B&I Lions too strong for Reds
The British and Irish Lions made it three wins from three starts on Saturday with a 22-12 victory over the Queensland Reds in a high-temp game at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
Warren Gatland's troop's were given the sternest test of their credentials yet but got the job done, recovering from a sluggish start thanks largely to the superiority of their pack, especially at scrum time, in deteriorating conditions.
The dynamic Reds outscored the tourists two tries to one but a fault-less kicking performance from fly-half Owen Farrell, who slotted 17 points, ensured the Lions took the spoils.
Reds wing Luke Morahan scored a sensational solo try to give the hosts the early advantage but the Lions replied via a try from scrum-half Ben Youngs and a handful of Owen Farrell penalties to lead 16-7 at the break.
Farrell extended the lead early in the second period but Reds scrum-half Nick Frisby also touched down in the hour mark to keep the Australian side in the hunt.
Farrell's fifth penalty in the dying minutes settled the result.
The two-one try count probably doesn't give an entirely accurate reflection of the Lions' performance as both skipper Sam Warbuton and Farrell came within inches of scoring.
After one-sided wins over the Barbarians and Western Force, Gatland and his coaching staff would have been hoping for a more thorough work-out and they were certainly stretched by a Reds outfit hell-bent on moving possession wide and at pace.
The victory came at a cost though with injuries to Manu Tuilagi and Tommy Bowe.
The Reds got off to a flying start, putting the Lions under immediate pressure as Quade Cooper and Frisby looked for gaps at every opportunity.
Morahan got the scoreboard ticking with a stunning 70-metre effort, collecting Farrell's hopeful high kick, beating Alex Cuthbert before showing Warburton a clean pair of heels before collecting a clever chip over the head of full-back Stuart Hogg to touch down under the posts.
Cooper converted, before the Lions suffered an injury blow when Tuilagi departed after just 20 minutes to be replaced by Wales wing George North, who went into midfield.
North's pace caused problems for the Reds' defence he set up Farrell for a golden opportunity but a try saving tackle from Morahan denied the young English pivot.
The Lions did eventually find their way over the whitewash after Youngs pinched the ball from Reds number eight Jake Schatz at the back of a retreating Queensland scrum.
Some last-ditch tackling from the Reds prevented a Warburton score after more strong running from North but Farrell's boot gave the visitors the lead at the interval.
With the drizzle turning to rain and making handling more and more difficult, the Lions pack came to the fore and they were rewarded for a sustained period of possession and territorial dominance with Farrell's fourth penalty,
The Reds bounced back through an opportunistic try when Frisby and Rod Davies combined down the right touchline.
Replacement Mike Harris missed the easy conversion leaving the Reds trailing by seven but it would be Farrell's last kick that ended the scoring.
Tries: Morahan, Frisby
Try: B. Youngs
Pens: Farrell 5
Reds: 15 Ben Lucas, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Anthony Faingaa, 11 Luke Morahan, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Nick Frisby, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Beau Robinson, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 Ed O'Donoghue, 4 Adam Wallace-Harrison, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 James Hanson, 1 Ben Daley.
Replacements: 16 Albert Anae, 17 Sam Denny, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Radike Samo, 20 Jarrad Butler, 21 Jono Lance, 22 Mike Harris, 23 Dom Shipperley.
Lions: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Manu Tuilagi, 12 Jonathan Davies, 11 Tommy Bowe, 10 Owen Farrell, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Toby Faletau, 7 Sam Warburton (capt), 6 Dan Lydiate, 5 Geoff Parling, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Tom Youngs, 1 Mako Vunipola.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Dan Cole, 18 Adam Jones, 19 Paul O'Connell, 20 Justin Tipuric, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Jonathan Sexton, 23 George North.
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)