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Five try boost ahead of second Test

There were no more midweek mishaps for the British & Irish Lions as they completed their non-Test fixtures with a comprehensive five try victory over the Melbourne Rebels.

Four days out from the vital second Test at the Etihad Stadium the incentive of a possible call-up for the biggest game of their lives meant there were plenty of good performances for the coaches to consider all over the field.

It was the second time on tour the Lions had won a match to nil, following on from the 64-0 midweek win over the Combined Country XV in Newcastle a fortnight ago, and the fact they kept their line secure for the full 80 minutes was another pleasing aspect of an encouraging night’s work in the build-up to the second Test.

The Rebels threw themselves into what was described as the biggest game of their three-season history like men possessed with their Welsh international skipper Gareth Delve leading by example. One of his tackles on Ryan Grant nearly cut the Scottish prop in half and the home side made life as difficult as possible for the Lions in the opening quarter.

The opening score eventually came after quarter of an hour after Brad Barritt had forced home full back Jason Woodward to concede a five metre scrum with a neat grubber kick through for Sean Maitland to chase.

The Lions scrum had already shown signs of its dominance at the set-piece and a strong shove almost allowed No8 Toby Faletau to pick up and drive over. After he had been stopped, scrum half Conor Murray picked up the ball a metre out, twisted past Scott Fuglistaller and scored a try which Owen Farrell converted.

There was much greater fluency in the Lions’ attack, and vigour and purpose in their defence, than there had been a week earlier in the defeat to the Brumbies in Canberra and there was a second try to come before half-time.

The Rebels had the chance to break their duck when Jason Woodward lined-up a 35 metre penalty shot straight in front of the posts, but the young full back pushed his kick horribly wide. Then came a great counter attack from the Lions after some impressive midfield stealing work by Murray.

Sean O’Brien passed inside to Manu Tuilagi who burst over halfway and handed off two would be tacklers. Tuilagi found Maitland off the opposite wing in support and the Scottish flyer raced deep into the home.

Maitland had Faletau running hard on his inside, but the No8 slipped as he tried to step inside the final defender at the foot of the Rebels posts. It didn’t matter, though, because Barritt was at the base of the ruck in a split second and fed Simon Zebo who put Maitland over near the right corner.

Farrell stroked over the conversion to double the lead, but the Lions still couldn’t completely shrug off the stubborn Rebels. Just before the break the home side shunned a certain three points to kick for a five metre line-out, but Welsh lock Ian Evans pilfered the ball and the Lions ended the first-half with their line intact.

The contest had been pretty even in terms of possession throughout the first-half, with the Lions enjoying a 52% share. They converted three line-breaks into two tries and enjoyed a dozen turnovers, although defence coach Andy Farrell won’t have been impressed with 11 missed tackles.

A well worked try around the front of a five metre line-out brought the Lions their third try 10 minutes after the re-start and was rich reward for ignoring an easy penalty attempt. Evans took the ball in, Richie gray backed him up and skipper on the night Dan Lydiate provided the link to send O’Brien over in the corner.

Farrell’s inch-perfect touchline conversion not only made it three out of three for him on the night, but also took him through the 50 points mark on tour. No sooner had he kicked the goal than Warren Gatland hauled him off.

The replacements for the Lions came thick and fast as soon as Stuart Hogg had come on to take over from Farrell. A whole new front row came on, giving the latest loose head replacement prop Tom Court a Lions debut, Justin Tipuric took over from O’Brien and Billy Twelvetrees replaced Rob Kearney and moved into No 10.

The fourth try followed after 63 minutes and followed a familiar pattern. The power of the Lions’ driving maul was too great for the home forwards to handle and replacement back row man Jordy Reid came around the wrong side and pulled down the maul from an offside position.

It was a blatant professional foul and it ended with referee Glen Jackson awarding the Lions a penalty try and issuing Reid, who had only been on the field for seven minutes, with a yellow card. Hogg added the simple conversion and did the same when Ben Youngs crossed for a solo effort from 25 metres after another strong Lions line-out.

Rory Best hit Tom Croft at the tail, the ball was delivered perfectly to the scrum half, who dummied his way past the first line of defence before beating two other defenders in the race for the line.

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