x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Rugby union: Mike Phillips leads the line for Lions

Barbarians thrashed 59-8 as British & Irish Lions kick off their tour in style.

British & Irish Lions' Owen Farrell reacts after his team scored a try.
British & Irish Lions' Owen Farrell reacts after his team scored a try.

Wales star Mike Phillips inspired the British & Irish Lions to a comprehensive 59-8 victory over the Barbarians at Hong Kong Stadium as their 10-game tour began in successful fashion.

Stamina-sapping conditions proved the real winner, though, as humidity levels touched 94 per cent, contributing greatly to both sides struggling for sustained passages of error-free rugby.

Scrum-half Phillips, the Lions' most consistent 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 had a mixed bag of a game elsewhere, making some poor decisions, with one handling blunder leading directly to a Barbarians try. His replacement Jonathan Sexton added two conversions.

Northampton-bound Samoa international Kahn Fotuali'i touched down for the Barbarians, and there was also a penalty by Wasps centre Elliot Daly, but they were again crushed following a drubbing by England in last Sunday's encounter at Twickenham.

The Lions, who struggled to win their first tour match in South Africa four years ago, head to Australia on Sunday, where far greater challenges await, including three Tests against the Wallabies.

They are on the trail of a first Test series triumph since 1997, and by the time things are up and running Down Under, their Hong Kong excursion will be remembered as little more than the equivalent of a pre-season friendly.

Phillips apart, there were some impressive individual contributions by Wales back-row forwards Justin Tipuric and Toby Faletau, while Scotland pair Richie Gray and Stuart Hogg had their moments.

But with a crowd of just under 29,000 - more than 11,000 short of capacity - struggling to become enthralled by the action, it was a case of job done for the Lions, yet nothing more.