Halfpenny leads Lions to Waratahs win
Wales fullback scores 30 points as tourists impress against serious opposition, but Roberts injury will concern management
Paul O’Connell of the Lions charges upfield against the NSW Waratahs at Allianz Stadium in Sydney, Australia. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images
Leigh Halfpenny of the Lions celebrates scoring a try against the Waratahs at Allianz Stadium in Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Waratahs 17 Lions 47: The Lions impressively maintained their unbeaten record on this tour with a record winning margin in 21 meetings with the Waratahs, running in five tries to two as a host of players appeared to nail down their test spots at a packed and vibrant Allianz Stadium.
But the win came at what appeared a very significant cost when Jamie Roberts walked off very gingerly with what looked very like a torn hamstring, thereby placing a cloud over his participation in the rest of the tour, not just in the first test in Brisbane next Saturday.
The Lions could, therefore, be denied three of their first choice three-quarter line in the shape of Roberts, Tommy Bowe and, possibly, the hamstrung Geoge North. Of minor consolation was the excellent performance of Jonathan Davies, but he Lions’ midfield plans have been thoroughly disrupted.
Up front the lineout maul went well and Alun Wyn Jones’s big game (nine carries, seven tackles and three lineouts) alongside the equally impressive Paul O’Connell, assuredly confirmed their test partnership as, most probably, did Tom Croft alongside Sam Warburton, excellent in his fringe defending, and Jamie Heaslip.
Tom Youngs was also excellent in the loose.
The Lions weren’t without their flaws, scoring five but conceding two tries and making a dozen turnovers. At times their backline was a little too flat and Mike Phillips wasn’t quite himself, though Jonny Sexton was outstanding, and they were counter-rucked a little too easily for comfort some times.
Blue flags having been commissioned free before the game, the vibrant mix of blue and red in a 40,805 Saturday night Sydney crowd underlined that this was not a place for neutrals any more than it was for faint hearts.
Warren Gatland would have relished the way the home players threw themselves into huge tackle after huge tackle almost as much as Michael Cheika did, although he might have had more than a few concerns about the way that some of them were clearly targeting Jonny Sexton.
Sexton was the master puppeteer in an electrifying start which emulated the opening salvos from the Reds a week before in Brisbane.