Rugby

Lions Tour Player Ratings: Those Who Roared And Whimpered In New Zealand

Lions Tour Player Ratings: Those Who Roared And Whimpered In New Zealand
Fullbacks:

Stuart Hogg - 4

Appearances: 2

For the first time since 1908, no Scotland player made an appearance in a Lions Test game. The injury suffered by Hogg during his second game of the tour against the Crusaders, when he ran into Conor Murray's elbow, had much to do with that.

Had he been fully fit, it's likely he would have been the starting fullback for Warren Gatland. That was despite having a disastrous opening game of the tour against the Provincial Barbarians.

A player of proven quality, had his tour not been cut short, he would almost certainly have improved as it progressed.

Leigh Halfpenny - 5

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Appearances: 4

A safe pair of hands these days but not much more. The rugby equivalent of a goalkeeper being a decent shot stopper - it's the least you expect.

Though he's an exceptional goal kicker, with Owen Farrell on the pitch, that was not a quality the Lions required in the Test matches.

Looked certain to start the first Test following Hogg's injury. There was almost a sense of relief and renewed possibility when he didn't.

Liam Williams - 7

Appearances: 6

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Warren Gatland surprised four nations and perhaps himself when he selected Williams at fullback for the first Test. The Lions head coach had long maintained that the now Saracens player was a better wing than 15.

Williams was the spark that an underwhelming Lions backline required. His decision to run rather kick in the 36th minute of the first Test, a move which resulted in a try for Sean O'Brien, was a caffeine injection the series needed.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9b7h_5fU9fU

Though not flawless, Williams was the right decision as Test fullback.

Wings:

George North - 4.5

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Appearances: 3

One of the major disappointments from a Lions perspective. A force of nature four years ago against Australia, he was meek in comparison on this tour.

A presumed Test starter going into the tour, Gatland had little choice but to completely omit him from the Test 23 due to his form.

Strangely, his best performance came when switched to centre following Robbie Henshaw's injury against the Hurricanes.

Jack Nowell - 5.5

Appearances: 6

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After a brutal start to his tour in the games against the Blues and Highlanders, he played himself into a Test 23 spot with tries against the Chiefs.

Anthony Watson - 7.5

Appearances: 6

The Lions' best winger of the tour. Started all three Tests. Looked electric whenever he had the ball in his hands. The England man was also a reliable presence on defence.

Tommy Seymour - 5

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Appearances: 4

Improved as the tour went on but ultimately never looked like a Test option despite places being up for grabs.

Elliot Daly - 7

Appearances: 7

Started all three Tests and impressed. As seen in the opening minutes of the second half on Saturday, his boot gave the Lions the always handy option of taking a pop from long range.

A real force in attack, he had momentary lapses in defence but was never a liability.

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Centres:

Robbie Henshaw - 6

Appearances: 4

A tournament of disappointment and pain for the Ireland centre. Disappointment from the perspective that he did not get to play Test rugby. Pain as he will be out of action for four months after ripping a pectoral muscle from the bone in the 31-31 draw with the Hurricanes.

Battled it out from Ben Te'o for a Test spot but Gatland opted for the New Zealand-born centre. Perhaps a little unlucky in that Te'o got more prime opportunities to shine.

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Ben Te'o - 7

Appearances: 5

Selected because of his direct running style, it was also the reason he was dropped. A moment shortly after half-time in the first Test when he chose to run straight rather than pass, when he had screaming options on his outside, illustrated his creative limitations. That may have been the moment when Gatland decided he needed to introduce an option with more awareness.

Jonathan Davies - 8

Appearances: 5

The Lions' best back of the tour. Davies produced some standout moments for the Lions, particularly two tackles on Jordie Barrett in the third Test and his contribution to Sean O'Brien's try in the first game at Eden Park.

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A force in both attack and defence for the Lions.

Jared Payne - 4

Appearances: 3

A surprise inclusion in the squad. Payne was unable to take the opportunities given to him.

Jonathan Joseph - 4

Appearances: 3

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The England man was unable to put Davies' Test spot at outside centre in doubt. Often exciting with the ball in hand, there were always questions about his effectiveness in defence. Ultimately, that was probably what cost him.

Fly-halves:

Jonathan Sexton - 7.5

Appearances: 7

Started his tour with a thoroughly disappointing performance against the Provincial Barbarian part-timers. It was only up that Sexton's level of performance went following that opening game.

