Combined Country XV 0-64 British & Irish Lions
Lions coast past Combined Country
June 11, 2013
Date/Time: Jun 11, 2013, 19:40 local, 09:40 GMT
Venue: Ausgrid Stadium, Newcastle
Combined NSW-Queensland Country 0 - 64 British and Irish Lions
Half-time: 0 - 38
No scorers Tries: Cuthbert, Davies, Halfpenny, Hibbard, Hogg, Murray, North 2, O'Brien, O'Driscoll
Cons: Halfpenny 3, Hogg 4
Lions fly-half Stuart Hogg carves his way through the Combined Country defence, Combined Country XV v British & Irish Lions, Hunter Stadium, Newcastle, June 11, 2013
Lions fly-half Stuart Hogg carves his way through the Combined Country defence
© Getty Images

The British & Irish Lions eased to a 10-try 64-0 victory over a Combined Country XV in their latest tour outing at the Hunter Stadium in Newcastle.

Match Analysis by ESPNscrum's Graham Jenkins

  • Man of the Match: Stuart Hogg was handed the fly-half role for the first time since a club outing for Hawick a few seasons ago and passed the test with flying colours. He may not have been up against the highest quality opposition but his game-management was excellent with the help of some of the experienced heads around him. His ability with the boot was there to be seen - including four conversions - while his pace and vision also carried him to a notable try.
  • Key Moment: This game was always going to be one-sided and while Combined Country will not have held out much hope for a win, they would have set their sights on a try. Midway through the first half, with the hosts trailing just 19-0, it looked like they may get some reward with a sustained spell of pressure inside the Lions' 22. But a turnover gifted possession to the Lions and fullback Sean Maitland and winger George North sped up field for a classic counter-attack score that will have come as a body blow to their rivals.
  • Hero of the Game: The Lions led by over 50 points and there was less than five minutes left on the clock, but that did not stop Brian O'Driscoll digging deep to lead a counter-attack - and ended up risking injury in the process. That enviable level of commitment was a perfect example of the drive that propelled the Irish centre to the top of the game and which has kept him there for over a decade. There is no-one who can match his inspirational qualities and the Lions will be hoping he stays in one piece for the Test series.
  • Villain of the Game: The Lions' lineout is sure to be their main concern with the first Test against the Wallabies less than two weeks away. The hugely-experienced Lions lost three lineouts on their own throw against their part-time rivals which should have the alarm bells ringing. Question marks remain over their first-choice hooker but that is only one part of a faltering set-piece that requires some work.
  • Talking Point: Stuart Hogg may have had an easy ride at No.10 against a limited Combined Country side but his clear play-making ability, despite his lack of experience in the role, and his ability to play in his usual position of fullback suggests he could possibly edge out Owen Farrell for a bench role in the Test series. That may enable coach Warren Gatland to pack the bench with more muscle for what is expected to be a bruising battle with the Wallabies.
  • Play of the Game: The Lions racked up 10 tries on their way to a painfully-predictable victory and arguably saved their best until last. The hooter had already sounded but the home side were not spared with the Lions' forwards inflicting more pain before the ball was worked wide to O'Driscoll. The ever-influential centre then chipped through the weary Country defence and replacement Jonathan Davies collected the ball before crossing for an excellent try.

The Country XV, comprising mostly part-time players that included an electrician, apprentice plumber and a medical student, were inevitably outpaced by a team of elite athletes.

Juggernaut wing George North led the way with two first-half touchdowns, while there were also tries for Alex Cuthbert, Richard Hibbard, Conor Murray, skipper Brian O'Driscoll, Sean O'Brien, Stuart Hogg, Leigh Halfpenny and Jonathan Davies. Hogg booted four conversions and Halfpenny three.

Lions head coach Warren Gatland would not have gleaned a huge amount from the game, building towards Saturday week's first Test against Australia in Brisbane. There was, though, another eye-catching display by Wales openside flanker Justin Tipuric that could keep some pressure on tour captain Sam Warburton, who is expected to lead the Lions against New South Wales Waratahs in Sydney this weekend.

And the Lions' backs, featuring a potential first Test three-quarter line of Cuthbert, O'Driscoll, Jamie Roberts and North, operated with express pace and lightning precision, especially during the first half. But there were also a number of unforced errors by Lions players, especially when it came to handling under pressure, and with a little more luck the Country XV would have scored at least one consolation try.

Questions will inevitably rage about the quality of the Lions' fourth tour opponents and they have now scored 214 points and 28 tries, being tested only by Queensland Reds last Saturday. That one-sided scenario should change, though, as the squad head for Sydney tomorrow and then take on the Brumbies in Canberra next Tuesday.

It took the Lions just seven minutes to post their opening try, which followed a spell of sustained pressure and came following a trademark burst from Tipuric. With the Country defence at sixes and sevens, O'Driscoll then had the simple task of putting an unmarked Cuthbert over in the corner.

Hogg, handed the fly-half role and kicking duties instead of rested pair Jonathan Sexton and Owen Farrell, nonchalantly landed the touchline conversion before the Lions added two further touchdowns in three minutes.

Murray claimed the first after more impressive approach work by Tipuric, then Hogg scorched through a huge gap for another touchdown, while one further conversion made it 19-0 after just 12 minutes.

The Country XV enjoyed a spell of pressure deep inside the Lions' 22, gaining a couple of attacking lineouts, but when Tipuric snaffled turnover ball it led to a thrilling break-out. North fed fullback Sean Maitland 80 metres out and the Scotland international went flat out for the corner before delivering an inside pass to North, who finished. Hogg's successful conversion took the Lions 26 points clear.

Despite the scoreline, there was a degree of dogged determination about the largely semi-professional Country side, yet predictably they had no answer to the Lions' pace or quality of support play. And further tries followed before the break for Hibbard, following some strong close-quarter forward work, and North.

Gatland made two half-time substitutions as Halfpenny replaced North, with Maitland switching to the wing, and lock Alun-Wyn Jones took over from Richie Gray. O'Driscoll got the scoreboard moving after half-time when he crossed on a simple overlap, before Halfpenny's pace took him clear for another touchdown that he also converted to bring up the half-century.

Scotland prop Ryan Grant joined Alex Corbisiero in making his Lions debut when he replaced the England loosehead after 50 minutes, when Gatland also sent on Rory Best for Hibbard and Matt Stevens instead of Dan Cole. And when centre Davies took over from Roberts, it meant only scrum-half Mike Phillips had not left the Lions bench with more than 20 minutes remaining.

Phillips then arrived, and the final quarter was merely a case of how many more tries the Lions would score, but only two more materialised when O'Brien powered over and Davies followed suit, Halfpenny adding the extras on each occasion.

The Lions' Justin Tipuric smashes through the Combined Country defence © Getty Images
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