With the Hong Kong sideshow over and done with, the British and Irish Lions have turned their eyes westward to the Force. They’ll be looking to set an early precedent for the tour, dominating from the get go. The Force have put out a largely second-string team, but have warned they won’t be afraid to go the biff. Hopefully we’re in for an enthralling contest.
FULLTIME. Lions 69 – Force 17. That score’s a pretty fair reflection of the game. The Force tried hard and did a couple of good things, but the sheer class, size and power of the Lions was just too much for them. I’ve got no idea who’s doing the match review here, and who they’ll be announcing as the Man of the Match, but for me it was Irish #8 Jamie Heaslip. Hit rucks, made tackles and had an immense running game. The Lions will be well pleased with that. A physical hit out that will have got them well and truly fired up for the Reds and the Wallabies at Suncorp. The only downer will be the health of Cian Healy who looked in terrible shape when he came off. All in all, some enjoyable rugby. A good sign for the Tour to come. Catch you kids when we head up to Queensland in a few days time.
80 mins – They make good metres down the left touchline and are stringing the phases together. Forward pass though and that’s it.
79 mins – The Force have won a penalty and they kick down to the Lions 10 metre line. One last roll of the dice here.
77 mins – Tuilagi and North combine up the left sideline before the ball is pilfered mid-air by a Force player who could charitably be described as loitering.
76 mins – TRY LIONS! Parling in just to the right of the posts after a period of sustained pressure. Halfpenny nails the conversion, although I’m not sure there was ever any doubt. Lions 69 – Force 17.
74 mins – The Force really are trying, it’s plain as daylight. They’re just not good enough for this level of play the Lions have brought. The Lions have it down the left and have taken it all the way to the Force 22. It goes centre where Heaslip busts a couple of tackles. Spun right where Toby Felatou does the same. It comes back centre, the forwards bash away and Parling is in.
72 mins – The Force keep bashing away at the line, they keep getting nowhere. They try a crossfield kick that Halfpenny catches and claims as a mark, it isn’t paid though and the Force turn the ball over. However they then lose it themselves and the Lions clear.
71 mins – Sheehan has been replaced. He’s been the Force’s best player tonight. A little warrior of a player who never gives an inch. The Force have a scrum five metres out from the Lions line.
70 mins – A quick tap and they’re bashed backwards. They’re thumping away at the Lions line here but not really getting anywhere. It’s been a really good hit out for the Lions – they’ll be well pleased. There’s a Lion down in back play, and Alun Wyn-Jones has been carded for a cynical infringement in fron of the posts. The injured player is Tom Croft who’s come off badly the worst in a clash of heads with Dick Brown. Got his head in a horrible position there. He’s able to walk from the field but he’s very proppy.
68 mins – The Force win a penalty and kick to the corner. They’re just playing for pride and a bit of dignity at this point. They set up a maul that gets sacked and are bashing away. Only five metres out but the Lions defence is strong. Lions getting off the line incredibly fast. They spread it to the backs for CTM who runs a nice line against the grain before offloading. It moves right and the Force have won another penalty.
67 mins – TRY LIONS! This is getting really ugly here. Owen Farrell, who does have an unnaturally hateable face, makes a break in midfield and jogs in under the posts. Another conversion Halfpenny could kick in his sleep. Lions 62 – Force 17.
64 mins – TRY LIONS! They hit back immediately. Tuilagi breaking tackles in midfield before sending Brian O’Driscoll through under the sticks. Don’tt be surprised if that combination features heavily come Test time. Easiest conversion of the night for Halfpenny. Lions 55 – Force 17.
63 mins – TRY FORCE! Reserve backrower Lachlan McCaffrey bashes his way through under the posts and Sheehan converts. Lions 48 – Force 17. Give the Force their due, they’re badly outgunned but they’re getting stuck in.
62 mins – They hang onto their lineout pill and bash it up the middle. It goes wide and the Lions concede a penalty. Sheehan takes a quick tap and they bash it up through the piggies.