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Grasped every opportunity that was given to him, which turned out to be numerous. After starting the first Test on the bench, with shouts of Owen Farrell being the superior number 10 heard regularly, Sexton became vital to the Lions' chances.

The ball moved better for the Lions with Sexton at 10 and Farrell outside him.

Proved himself to be the more creative of the two by the end of tour.

Owen Farrell - 6.5

Appearances: 6

Farrell was simultaneously a vital player for the Lions and also somewhat of a disappointment.

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He proved himself to be the best kicker in rugby on this tour. As nearly every aspect of his game misfired in the third Test, it was his boot from the kicking tee which kept the Lions in the game.

Dovetailed well with Johnny Sexton when they were together on the pitch. It was the combination which took the Lions from being stuck in the mud as an attacking force to wheels spinning forward.

In that first Test, where he was chosen at 10 ahead of Sexton, he failed to impact a game which consistently looked beyond his reach.

Dan Biggar - 5

Appearances: 5

Started the tour as the third choice out-half and didn't do anything to disrupt the pecking order.

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Scrum-halves:

Conor Murray - 8.5

Appearances: 5

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X1pkUFJUzjc

Arrived in New Zealand as a contender for best scrum-half in the world. The Munster man undoubtedly enhanced his reputation on this tour. Even the Kiwis, including World Cup-winning head coach Graham Henry, had to admit his brilliance.

His decision making, passing and box kicking were all top notch.

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Rhys Webb 6.5

Appearances: 5

A superb scrum-half. Webb was just unlucky that Conor Murray was the other option at nine.

When given an opportunity, the Welshman showed that his ability to break around the fringes of rucks and scrums offered something different to Conor Murray.

Greig Laidlaw - 4

Appearances: 6

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Not in the same class as either Murray or Webb. Never stood a chance of breaking into the Test 23. His passing looked ponderous in comparison to the options ahead of him.

Props:

Joe Marler - 5

Appearances: 5

An adequate tour. Neither disappointed or impressed. Never looked anything more than a mid-week player.

Mako Vunipola - 5.5

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Appearances: 6

It was an average tour for the loosehead. Showed flashes which illustrated why he's such an exciting player but was overall he was too erratic.

An adequate first Test was followed by a week later by him being a liability for the Lions. His performance in the third Test was an improvement but never capitalised on the promise shown in appearances against the Super Rugby franchises.

Jack McGrath - 6

Appearances: 7

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The Leinster man must be extremely disappointed to have not started a Test given the performances of Mako Vunipola, the man ahead of him in the pecking order.

Tadhg Furlong - 7

Appearances: 6

It was five weeks to savour for the 24-year-old. The scrum always looked solid when he was on the pitch. Never appeared under pressure for his starting place from either of the other two tightheads in the squad.

Kyle Sinckler - 5.5

Appearances: 7

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Spent the tour stuck in Test limbo between being the bench option but never threatening Tadhg Furlong for his number three jersey.

Fortuitously won the penalty which edged the Lions a win in the second Test.

Dan Cole - 5.5

Appearances: 5

The epitome of what Lions aficionados are talking about when they speak of someone being a 'good tourist'. A solid option to start mid-week games but bar injury was never going to best a Test 23 option.

Hookers:
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Rory Best - 5.5

Appearances: 5

The Irish captain had a decent tour. It just wasn't quite good enough to elevate himself from mid-week captain material to Test 23 member.

Ken Owens 5.5

Appearances: 6

Started just one game on tour but was Gatland's man off the bench in the big games, bar the second Test where Jamie George played the full 80 minutes.

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Jamie George 6.5

Appearances: 6

The Saracens man, who started all three Tests, had some big impact moments, most notably the break which led to Conor Murray's crucial try against the All Blacks in Wellington.

Though the lineout generally operated well with him on the pitch, it was not without flaws, especially at some crucial moments with the Lions in good attacking positions.

Locks:

Maro Itoje - 8

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Appearances: 6

A player whose reputation has grown following his five weeks in New Zealand. Minutes after he stepped off the bench in the first Test, you could only wonder why he had not started. It immediately came clear after that first game against the All Blacks in Auckland that he would have to start the following two Tests.

