The Lions fell 30-15 to a dominant New Zealand side in the opening match of their series. There were promising signs, however, that bode well for the next two tests. Here, Sports Editor Wil Jones’ gives his verdict on who roared and who slept.
After an imperious end to the season with the Scarlets, Davies fully deserves his place in the test team and was an excellent running threat against the All Blacks, breaking the line with pace and power.
‘A VITAL ELEMENT OF ONE OF THE LIONS’ GREATEST EVER TRIES’
His interplay with Elliot Daly and Sean O’Brien for one of the Lions’ greatest ever tries put to bed any doubts over his handling ability.
New Zealand surprisingly dominated possession and territory in the first test, and if the Lions are forced to play counter attacking rugby in the following tests, they could well look to the running threat of Rhys Webb over the kicking game of Connor Murray. Webb looked lively when he came on, bagging a consolation try after the buzzer; however the Lions will surely look to dominate more of the play in the forthcoming games, and therefore Webb may be best placed to resume his role as a very useful impact replacement.
Not a name many would have put in the squad before the Tour, let alone the test side, yet Te’o stood up to the All Blacks’s Sonny Bill Williams at every opportunity and provided a solidity to the backline, particularly in defence. Crucially failed to spin the ball wide during a try scoring opportunity, opting for contact instead, and on such margins are test matches won and lost. He will learn, though.
Welsh bias. ‘Warrenball’. Midweek losses. More Welsh bias with squad replacements. Gatland has always been something of a Machiavellian coach, asking to be judged on the final result rather than the aesthetics of the process.
‘hE RISKS RECEIVING THE PUBLIC’S IRE’
However, he must surely have seen this tour as his best opportunity of landing the All Blacks job after Steve Hansen leaves, and – unless he conjures something remarkable to salvage the series – he will instead receive the rugby public’s ire in both hemispheres when the tour concludes.
Going into the tour, Farrell seemingly had the world at his feet, yet – stripped of the front foot ball he is used to receiving from the England and Saracens packs – he has been somewhat exposed in New Zealand.
‘FARRELL FAILED TO DEMONSTRATE HIS QUALITY’
Beauden Barrett outclassed him comprehensively in the first test, with Farrell failing to show the necessary game management to guide the ailing Lions forwards. There is a real case to be made for Jonathan Sexton or Dan Biggar coming in at outside half, but Farrell is likely to get a second chance.
Alun Wyn Jones
Having been such a monumental figure for the for the last decade, it does feel like the intensity of top class rugby is just too much these days for the Ospreys and Wales lock. He failed to contain his opposition – the All Blacks’s man of the match and former World Player of the Year Brodie Retallick – and was unable to bring his leadership experience to the side. Maro Itoje seems an almost certain replacement for the next test.