There were few complaints for Warren Gatland as he took his seat for his first post-match Zoom call in South Africa. Eight tries — four for Josh Adams — no injuries and a thumping victory after just four full days on foreign soil. But at times, it all felt a bit too easy.
In his final question of the call, after he had spent 10 minutes pouring praise on his players, Gatland turned back the clock to 2009. He was assistant coach at the time and he watched his side beat the same opposition 74-10. Again, it all felt a bit too easy.
This was a clinical victory loaded with dynamic attacking play but the Lions need tougher challenges to become battle-hardened for the Test series against the Springboks. Their opponents were stripped of international stars and resembled a mid-table Premiership side.
Josh Adams inspired the British and Irish Lions to a 56-14 victory against the Sigma Lions
Wales and Cardiff Blues winger Adams scored four tries to help Warren Gatland’s side triumph
His compatriot, Gloucester wing Louis Rees-Zammit, opened the scoring in the fourth minute
Irrepressible Scotland flanker Hamish Watson powered his way over in a powerful showing
British and Irish Lions: Stuart Hogg (c); Louis Rees-Zammit, Chris Harris, Owen Farrell, Josh Adams; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Wyn Jones, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes, Hamish Watson, Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Zander Fagerson, Iain Henderson, Sam Simmonds, Gareth Davies, Bundee Aki, Elliot Daly.
Tries: Rees-Zammit, H Watson, Price, Adams x4, Davies
Conversions: Farrell x8
Sigma Lions: EW Viljoen; Jamba Ulengo, Mannie Rass, Burger Odendaal, Rabz Maxwane; Jordan Hendrikse, Dillon Smit; Nathan McBeth, PJ Botha, Ruan Dreyer, Ruben Schoeman, Reinhard Nothnagel, Sibusiso Sangweni, Vincent Tshituka, Francke Horn (c).
Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole, Carlu Sadie, Ruhan Straeuli, Emmanuel Tshituka, Morné van den Berg, Fred Zeilinga, Dan Kriel.
Tries: Tshituka, Maxwane
Conversions: Hendrikse x2
‘There are memories of 2009,’ said Gatland. ‘I won’t forget that win. We didn’t come up against any of the Test players in those warm-up games and we probably were a little bit underdone. We’re going to have to work really hard in training to make sure we have the tempo and physicality that’s required.
‘There’s no doubt that some of the games are going to be a little bit harder… hopefully. But we understand there’s a number of players out of their sides because they’re in with the Springbok camp.’
Surprised by the lack of rush defence from the Sigma Lions, Finn Russell was allowed plenty of time and space to pull off his flashes of magic.
Inevitably, there were minor teething issues in his midfield partnership with Owen Farrell — it will take a match or two to get used to Russell’s wandering eyes and dummy passes — but it took less than four minutes to unlock the hosts’ defence. Together, the pair marshalled separate waves of attack, before Chris Harris’s chip kick set up Louis Rees-Zammit for a debut try.
Before boarding the flight out to South Africa, Hamish Watson was bombarded with questions about whether he is big enough for the South African challenge.
On Saturday’s evidence, however, the flanker does not look a player happy to play a role in the midweek team.
‘It’s like somebody winds him up before the game and lets him go,’ said captain Stuart Hogg. ‘He runs about 100mph and makes 20 million tackles.’
The flanker also scores tries — with his explosive leg drive allowing him to wrestle his way over to score after seven minutes. England’s Tom Curry will have taken note in the battle for the No 7 shirt.
Fellow Scot Ali Price dummied his way over after a fine team move at Ellis Park, Johannesburg
His replacement at scrum-half Gareth Davies subsequently dotted down in the second half
Scrum-half Ali Price grabbed the third debut try after 33 minutes, with the Lions using their dominant lineout platform to full effect. Jamie George hit 10 from 10 at the set piece in the first half, with their opponents putting up as much resistance as sleeping lions.
In contrast to the star-studded Lions backline, the hosts had a 20-year-old humanities student from Stellenbosch University, Jordan Hendrikse, pulling the strings at No 10.
Exploiting a couple of lapses in the Lions’ defence, Vincent Tshituka scored after Farrell and Rees-Zammit made a muddle of their blindside cover. They attempted to attack with tight, one-pass carries but were chopped by red defenders.
Courtney Lawes was sin-binned for a neck roll and winger Rabz Maxwane scored the hosts’ second but the victory was never in doubt.
Adams did not even manage to score four tries for Cinderford RFC but last night he became the first Lion to do so since Shane Williams in 2005. He scored his first off a lineout attack — and his second after collecting Russell’s cute cross-field kick.
26-year-old Adams, man of the match, rounded off the scoring and now has five in two games
British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland will be delighted with his side’s performance
‘I thought the guy on the left wing did OK today,’ said Gatland, in typically understated fashion.
‘He knows where the try line is and you can’t ignore what he’s achieved as a player.
‘He was the top try scorer at the World Cup and he was top try scorer for Worcester when they were bottom in the Premiership. That speaks for itself and he definitely knows how to score a try. He’s got great timing at hitting the line. To get four tries is pretty special for him.’
Gatland’s replacements maintained the onslaught. Utility player Eliott Daly set up Gareth Davies to score, before Adams showed his poacher’s instincts with two more in the closing minutes. Gatland will hope that tougher challenges lie ahead otherwise they could fly down to Cape Town feeling a little undercooked.
‘We put down bit of a marker but as a group that as a group we won’t be 100 per cent satisfied until we show lots of improvements,’ said Gatland. ‘But we feel we can get there.’