Sean Maitland scores as Lions crush Rebels
The British and Irish Lions will head into the second test against Australia with a head full of steam after subjecting the Melbourne Rebels to a 35-0 thrashing in their tour match on Tuesday.
Eager to impress coach Warren Gatland in their last non-test tour match, the midweek Lions ran in four tries and were awarded a fifth by penalty as they completely outclassed the Super Rugby strugglers at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium.
Coach Warren Gatland was stony-faced after the midweek Lions were upset by a dogged ACT Brumbies side in Canberra last week, but praised the 'dirt-trackers' for hitting back and keeping the Rebels scoreless in front of a crowd of more than 28,000.
"The defence was outstanding and they kept working hard," New Zealander Gatland told reporters.
"Obviously for me, the pleasing thing was the spirit they displayed. It really came out today, how good these guys have been both on and off the tour and I think that was demonstrated tonight ... not conceding any points.
"We were really pleased with that performance."
The Lions lead the three-test series 1-0 after edging the Wallabies 23-21 in a bruising opener in Brisbane and can seal it at Melbourne's Docklands Stadium on Saturday.
They suffered a couple of knocks against the Rebels, but were unlikely to have added to their injury list.
England centre Manu Tuilagi celebrated his return to action after a niggling shoulder injury by contributing to the first two tries for scrumhalf Conor Murray and winger Sean Maitland.
Openside flanker Sean O'Brien and replacement scrumhalf Ben Youngs crossed after the break as the Dan Lydiate-captained Lions dominated in front of the largest crowd to attend a Rebels match in the team's three-year history.
Having made a hash of set pieces and been well beaten at the breakdown by the Brumbies, the Lions forwards made amends against the Rebels by setting up scoring chances with sharp work at the lineout.
"It's still open for the weekend for selection so the boys were really chomping at the bit," blindside flanker Lydiate, a replacement in Brisbane last weekend, told reporters.
"It was quite easy to lead the boys. Some of our enthusiasm was a bit much at times. We were trying to rush things and made mistakes in the game but I can't fault the boys for their effort to try to put a marker down for the weekend."
Tuilagi drove the Lions forward with a jinking run to set up their first try in the 15th minute, scrumhalf Conor Murray swooping on a loose ball from the resulting five-metre scrum before spinning over in the right corner.
The barnstorming centre was even more involved in the second try with another powerful break, a fend and an offload helping number Toby Faletau take the tourists to the Rebels' line.
Inside centre Brad Barritt played scrumhalf at the breakdown to get the ball to Simon Zebo, who flung it wider still to another winger in New Zealand-born Maitland for an easy try in the right corner.
The Rebels, captained by former Wales backrower Gareth Delve and marshalled by former Wallaby scrumhalf Luke Burgess, pressed hard but were let down by poor finishing.
Fullback Jason Woodward missed a penalty kick from straight in front, and the Rebels waved away another three points by kicking for the corner a minute before the break only to botch the lineout.
Although dictating proceedings, the Lions made a hash of a few scoring chances and O'Brien was left fuming a few minutes after halftime when a long looping pass from Maitland sailed into touch to deny the Irishman a certain try.
O'Brien was all smiles a few minutes later, though, when he dived over to score in the opposite corner after lock Richie Gray and Lydiate had combined well at the lineout.
The Rebels conceded a penalty try some 10 minutes later, with replacement flanker Jordy Reid sent off for illegally stopping a rolling maul.
Youngs completed the rout by sharking the ball at the back of a lineout and beating two defenders to cross between the posts and hand the Lions precious momentum before the second Wallabies clash.
"Disappointing," said Delve. "We wanted to try a few things but we never really got the stability at the set piece that we wanted. And a quality team like that, they ran a few points up on us."