Nine tries, five of them scored by Irishmen, two of which came from match captain Brian O’Driscoll, gave the large contingent of Lions supporters in the 35,103 crowd at Patersons Stadium plenty to cheer as Warren Gatland’s squad played their first game on Australian soil yesterday.
Yet Healy’s continued participation on the tour is today in the balance due to an ankle injury suffered in the 36th minute and his citing for an alleged bite against Force scrum-half Brett Sheehan, an act “contrary to good sportsmanship”.
The television match official had been asked to review the alleged incident but found no evidence to support the claim and both Lions head coach Warren Gatland and Force chief Michael Foley said the matter had been settled, only for citing commissioner Freek Burger of South Africa to summon Sheehan for interview, from which arose his decision cite Healy under Law 10.4m. The prop will appear at the judicial hearing in Brisbane at 10.30am Irish time.
Burger also last night took a statement from Force centre Ed Stubbs, who had been sin-binned for killing the ball at a ruck at which he claimed he had been trampled on by Lions scrum-half Murray.
Healy has other concerns after he fell to the ground in agony just after the half hour after a tackle by a Angus Cottrell. The prop received lengthy treatment on the pitch before being stretchered off and replaced by Mako Vunipola, after which he underwent a precautionary X-ray which revealed the problem was not as grave as first thought, although the head coach moved swiftly to line up cover by calling in Alex Corbisiero from England’s tour of Argentina.
“It’s not broken but they think it’s ligament damage so we will have to wait 24, 48 hours and see what happens from that,” Gatland said.
There was better news from Gatland on Rob Kearney’s chances of staying on tour having missed the first two games with a hamstring tear that has also ruled him out of Saturday’s game against the Queensland Reds in Brisbane.
“We spoke to the medics this morning and they’re pleased about the progress he’s making,” the Lions head coach said. “He’s hit all his markers at the moment so he’s on track to hopefully be back fully training next week and to be in selection for either next Tuesday, if he’s quick enough, or for the following Saturday.”
Kearney is one of only three squad members yet to feature for the Lions and he is likely to be the odd one out with fit-again Gethin Jenkins and possibly tour captain Sam Warburton set to be named to face the Reds when Gatland unveils his team later today on arrival in Brisbane.
Yet despite two games that have seen comfortable victories over relatively weak opponents in the Barbarians and understrength Super XV strugglers Western Force, O’Driscoll is excited at the potential of this Lions squad.
“We’ve got a lovely mix. For all the things that were said about the brawn of the squad, there were a couple of deft touches from a few big men out there,” O’Driscoll said. “I benefited from two of them. I think we’ve got plenty to show and we’ve got a nice mixture.”
O’Driscoll’s first game alongside Manu Tuilagi in midfield certainly had an element of brains and brawn about it, Tuilagi’s powerhouse running and classy offloading setting up the Irishman for his second try, while Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip both impressed along with Tom Croft in a winning back-row combination that picked up the baton in style from Hong Kong starters Dan Lydiate, Justin Tipuric and Toby Faletau.
“I was happy enough with my game,” O’Brien said following his Lions debut. “There were a couple of little silly things I’ll have a look at on the video; there is always stuff to improve on. I mixed it up well enough and I’ll go back and assess everything now and have a look at it.”