The British and Irish Lions warmed up for their rugby tour of Australia by overcoming the heat and humidity of Hong Kong to rout the Barbarians 59-8.
The Lions scored eight tries at Hong Kong Stadium last night with the temperature over 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) and humidity at about 73 percent. Water sprays surrounded the field to cool the players, and there were two enforced water breaks in each half.
“It was tough out there,” Lions coach Warren Gatland said at a news conference. “Talking to the players, they said the ball was like a bar of soap.”
The Lions dominated the tight phases, winning three penalties from set scrums in the first half, and exploited the Barbarians backline’s disorganized defense. Lions captain Paul O’Connell scored the first try in the 28th minute after his forwards bullied their way to the Barbarians’ try line, and man-of-the-match Mike Phillips followed up with two more.
Barbarians replacement scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i scored the invitational team’s only try in the 57th minute. The Lions then ran in five tries, two for Alex Cuthbert and one each for Jonathan Davies, Dan Lydiate and Alun Wyn Jones to complete the rout.
“It was probably the most difficult conditions I’ve ever played in anywhere,” O’Connell told reporters. “But it was great for us to have had that game going forward.”
The match, which drew a crowd of 28,643, was the first in Hong Kong for the Lions, a team from the U.K. and Ireland which tours Australia, New Zealand or South Africa every four years. The International Rugby Board has targeted Asia, the world’s most populated continent, as a growth area for the game.
The Lions travel to Perth today ahead of the opener of their nine-match tour of Australia against the Western Force Super Rugby team on June 9. The first of three Test matches against Australia will be played June 22.
It was the second time the Lions have faced the Barbarians, a squad of players from around the world renowned for their entertaining brand of rugby. The teams met at London’s Twickenham Stadium in 1977 with the Lions winning 23-14.
The Lions haven’t won a Test series since beating South Africa in 1997. They lost 2-1 in their most recent visit to Australia in 2001.
Hong Kong twice hosted Bledisloe Cup matches between Australia and New Zealand, in 2008 and 2010, and stages the premier competition on the IRB’s seven-a-side world series circuit each year.
To contact the reporter on this story: Stanley James in Hong Kong at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at email@example.com