61 mins – The Force win a penalty in midfield and kick for the corner. They’ll have a lineout 10 metres out.
59 mins – TRY LIONS! Tommy Bowe crashes over in the right corner. The Lions opted for a scrum following that penalty and took immediate advantage of their greater numbers out wide. Halfpenny converts. Lions 48 – Force 10. Halfpenny is an absolute weapon with his boot. There’s not a kicker in Australia like him at the moment.
58 mins – YELLOW CARD FORCE! Outside centre Ed Stubbs has been carded following that penalty. Was cynical and he deserved it.
57 mins – The ball goes wide to the Lions backs and North drags two with him as he gets close. The ball is dragged into a breakdown and Ed Stubbs conceded a penalty for not rolling away.
55 mins – Chris Tuatara-Morrison gives away a monumentally stupid penalty, tackling Conor Murray late. The Lions kick for touch in the left corner. They win the lineout and drive for the line. Bashing away with their forwards.
54 mins – The Lions lineout is sloppy and the lose the ball in the ensuing ruck. The Force kick down the middle to clear and the Lions return it with interest. Sexton tries a crossfield kick for flying winger Tommy Bowe which is brilliantly taken by Force fullback Jayden Hayward.
52 mins – Following the kick off, the Force knock it on and then concede a breakdown penalty. The Lions kick for touch and will set up camp five metres out from the Force line.
51 mins – TRY LIONS! Huge replacement prop Mako Vunipola drives through a couple of tackles to score in the corner. Halfpenny’s kicking continues to be phenomenal. Does he ever miss? Lions 41 – Force 10.
50 mins – The Lions maul the ball off the back of the lineout. George North breaks almost five tackles in midfield, going a mile over the advantage line. They shift the ball right.
49 mins – The Force knock the kick-off on and the Lions have a scrum. They take the ball left but lose it in the breakdown. Sheehan hacks a box kick out and the Lions will have a lineout 25 metres out from the Force tryline.
47 mins – TRY FORCE! Well done the good guys. Dick Brown smashes his way across the tryline to pick up a meat pie he won’t soon forget. Sheehan makes hard work of the conversion but it squeaks through. Lions 34 – Force 10. Matt Hodgson was brilliant in the lead-up to that.
46 mins – The Force win their lineout and they crash the ball up. Working the phases up the middle.
43 mins – Clever chip in the middle of the park gains the Force some ground but then they kick it away and hand the ball over. Brett Sheehan looks like he’s trying to start a fight with every single person in a red jersey he can see. He’s a tough little bastard – Force could do with some more like him. They win a penalty and kick for touch.
42 mins – TRY LIONS. The ball goes right where Sexton throws a massive cut out to Heaslip in an absolute paddock. Halfpenny nails the conversion – he is absolutely deadly. Lions 34 – Force 3.
Second half kickoff: Here we go again! Lions regather the ball and take it wide right, Jamie Heaslip, who’s having an enormous game, busts through the middle. They take it left with BOD picking up a strong running Tom Croft.
HALF TIME: Lions 27 – Force 3. Deserved score. Too many big bodies running too hard. The Force are trying but they’re just getting blown away. The Lions are using a short passing game to great effect. Just sending big runner after big runner after big runner at the Force. They’re coming crashing down in waves, it’s an incredibly physically intensive type of game plan – but it’s also seriously difficult to stop. Unless they completely implode in the second half, they’re going to go into the First Test as favourites.
Time on: TRY LIONS. Tom Croft is in for a try in the corner. He might be a seagull, but he’s a bloody good one.Another outanding conversion and that’s half time. Lions 27 – Force 3.
40 mins – Complete technological breakdown there. Apologies for the missing six minutes. The Lions have scored a penalty and have had loosehead prop Cian Healy stretchered from the field with an injury. Terrible news for the Irishman.
34 mins – Converted from the sideline. Lions 17 – Force 3.
