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Hot and sticky – but a solid start to the 2013 British and Irish Lions tour

British and Irish Lions vs Barbarians

Mike Phillips and Alex Cuthbert scored two tries apiece as the British and Irish Lions kicked off their 125th anniversary tour with a comfortable 59-8 victory over the Barbarians in oppressive humidity in Hong Kong on Saturday in front of 28 643 spectators. With a night-time temperature of 29 degrees Celcius and relative humidity at 72% it was never going to be easy conditions.

“The guys were saying the ball was like a bar of soap, it was difficult to hold on to,” Lions coach Warren Gatland said.”But they kept their composure and I’m absolutely delighted with the start. Going forward, these players who played tonight have laid down a marker” Gatland lamented.

Among those to impress the Lions coach were the Welsh duo of Mike Phillips and Alex Cuthbert, who bagged a brace of tries each, while flyhalf Owen Farrell had an indifferent night with ball in hand but kicked 15 points. “I am absolutely delighted with the start (of the tour),” Gatland told reporters.”For the last couple of tours – 2005 and 2009 – the team had shaky starts and were a little bit rusty, so to kick it off like this is great for momentum.”

After a solid start to their campaign, The Lions will face much tougher opposition in their nine matches on the tour Down Under. “We’re delighted to get the win and win really well,” Irishman O’Connell, captaining the side in place of the injured tour skipper Sam Warburton, said in a touchline interview.

Mike Phillips accepted the Man of the Match award. “It was tough conditions,” said Phillips. “I thought all in all it was a great way to start the tour and we’ve just got to keep it going now.”

Two tries in the last five minutes cemented a successful start and helped to send the tourists off to Australia in good spirits as they seek to record a first tour triumph since South Africa in 1997.  The Lions now travel to Perth, where they face the Western Force on Wednesday in the first of nine Tour matches around Australia which includes three tests against the Wallabies.

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