Sigma Lions 14-56 British and Irish Lions
A soft enough landing for the tourists.
Eight tries in a whopping result, though hardly the most competitive encounter – their first in South Africa – with Wales winger Josh Adams naturally grabbing plenty of attention with his four touchdowns while Owen Farrell and his unblemished 16 points from the tee is worth a mention too.
Things will definitely be tougher as the British and Irish Lions make their way towards the first Test on July 24 but then this meeting with the Sigma Lions was always more of an exercise in getting players out on the park and having a look at who has gelled quickly with the overall game plan.
With everyone competing for involvement in the Tests, there were a few who did their causes no harm at all.
Warren Gatland doubtless has some notion of what his Test side will look like even though the pressing need for this strange tour will be keeping morale ticking over as the Lions live in isolation.
A key issue will be who he makes his starting out-half when the Springboks await them in Cape Town. Dan Biggar or Farrell?
Or, maybe, he will deploy Farrell and Biggar with the England player at centre alongside, say, Robbie Henshaw, if fit, though Chris Harris did himself no harm last night and sub Elliot Daly also held his hand up.
Even though Finn Russell pulled the strings so well against the Sigma Lions during his 59 minutes, his cross-kick for Adams’ second try was an absolute peach, the smart money would not be on this Scot featuring that large in Gatland’s thoughts.
Two Scotsmen who undoubtedly will be involved in that planning are Stuart Hogg and man of the match Hamish Watson. The latter scored on his debut and caused mayhem in the Sigma Lions’ ranks with his ball-carrying and breakdown presence.
Hogg, skipper last night, looked full of running and confidence while his try-saving tackle on Sbusiso Sangweni was a big moment in puncturing the home side’s attempted comeback early in the second half.
And others who added value to their causes? Louis Rees-Zammit scored on his Lions debut while Maro Itoje was also a strong influencer, as was Courtney Lawes.
The bench also had its say and Gareth Davies will certainly keep Conor Murray honest, the Welshman also scoring on his first showing in the famous red shirt. Daly slotted in perfectly in midfield and added value.
Iain Henderson had just over 10 minutes and not really enough time to improve on his decent first outing against Japan.
A huge amount of work is still required with bits and pieces of the Lions’ work still requiring plenty of intense study on the training paddock, though that is only natural.
Areas which worked well were the lineout and some part of the tourists’ defence with one set, when the visitors led 14-0 and the Sigma Lions attempted to bully them with a series of pick and goes, laying down a marker which ultimately broke the home team’s belief.
Not surprisingly, Watson was again prominent in preventing the Sigma Lions from putting their stamp on this game though the tourists, during this defensive set, more than flirted with a yellow card, which never came their way.
Gatland’s side led 21-7 after the first 40 minutes and after the Sigma Lions closed it to 28-14 the tourists ratcheted up four tries and 28 unanswered points as the game ended up resembling a training exercise.
At times it looked really good. At others, not so, but that was only to be expected.
Best of all, though, Gatland has his first tour win and, well, any number of options to ponder as this tour moves on.
British and Irish Lions: S Hogg (capt), L Rees-Zammit, C Harris, O Farrell, J Adams, F Russell, A Price; W Jones, J George, K Sinckler, M Itoje, J Hill, C Lawes, H Watson, T Faletau
Subs: L Cowan-Dickie for George 69 mins, M Vunipola for Jones 56mins, Z Fagerson for Sinckler 56mins, I Henderson for Itoje 69mins, S Simmonds for Faletau 56mins, G Davies for Price 59mins, B Aki for mins Harris 59, E Daly for Russell 59mins