CAPE TOWN – The British & Irish Lions produced a strong first half to come out on top in their warm-up game against Japan at Murrayfield yesterday.
The Lions were well in control in the opening half while the Japanese were rather poor, and although they returned from the break in better shape, the Lions were just too strong, despite a number of setbacks during the game.
The biggest moment came when skipper Alyn Wyn Jones left the field in the seventh minute with an injury. Loose forward Justin Tipuric also went down with injury, but Wyn Jones’ appeared especially disconcerting.
Losing Wyn Jones would be a massive loss for the Lions, and while there is no certainty just yet as to how his injury will impact his involvement and availability for the tour against the Springboks, the injury – and the look on his face as he was helped off the pitch – will certainly create at least a small amount of worry in the Lions den. His arm wasn’t, however, visibly strapped up when he was shown sitting with the subs.
While Japan offered very little in the way of a stern test in the first half, Warren Gatland can be pleased with how his side went. They did well to shut down Japan’s elusive runners, but apart from keeping a lid on the opposition’s brimming pot of speed and tempo-hungry attitude, they also executed their own play effectively, with their ruck speed and variation working a treat. They were also clinical on both attack and defence.
The Tourists got their opening try early on when debutant wing Josh Adams visited Japan’s in-goal, with flyhalf Dan Biggar adding the conversion (7-0).
Biggar was absolutely sensational, so much so that’s its rather tough imagining anybody else in that No 10 red jumper against the Boks.
Japan left their short-side exposed for the Lions to get another try, this time through South African-born wing Duhan van der Merwe.
The Lions struck again when Robbie Henshaw, who also put in a huge shift, went over after finishing off a straightforward – but effective – play from a lineout in opposition 22 with a sharp running line and burst of power. Biggar made it three out of three to take the score to 21-0 early in the second quarter.
The Lions didn’t add any more points before half time, but it didn’t take them long to get on the scoreboard after the break.
The debut delight continued as flanker Tadgh Beirne dived over after picking a top line after Biggar put him through and adding an impressive turn of pace. Again, Biggar made no mistake with the extras (28-7).
Japan finally got on the scoresheet in the final quarter when Kazuki Himeno crossed the whitewash after a clever move off the back of a lineout and solid contributions from their forwards, with Yu Tamura adding the conversion (28-7), but that would be their first and only try in the match. They added three points at the 65-minute mark.
Injury came knocking on the Lions’ well-visited door again, with Jack Conan the one to leave the field this time. With the Lions having already cleared out their bench, they were one player down for the last 10 minutes. In the end, though, it didn’t matter much as the Lions secured a comfortable victory.
Lions: 28 – Tries: Josh Adams, Duhan van der Merwe, Robbie Henshaw, Tadgh Beirne Conversions: Dan Biggar (4)
Japan: 10 – Tries: Kazuki Himeno Conversions: Yu Tamura Penalty: Tamura