By Simon Lewis, Newcastle
Combined Country 0 British & Irish Lions 64
The British & Irish Lions ran in 10 tries as they blanked the Combined Country at Hunter Stadium to make it four wins from four on their 2013 tour today.
George North grabbed two tries and the Lions had eight other scorers with fly-half Stuart Hogg converting four from six attempts and substitute Leigh Halfpenny three from four.
There will have been little gained from this comfortable victory over a team of part-timers and Super Rugby fringe players that will benefit the bid to win a Test series over Australia beginning in 11 days, the only plus being no apparent fresh injury concerns.
There was no gentle introduction for the Combined Country as the Lions, watched by new arrival Simon Zebo, started as they meant to go on, dominating an early scrum, forcing a botched lineout and scoring three tries in the opening 12 minutes.
Alex Cuthbert got the ball rolling, receiving the ball on the right wing from matchday captain Brian O'Driscoll in eighth minute with stand-in fly-half Stuart Hogg settling an early nerves in an unfamiliar position with the conversion from the right touchline.
Two minutes later and scrum-half Conor Murray was the recipient when Cuthbert cut inside off his wing and released the Munster man to score next to the post, again converted by Hogg, who grabbed a try for himself in the 12th minute.
The Scotsman spotted a gaping hole in the Combined Country defence and with a great burst of acceleration left the him side for dust, although his conversion attempt struck an upright, ending the Lions' 100% record of successful kicks on Australian soil in 2013.
George North was next on the scoresheet, as the Country were turned over on the Lions five-metre line, the ball snaffled by Justin Tipuric.
The Lions again quickly moved through the gears, getting the ball out through Jamie Heaslip and O'Driscoll to George North who sent full-back Sean Maitland haring down the left wing.
North stayed with him in support and was ready to collect when the Scot passed inside for the Welshman to finish.
North would add another, but not before the forwards trundled into action, Hibbard finishing off a powerful lineout maul on 27 minutes, his compatriot notching his second of the game five minutes later, giving the Lions a 38-0 half-time lead.
It did not get any better after the break for the Country XV, but equally there will have been little for the Lions management to glean.
O'Driscoll, substitute Leigh Halfpenny and Sean O'Brien adding tries, two of them converted by Halfpenny, who had assumed the kicking duties from Hogg.
The Lions seemed to lose concentration after that with Combined Country capitalising on sloppy play to make rare forays into the visitors' half.
Sub Dale Ahwang even crossed the try line, only for the TMO to spot a knock-on by him earlier in the move after some furious objections by the tourists.
And it was the Lions who had the final say, sub Jon Davies crashing over in the corner for the 10th and final try, Halfpenny ending the game with his conversion.
COMBINED COUNTRY: N Trist; A Gibbon, L Catt (D Ahwang, 62), T-J Siakisini, T Cox (S McCarthy, 56); A Roberts, M Snowden (A McCormack, 74); H Hirsmaki (D Evans, 53), J Mann-Rae (T Kearney, 62), T Metcher (R Abraham, 71); P Battye (T Dyer, 53; R Arnold, 74), B Enever; R Stanford (Battye 65), J Butler, T Davidson – captain.
BRITISH & IRISH LIONS: S Maitland; A Cuthbert, B O’Driscoll – captain, J Roberts (J Davies, 56), G North (L Halfpenny, h-t); S Hogg, C Murray (M Phillips, 70); A Corbisiero (R Grant, 50), R Hibbard (R Best, 50), D Cole (M Stevens, 50); R Gray (A W Jones, h-t), I Evans; S O’Brien, J Tipuric, J Heaslip (T Faletau, 53).
REFEREE: Steve Walsh (Australia)