33 mins – TRY LIONS. Phenomenal work. BOD over in the corner. The Force kicked back after the received the kick-off. The Lions trucked it up the middle before shifting it wide. Some outrageously quick hands took it left, George North produced a Sonny-Bill Williams esque offload to BOD who danced down the sideline before hurling himself into the corner. That was just outstanding rugby. Great reply.
32 mins – PENALTY FORCE. Lions 10 – Force 3.
30 mins – The Force pinch the Lions lineout and they bust up field. They win a penalty and take a quick tap. Dane Haylett-Petty takes it up nicely, but the Force turn the ball over again. They’re their own worst enemies at the moment. Some huge defence on SOB by his opposite Matt Hodgson sees the Lions on the back foot. The Force drive over and win the penalty. They’ve decided they want some points for their endevour – Sheehan to take the shot.
28 mins – Dick Brown penalised for a breakdown infringement. The Force really are living on the edge of the law. I’ll not be surprised if the refreee starts talking cards soon.
27 mins – Force lineout not straight. They’ve had two really good attacking opportunies and they’ve blown them in the lineout. The Lions run a set-move from the scrum that works George North into some space but he’s relatively well contained.
26 mins – The Lions steal the ball of the Force in the middle of the park and they’re away down the left. A Force player accidentally on purpose knocks a pass down, luck not to be penalised there. The Lions get the scrum put-in but are pinged. The Force have done really well to not get blown away here. Ten minutes in, they looked like they were going to lose by 80 points. Matt Hodgson has really lifted. The Force win a penalty and kick downfield. Dan Cole crumbled there.
23 mins – The Force kick for touch again. Terrible lineout though. Complete miss-communication. Goes straight over the back and the Lions are able to clear. Shocking bit of play.
22 mins – The Force win the lineout and they’re bashing away at the line here. Good, tight, forward play. The Lions are well organised in defence though. The Force try to take it to the backs and lose ground. They’re 10 metres back from where they started but they’ve won another penalty.
20 mins – Jesus that was close. The Lions had advantage for offside in the middle of the field, SOB found some space out wide, chipped into the cornor and almost regathered. No advantage. The Lions kick for the corner. The Force steal the lineout and Hodgson hacks it downfield. The Force regather and take it up to the 22 where they win a penalty. They try to spread it wide, Brian O’Driscoll intercepts and they come back for the penalty. The Force kick to the corner.
19 mins – The Force did really well to hang onto that scrum. The Lions got a big hit but the Force were good enough to hold them off, before clearling it passed the 22.
17 mins – Nothing seems to have come of it, and the Lions get a scrum five metres from the Force tryline. Conor Murray has a dart at the line but loses it forwards. The Force will have to hang on here. Need a big scrum.
16 mins – Sexton to Tuilagi in midfield off the scrum. Force hanging on grimly. Tommy Bowe crashes through the line, offloads to that man Tuilagi who looks to have been held up just short. Bit of push and shove on the field, the referee has called for time off. Brett Sheehan seems to be suggesting that Cian Healy has bitten him on the arm.
14 mins – the Lions go to Sean O’Brien at the back of the lineout and set up a maul. They hold it before the Force concede another penalty. They call for a scrum.
13 mins – There’s a Force player hurt in backplay. Can’t see who though. The Lions are hitting the ball and the breakdown at pace. They’re blowing the Force off the field at the moment. Looks like it’s going to be a long night for the boys in blue. The Lions win a penalty in the middle of the park. Sexton puts it into touch, 10 metres out from the Force tryline.
12 mins – TRY LIONS. Sexton ghosts through some seriously soft Force defence from first receiver. Don’t want to mention Larkham but… He converts as well. Lions 10 – Force 0.
9 mins – Lions go wide on phase play after their scrum win. George North found miles of room out wide and was hauled down about 10 short. The Lions are well on top here. Busting over the gainline at will and offloading brilliantly.
8 mins – Couple of scrums have collapsed here. Taking a long time to get set. Force doing nicely in the scrum, not going back an inch.
