in addition to the drink breaks.
There was a well worked solitary try by the Barbarians with good initial work by Joe Rokocoko, but once Kahn Fotuali’i got the ball, no one was able to catch him.
All in-range penalties were kicked, giving Owen Farrell the opportunity for some practice, but after the first few it was pretty evident that he was already in good tune. No penalties were run, not even when the Lions were already out of sight of the opposition.
Although not a great match, it was super to see the Lions in Hong Kong and if that is what was needed to weld the team together, there will be a lot of satisfied supporters.
Even Alistair Walker, who had just won the HKFC PSA International 25 Squash tournament two hours earlier, went to watch.
“It is not often that you are in the same place where the Lions are playing—I can’t miss this!” he exclaimed.
Let’s see what happens in the important games in Australia.
The first match is in Perth against the Western Force on Wednesday June 5.
For further information on the Lions Australian Tour http://www.rugby.com.au/lions2013