Lions: Warren Gatland praises his players after convincing win over Barbarians
Last Updated: 03/06/13 11:05am
Warren Gatland: Delighted with opening display of the tour
Lions head coach Warren Gatland was delighted with his side's 59-8 victory over the Barbarians in the opening game of their 10-match tour.
The Lions overcame the oppressively hot and humid conditions in Hong Kong to run in eight tries against the Barbarians.
Scrum-half Mike Phillips, the Lions' stand-out performer, scored two tries, while wing Alex Cuthbert also claimed a double and there were further touchdowns for skipper Paul O'Connell, centre Jonathan Davies, flanker Dan Lydiate and substitute Alun-Wyn Jones.
Fly-half Owen Farrell kicked 15 points, but he also made some poor decisions, with one handling blunder leading directly to a Barbarians try, which was scored by Kahn Fotuali'i. Farrell's replacement, Jonathan Sexton, added two conversions.
"I am absolutely delighted with the start," Gatland told Sky Sports. "For the last couple of tours - 2005 and 2009 - they were ropey starts and a little bit rusty, so to kick it off like that is great for the momentum.
Gatland impressed by performance
"And the nice thing is that it will put some pressure on those players for the game against the Force."
Gatland was particularly pleased with the way his players coped with the conditions as humidity levels touched 94% and how they adapted to their gameplan during the match.
"The conditions were really tough and we found in the first half that we missed three or four opportunities with a bit of eagerness and getting a bit flat," he said.
"But to come out the way we did and keep going in those conditions was great. The players were saying that the ball was like a bar of soap and difficult to hold on to but we just kept our composure.
"We spoke about it at half time - being a little bit more direct with how slippery the ball was and playing two or three phases and not being afraid to put the ball behind them.
"The potential was there to score off turnovers and keeping patient defensively and waiting for those chances. I thought they did that really well in the second half. I thought the impact from the players coming off the bench really gave us a nice lift as well."
Phillips, who was named man of the match, was among the players picked out by Gatland for particular praise. Although the head coach was quick to highlight the competition for places, which he said was typified by the Phillips' replacement, Conor Murray.
"I am absolutely delighted with the start. For the last couple of tours - 2005 and 2009 - they were ropey starts and a little bit rusty, so to kick it off like that is great for the momentum."
He said: "I thought Mike Phillips had a great game but then Conor Murray came on and gave us momentum too. We are pleased with that start and it is a nice way to leave Hong Kong and start focusing on the rest of the tour.
"I thought Toby Faletau was great and Dan Lydiate worked his socks off and Justin Tipuric again showed what a good footballer he is. The two second rows continued to work hard."
Gatland added: "We are a bit disappointed about conceding a try because we are trying to build up a bit of a strong defensive record. But all in all a really good start.
"Players know they have played in pretty tough conditions but I think we'll get a huge benefit out of that. The conditioners are saying the adaptions from training and with the game should be good for us next week in Australia."