6 mins – Game is a bit scrappy, both teams turning the ball over. Bit of a feeling-out period. The Lions are standing deep and wide on attack, looking to us their big runners in the midfield. Chips kick over the defence by Sexton to North almost pays off. He marked in space, but then support players conceded a penalty. The Force kick for touch, but then the throw isn’t straight. Scrum Lions.
4 mins – First scrum. No Adam Jones tonight at tighthead tonight. Dan Cole and Cian Healy are still a formidable pair of props. Force held it up well before Richard Brown fell over trying to pick the ball up. It gets turned over and the Lions spread wide in their 22 before they hack the ball downfield.
3 mins – PENALTY LIONS. Knocked over by Halfpenny. Lions 3 – Force 0
2 mins – Penalty to the Lions. Offside it looks like. Was Bowe who made the original break. Brilliant bit of work. Lovely line, then just shrugged his hips and threw off the would-be tackler.
Kickoff: Force kick off deep, Murray box kicks, stays in field and the Force run it straight up the middle. Sheehan kicks from the ruck and it’s returned with interest by Halfpenny. Bit of aerial ping-pong. Lions bust straight through the middle. Going straight over the gainline when they run it.
Lines walk out to a big cheer. No heroic slow-mos yet. Crowd looks about evenly split here. What a moment for some of these guys, two of the Force blokes have never played a game of Super Rugby and now they’re about to play one of the most storied teams of all.
Almost kick off time. I’ve got a feeling about this one. There is absolutely nothing for the Force boys to lose here. They’ve got one shot at this. They’re never going to get another go. The Lions are better man-for-man in every single position. Rugby’s a funny old game though and Michael Foley’s teams have an uncanny ability to drag more fancied opposition down to their level. This is either going to be close, or the Lions are going to ruin the Force and put 10 tries on. Christ, who knows what’s going to happen. It’s been 12 years since we’ve seen this, time to get around the boys!
1. Salesi Manu
2. James Hilterbrand (1 SR)
3. Salesi Ma’afu (72 SR, 13 Tests)
4. Toby Lynn (61 SR)
5. Phoenix Battye (11 SR)
6. Angus Cottrell (15 SR)
7. Matt Hodgson (c) (95 SR, 6 Tests)
8. Richard Brown (88 SR, 23 Tests)
9. Brett Sheehan (92 SR, 6 Tests)
10. Sam Norton-Knight (66 SR, 2 Tests)
11. Corey Brown (Uncapped)
12. Chris Tuatara-Morrison (Uncapped)
13. Ed Stubbs (6 SR)
14. Dane Haylett-Petty (9 SR)
15. Sam Christie (4 SR)
16. Hugh Roach (Uncapped)
17. Sione Kolo (Uncapped)
18. Tim Metcher (Uncapped)
19. Ben Matwijow (Uncapped)
20. Lachlan McCaffrey (8 SR)
21. Alby Mathewson (97 SR, 4 Tests)
22. Nick Haining (Uncapped)
23. Junior Rasolea (10 SR)
British & Irish Lions
1. Cian Healy (Leinster/Ireland)
2. Rory Best (Ulster/Ireland)
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers/England)
4. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys/Wales)
5. Ian Evans (Ospreys/Wales)
6. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers/England)
7. Sean O’Brien (Leinster/Ireland)
8. Jamie Heaslip (Leinster/Ireland)
9. Conor Murray (Munster/Ireland)
10. Jonathan Sexton (Leinster/Ireland)
11. George North (Scarlets/Wales)
12. Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers/England)
13. Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster/Ireland, captain)
14. Tommy Bowe (Ulster/Ireland)
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues/Wales)
16. Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England)
17. Mako Vunipola (Saracens/England)
18. Matt Stevens (Saracens/England)
19. Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers/England)
20. Toby Faletau (Dragons/Wales)
21. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers/England)
22. Owen Farrell (Saracens/England)
23. Sean Maitland (Glasgow Warriors/Scotland)