The Emirates Western Force has gone down to the touring British & Irish Lions, 69-17, at Patersons Stadium tonight.
The visitors crossed for nine tries with the Force securing two of their own through back-rowers Richard Brown and Lachlan McCaffrey.
The Lions’ score was fast-tracked by a flawless goal-kicking display from fullback Leigh Halfpenny converting all nine tries and adding two penalty goals, while Force scrumhalf Brett Sheehan was also on-song with the boot, driving home two conversions and a penalty goal from as many attempts.
Emirates Western Force Head Coach Michael Foley said he was pleased with his side’s intent despite the final result.
“I thought we played with a lot of heart for the 80 minutes,” he said. “To see [replacement back] Nick Haining down the left touchline at the end and the boys still moving the ball was fantastic.
“There were opportunities early in the game where we probably had some set piece losses that allowed them to capitalise; I think you can get away with that at a level down but against Test match-standard opposition, they build momentum out of that.
“Our guys kept coming; it was particularly difficult when we were down to 14 men… and the Lions really accelerated at that point of the game.”
The British & Irish Lions opened their account with an early Halfpenny penalty, before flyhalf Jonathan Sexton dummied his way through to help his side to a 10-point lead after as many minutes.
The Force registered their first points through a Sheehan penalty after 33 minutes, however, tries to captain Brian O’Driscoll and flanker Tom Croft in the final six minutes of the half extended the Northern Hemisphere side’s lead to 27-3 at the break.
A Jamie Heaslip try immediately following the resumption of play lengthened the Lions’ lead to 31 points before Brown charged over for the Force’s first five-pointer of the evening. With the Force driving deep into the Lions’ quarter on the back of consecutive penalties, Matt Hodgson took his side to within five metres with a quick tap before Brown found a chink in the Lions defence from first receiver to touch down.
While the Lions struck back through Mako Vunipola in the 51st minute, they then took full advantage of a one-man overlap following the sin-binning of Force outside Ed Stubbs, running in three tries in 10 minutes.
However, the traffic was not all one way, with replacement back-rower Lachlan McCaffrey clawing one back for his side when he stretched out under the posts to score.
Trailing 62-17, the Force attacked the Lions line in the final 10 minutes of the match – aided by a yellow card to Alun Wyn Jones, however, it was the Englishman Geoff Parling who would have the final say after running off a neat inside pass from flanker Sean O’Brien for the final try of the evening.