Mike Phillips leaves the Sharks defence for dead on his way to the try-line.
Huw Evans Agency
Lee Byrne and Mike Phillips put their hands up for test selection with try scoring displays at the Absa Stadium as the British and Irish Lions stuttered to a 39-3 victory over the Sharks in their fourth game of the tour.
Lions coach Ian McGeechan told the touring squad members the test side will be selected next Tuesday so time was running out to impress the brains trust. The Welsh duo of Phillips and Byrne both scored tries in the second half to pencil their names in while Jamies Roberts also impressed before going off with a shoulder injury.
All the early pressure was applied by the Lions but the Sharks held on by their finger tips. Roberts used his power and strength on a surging run in the 10th minute to put the Lions in a commanding attacking position. Jamie Heaslip sped to the try-line from the back of the scrum but was held up. The Lions then blew their chance when the next ball into the scrum was stolen by the Sharks who relieved the pressure.
In the 19th minute the Lions saw another golden opportunity wasted. Brian O'Driscoll intercepted a pass near his own 22m line and looked odds on to go all the way but replacement Lwazi Mvovo chased him down and nailed him five metres from the try-line. With the Lions infringing at the ruck, the Sharks were once again able to clear their line.
Eventually the total domination had to pay dividends. Mike Phillips dummied his way close to the line to set up hooker Lee Mears who burrowed his way over. O'Gara converted to give the tourists a deserved 7-0 lead.
The Lions were penalised for taking down a scrum and Sharks scrum half Rory Kockott made them pay with a well struck penalty on the half hour mark.
The Sharks defence continued to take a hammering but heroic defence by second row Steven Sykes denied Byrne and a knock-on by Shane Williams prevented the Ospreys full-back from claiming a five pointer only moments later.
The Sharks may have been missing nine of their 10 Springboks, but coach John Plumtree would have been a happy man at halftime, with his side still in contention, just 3-7 down.
However he would have not have been so happy immediately after the break when Phillips produced a dazzling run to score wide out to give the Lions the perfect re-start.
The Sharks had a chance to reduce the arrears when Paul O'Connell was penalised at the tackle area but Kockott's long range penalty fell inches short of the cross bar. That was to be the closest the home side would come to scoring in the second half.
O'Gara nudged the Lions further ahead with two short range penalties as the tourists attempted to raise the tempo.
Luke Fitzgerald, who looked dangerous every time he touched the ball, finished off a rapid-fire move from the Lions in the 60th minute.
Ferris, Byrne and then O'Driscoll combined to send the Irish speedster over. With O'Gara's conversion, the Lions suddenly looked comfortable at 25-3.
Byrne then took advantage of O'Driscoll's pass which gave him some room to move and the Ospreys full back flew down the touchline. He bamboozled his former team mate Stefan Terblanche close to the try-line and touched down emphatically.
In the dying stages both teams finished the game a man down with Lions replacement prop Phil Vickery and Sharks No8 Keegan Daniel seeing yellow but the Lions were able to surpass their previous highest score against the Sharks with a try by the impressive Heaslip right on full-time to send the Lions into their next game still unbeaten.
Scorers: Sharks: Pen - Kockott. Lions: Tries - Mears, Phillips, Fitzgerald, Byrne, Heaslip; Cons - O'Gara (3), Hook.; Pens - O'Gara (2)
Nearly 40 players were involved in the first Wales Under 18 training session of the season. WRU National Performance Manager Gethin Watts is excited at the potential shown by the group and expects the Regional Under 18 Championship to hone their skills even further.
The WRU officially unveiled the new pitch today in time for Wales to take on Australia in the first of the Dove Men Series autumn international matches this Saturday. Head Groundsman Lee Evans and colleague Craig Campbell reflect on the 15-week project and look ahead to a pitch perfect future at Millennium Stadium.