British & Irish Lions 59-8 Barbarians, Hong Kong
Gatland happy with opening win
ESPN Staff
June 1, 2013
Lions coach Warren Gatland reacts to his side's opening victory

British & Irish Lions coach Warren Gatland was delighted with his team's 59-8 win over the Barbarians in their tour opener in Hong Kong on Saturday night.

Stand-in captain Paul O'Connell opened the try-scoring when he dived over from close range and scrum-half Mike Phillips added the second before half-time. After the break Phillips scored his second, wing Alex Cuthbert ran in a brace and there were also scores for Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate and Jonathan Davies.

Northampton Saints-bound scrum-half Kahn Fotuali'i grabbed a try for the Barbarians, but they were unable to live with the Lions in suffocating humidity that meant water breaks had to be taken in both halves.

"I think the score-line reflected our dominance in the end. I was generally very pleased," Gatland said. "It was tough out there. The players said the ball was like a bar of soap, with the humidity and heat.

"There is no-one unhappy in terms of the performance. I thought our control was excellent and our kicking strategy was pretty good. We can't complain. Going forward, the players who played today have laid down a marker. It was about us putting some foundations in place."

O'Connell was captain in the absence of tour captain Sam Warburton, who is recovering from a knee injury. The conditions meant that the Lions struggled to find their rhythm in the opening 20 minutes, when moves broke down after they were able to make passes stick, but they tightened their style and reaped the benefits in the second half. They will now travel to Perth overnight and take on Western Force on Wednesday, buoyed by their victory.

"It was incredibly difficult, the most difficult conditions I have ever played in. It was just hard to recover during the game," O'Connell said. You just wanted to get into it, so from that point of view the tour really starts and takes off from here. We did a lot of good stuff."

Barbarians coach Dai Young, a Lion in 1989, 1997 and 2001, had to watch on as his side struggled to compete at the set-piece. The Welshman was impressed with the Lions' display and expects more of the same when they reach the Test series.

"The Lions were very efficient," he said. "I would have thought they will feel there is still room for improvement, but they certainly starved us of possession, both at lineout and scrum. I am really excited and looking forward to every game in Australia. I expect a Lions (series) victory - I think they have got too much strength in depth.

"Competition for places is going to be huge, and that is only going to push up the performances. Speaking to the Lions players today, they feel they benefited from the experience. It gave them an opportunity to have a real hit-out. From a rugby point of view, I see all positives."

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