An immense force in all aspects of the game. His carries always made an impact. He also tackled effectively, was a reliable option at the lineout and did well as the lineout caller.

George Kruis 5 

Appearances: 5

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Started the first Test but an underwhelming performance led to his dropping for the following two. Can consider himself unlucky to have been dropped when Alun Wyn Jones' even more disappointing display in that first Test is taken into account.

Alun Wyn Jones 6

Appearances: 7

Credit in the bank with Warren Gatland can be the only thing which saved him from being dropped after a poor 47 minutes in the opening game against the All Blacks.

He did far better in the next two games but it's hard not to believe other options would have made more of an impact.

Courtney Lawes - 7

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Appearances: 6

The England second row has real reason to believe himself unlucky to have not started a Test. Always made an impact when he was on the pitch.

Iain Henderson - 7

Appearances: 6

Henderson could hardly have stuck his hand higher in the air for a Test position than he did against the Hurricanes. He was a dynamic force which grew with every minute on the pitch. If he had 10 extra, by avoiding a yellow card against the Hurricanes - a moment of indiscipline which coincided with the Super Rugby side eating into the Lions' advantage - then perhaps we would be talking about his effectiveness in the Test matches too.

Flankers:
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Sean O’Brien - 8

Appearances: 5

This was a tour which saw Irish fans renew their grá for the Leinster backrow and the supporters from the other three Lions nations realise why he is so beloved in Ireland.

It was an O'Brien returned to his best. He was brilliant with ball in hand, hit hard at the breakdown and in the tackle.

When he popped up on Jonathan Davies' shoulder for that perception-altering try in the first Test, it ended any doubts about his fitness.

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The commotion in New Zealand following the dismissal of his citing following the second Test was a measure of the impact he'd had on the first two games.

Peter O’Mahony - 6

Appearances: 4

A tour the Munster man will perhaps look back on with mixed emotions. In the first game against the All Blacks, O'Mahony became the 11th Irish man to captain the Lions in a Test game.

Days later, it would be disappointment as he was dropped from the Test 23 with Gatland preferring the return of his tour captain Sam Warburton, believing the Welshman would have the impact at the breakdown required to slow down New Zealand.

Sam Warburton - 7

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Appearances: 6

Kept in reserve for the first Test, Warburton justified his place in the starting teams for the two which followed.

Really showed his captaincy credentials when it mattered in the third Test.

Justin Tipuric - 6.5

Appearances: 5

An incredibly consistent performer especially when it comes to tackling and at the breakdow. Unlucky that Sean O'Brien found a rich vein of form. Otherwise, he may have found himself playing Test rugby.

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Ross Moriarty - 5

Appearances: 1

Moriarty was one of the main bolters in the 41-man squad. Following his immense performance against the Provincial Barbarians, there were thoughts that he might be a bolter for the Test 23 too. Unfortunately, his tour was cut short by injury.

James Haskell - 6

Appearances: 4

Anointed the Bishop of Banterbury by Will Greenwood following the third Test. Called up as a replacement for certain Test starter Billy Vunipola, Haskell was never in consideration to play against the All Blacks.

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Though he didn't do much wrong on the pitch, his best performances were perhaps in promotional videos for Land Rover. One to file in the 'Good Tourist' category.

Number 8s:

CJ Stander - 6.5

Appearances: 6

Stander could not be faulted for effort. The Munster man played a stormer when coming off the bench to replace Sean O'Brien for the second half on Saturday. He looked more like the player we had seen for Munster in the first three-quarters of last season in those 40 minutes.

Prior yesterday's appearance, he had often looked tired and not the same force as a ball carrier which we know he can be.

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Toby Faletau - 7.5

Appearances 6

The injury to Billy Vunipola was a dagger to the Lions' chances in New Zealand. Though it certainly hurt, Faletau's performances ensured it was not fatal.

The Welsh international was superb, especially in defence. Though, the immense carrying ability he showed against the Super Rugby sides was not replicated to the same level against the All Blacks.

His try in the second Test, where he ran over Israel Dagg, will live long in the memory.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-s5H4xOdM4

The Geography Six - 1

One point for a decent few minutes off the bench by Allan Dell as a HIA replacement.

Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

See Also: Rugby's Concussion Rules Failed Again During the Lions-All Blacks Decider

PJ Browne
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