Melbourne Rebels 0 British and Irish Lions 35
Published 25/06/2013 | 12:52
The British and Irish Lions concluded their midweek tour schedule in Australia with a comprehensive victory at AAMI Park.
Ulster prop Tom Court made his Lions debut during the fixture, having been called up to the squad as cover for Alex Corbisiero.
And a handful of players - led by blockbusting England centre Manu Tuilagi - enhanced their claims to feature in coach Warren Gatland's matchday 23 for next Saturday's second Test against the Wallabies.
Flanker Sean O'Brien - another star performer - scrum-half Conor Murray, his replacement Ben Youngs and wing Sean Maitland all scored tries, while there was a second-half penalty try that underlined the Lions' forward dominance.
Fly-half Owen Farrell kicked three conversions and Stuart Hogg landed two as they kept an outgunned Rebels side scoreless.
Barely 24 hours after talismanic Ireland lock Paul O'Connell was ruled out of the tour due to a broken arm, Gatland will have been encouraged by second-rows Ian Evans and Richie Gray being prominent influences throughout.
And Toby Faletau kept the pressure on current Test number eight Jamie Heaslip with arguably his most complete contribution Down Under.
It was a vastly-improved effort on last Tuesday's 14-12 loss to the Brumbies in Canberra, when the Lions barely fired a shot in anger, but there was a determined and driven streak about them this time around.
The Lions were eager to make amends for their only tour defeat seven days ago, and they started brightly despite losing two early lineouts.
Tuilagi, making his first appearance since suffering a shoulder injury two weeks ago, and O'Brien were particularly prominent, but the tourists also encountered a well-marshalled Rebels defence.
Rebels captain and Wales international Gareth Delve underlined his team's commitment through a crunching tackle on Lions prop Ryan Grant, but the Lions' pressure had to tell and they claimed an opening try after 15 minutes.
They drove for the line from a five-metre scrum and although they were initially thwarted, possession spun backwards and Murray reacted quickly to pick up and dive over.
Farrell converted from the touchline, and he then sacrificed two kickable penalties as the Lions looked to maintain a foothold inside the Rebels' 22.
A poor handling error by prop Dan Cole, though, wasted a promising position and the Rebels moved upfield, only for goal-kicker Jason Woodward to miss a straightforward penalty chance.
And the Lions made him pay when they conjured one of their best tries of the tour.
Tuilagi made it possible through a barnstorming run just inside the Rebels' half and his brilliant off-load freed Maitland who then found Faletau, but the Wales number eight was denied a try when he slipped.
There was no panic from the tourists, though, and quickly recycled possession via Brad Barritt and Simon Zebo enabled Maitland to touch down for a try that Farrell again converted.
The Rebels enjoyed their best spell of pressure as half-time approached, yet they did not help themselves by losing a couple of lineouts and the dominant Lions trooped off 14-0 ahead.
O'Brien gave the Lions an injury scare when he went down hurt just two minutes after the restart - before scoring a try from the Lions' next attack.
Farrell again kicked to the corner as the Lions went for a lineout option and such boldness reaped its reward as Faletau found skipper Dan Lydiate, who delivered the final pass to O'Brien.
Farrell maintained ruthless touchline accuracy as his third successful conversion made it 21-0, and then he was replaced by Hogg as Gatland cast an eye towards Saturday's Wallabies showdown.
Further changes followed five minutes later, with four forwards joining the action including Lions debutant Tom Court, who only linked up with the squad yesterday.
A penalty try followed 16 minutes from time when Rebels forward Jordy Reid illegally halted a Lions attack, and as he made his way to the sin-bin, Hogg converted.
The Lions had enough time to unlock their opponents one more time when Youngs claimed a superb solo effort after he broke clear from a lineout just outside the Rebels' 22.
Hogg converted and it was job done for the Lions, with all systems go for phase two of what is already a pulsating Test series.