Manu Tuilagi stakes claim for second test in Lions' win over Melbourne
Impressive centre gives coach Gatland something to think about for second test as the midweek side ease past Rebels
Bustling centre Manu Tuilagi pressed his claims for selection for the second test against Australia as a powerful but often sloppy British & Irish Lions scored five unanswered tries to beat the Melbourne Rebels 35-0 yesterday.
After Conor Murray crossed to open the scoring in the 17th minute, one of Tuilagi's explosive runs helped to set up winger Sean Maitland's try in the 28th.
Flanker Sean O'Brien typified the power of the Lions' forwards when he barged over on the blind side shortly after half-time, and an indiscretion from Rebels second-half substitute Jordy Reid gave away a penalty try that put the game out of reach for the home side.
Second-half substitute Ben Youngs ran 30 metres to score from a lineout in the 73rd to seal the win.
After winning the opening test at Brisbane last weekend, the Lions can clinch the three-test series at Melbourne on Saturday.
"I'm really pleased with that performance," Lions head coach Warren Gatland said. "It keeps the momentum from Saturday. I thought the set piece was good, defended well, so I'm really happy.
"I thought the loose forwards were good. Sean Maitland was good on the wing. Richard Hibbard carried the ball strongly. These guys have been a real credit to the Lions and the four home nations. We're really proud of them so far."
Gatland said it was important for many of the players in the midweek team to "get back on the horse" after last week's upset loss to the ACT Brumbies in Canberra, their first loss to an Australian provincial team since 1971.
The Lions showed little respect to the Rebels from the outset, but despite dominating possession they were let down by poor handling until Murray made the breakthrough. The powerful Lions scrum, set five metres out, shoved its way to the Rebels tryline before somehow missing what should have been a pushover try. Instead, Murray grabbed the ball that squirted out after No 8 Toby Faletau got near the line and dived over.
Becoming progressively expansive in their play, the Lions extended their lead in the 28th when Tuilagi made a tackle-busting charge from his own half that eventually culminated in Maitland's try on the far right.
Shortly after the break the Lions made no mistake with a lineout near the line, sending O'Brien to widen the lead.
The Lions looked certain to complete a pushover try in the 63rd until Reid came in from the side to pull it down and conceded a penalty try.
"We definitely had to up our game coming here, we wanted to get the result and keep the momentum going for the weekend," said Dan Lydiate, a replacement for the Brisbane test last weekend. "It's a massive game for us this weekend and some of the boys put their hands up for selection tonight.
Associated Press, Reuters