Lions Winners And Losers As The Blues Triumph At Eden Park

Lions Winners And Losers As The Blues Triumph At Eden Park
By PJ Browne Updated
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The Lions lost the first game of their New Zealand tour on Wednesday against the Blues but it was a performance much-improved from Saturday against the Provincial Barbarians.

This was a Blues side with eight All Blacks. There were no sheep farmers back from retirement in Tana Umaga's squad.

At set piece time, both at scrum and lineout, the Lions looked solid, even dominant in the former.

There were some standout performers for the Lions in the game but also some who will have major regrets about the game.

Winners:

CJ Stander

Billy Vunipola's injury meant Warren Gatland needed his other options at number eight to show they were capable of standing in for the England man. In the Lions two games so far, both Toby Faletau and CJ Stander have done so.

Faletau was the Lions best player in Saturday's nervy win against the Provincial Barbarians. Against much sterner competition on Wednesday, CJ Stander was the Lions' standout player.

The Munster man carried 17 times for 41 metres. He was also the Lions' top tackler with 14.

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Given that he can also play six, Stander's test starter credentials undoubtedly look more positive after Wednesday.

Jack McGrath

Along with Stander, McGrath was one of the Lions best players against the Blues.

He was part of an extremely solid looking scrum which dominated throughout. During his 53 minutes on the pitch, the Leinster man also put in 12 tackles.

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When it comes to Warren Gatland selecting his team for the first test against the All Blacks, McGrath will certainly be in the squad and is likely to start at loosehead.

Courtney Lawes
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It's almost certainly going to be Alun Wyn Jones plus one for the Lions second row against the All Blacks. The major questions is: who will partner the Welshman?

Iain Henderson's chances were certainly hurt with his performance against the Provincial Barbarians on Saturday. Though, the Ulsterman would have been an outside shot anyway.

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Both Courtney Lawes and Maro Itoje performed well against the Blues in the second row. It was Lawes, the more experienced Englishman, who stuck his hand up higher than his younger partner.

Losers:

Jack Nowell

The England winger has probably consigned himself to just mid-week action with his performance against the Blues.

Nowell was caught out badly by the pacy Rieko Ioane for the Blues' opening try at Eden Park. He also missed three tackles in what was a nightmare game for the 24-year-old.

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Liam Williams

If Warren Gatland is looking for discipline from his players, then Liam Williams is undoubtedly a loser after Wednesday's game at Eden Park.

The Wales back gave away a penalty and was yellow-carded, both times for tackles in their air, during his 32 minutes on the pitch against the Blues.

The All Blacks don't need to be given opportunities. If Williams is on the pitch, he looks a liability going on the Lions second game in New Zealand.

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Rory Best

He was only on the pitch for 12 minutes on Wednesday but Best did his chances of starting the first test no favours.

With the clock nearly in the red and the Lions trailing by six, the Blues conceded a penalty with the game in their own 22. Johnny Sexton kicked to the corner.

Best's throw was badly mistimed. Maro Itoje was just being lifted into the air as it flew past his head into the welcoming arms of a Blues player.

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In his post-match interview on Sky Sports, it was a missed opportunity Warren Gatland clearly regretted.

Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Player Ratings: Lions Lose First Game Of Tour In Exciting Game Vs Blues

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