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Page last updated at 07:08 GMT, Thursday, 4 June 2009 08:08 UK

Lions win 'exceeded expectations'

Brian O'Driscoll
O'Driscoll made a try-scoring return to Lions colours

Lions head coach Ian McGeechan has admitted that his team's 74-10 demolition of the Golden Lions on Wednesday "exceeded expectations".

The tourists had looked unconvincing in a 37-25 win over Royal XV in Saturday's tour opener, but a much improved performance saw them run in 10 tries.

"We were very accurate and very disciplined," said McGeechan.

"It has given us a good sighter of what is possible. But we know we have to lift ourselves further."

The Johannesburg side won just four of their 13 Super 14 matches this season and had been blighted by injuries and the sacking of coach Eugene Eloff in the run-up to the tourists' arrival.

But despite the opponents' problems, McGeechan was still pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

"The performance exceeded expectations. We did the right things at the right times - the players' thinking on the field was first class," he said.

"I probably wouldn't have written that score down on a piece of paper before the game, but we kept playing for 80 minutes and kept our focus."

Forwards coach Warren Gatland described the victory as "a big step in the right direction".

"In the opening game we hadn't been together long but they fronted up today," said the Wales boss.

"We earned a bit of respect. We've not been given much of a chance and we wanted to show we're a decent team."

Gatland was unhappy with some aspects of the performance and said there was still work to be done.

Ugo Monye was forced off with an injury with 10 minutes remaining but such was the Lions' dominance, they played on with 14 players.

But he added: "There were some outstanding performances from a number of individual players, and we were down to 14 men for the last 10 minutes and still scored 14 points.

"Tom Croft was dynamic and followed the ball. We thought he'd been too loose before, but he was making his breaks around the breakdowns.

"Stephen Jones had a good game, Jamie Roberts made plenty of breaks and Brian O'Driscoll was class.

"Everyone up front had good games, but everyone from 1-22 can be happy."

O'Driscoll pulled on the Lions shirt for the first time since he was spear tackled by Tana Umaga and Keven Mealamu in the first Test of the 2005 tour to New Zealand.


He scored a try before being given a rest after 60 minutes and said making a winning return with the Lions was "a good feeling".

"It's a nice dressing room to be in at the moment - a bit different to Saturday. It was a good victory and a good performance," added the Ireland captain.

"We wanted to set out a marker and I thought everyone who took the pitch did that today.

"We probably tired a bit in the second half and the game became a bit of a damp squib, but we still scored four tries and put the knife in."

O'Driscoll injured his shoulder in Leinster's Heineken Cup final win over Leicester but declared himself "fighting fit" after the match and said he hopes to be involved against the Cheetahs on Saturday.

Roberts, who backed up his impressive display in the tour opener with a man of the match display against the Golden Lions, was described by O'Driscoll as "a big powerful man who's going to take some stopping".

The Welshman himself said "the boys are really pleased to finally click as a team and play some attractive rugby".

But he cautioned: "There's a lot to work on. We've got to play for 80 minutes and be a bit more ruthless at times out there, but our support lines and running play were world class against any team.

"All in all we're very pleased and the team that goes out on Saturday needs to raise the bar again."

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see also
Golden Lions 10-74 Lions
03 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
Golden Lions v Lions as it happened
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O'Driscoll to lead new-look Lions
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Lions in South Africa photos
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Jeremy Guscott column
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Lions display worries O'Connell
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Royal XV 25-37 Lions
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Lions squad selector
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2009 Lions: Squad & results
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BBC Sport Wales coverage
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Rugby union positions guide
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