Summary – much better overall, far more committed and at the races for sure, especially up front where the scrum was good but the Blues looked like a team, which is what they are. The Lions are still work in progress.
Marks out of 10:
Halfpenny 7 Solid, has a proper rugby brain and is dead eye with his goal kicking under pressure. However, sadly has lost his pace after that injury and no longer possesses an attacking threat
Nowell 5 very lively going forward and pops up all over the place and is a danger but he is a bit of a headless chicken at times and defensively he’s often all over the place, flying up at times on his own and positionally very suspect. He’s too much of a risk for test match rugby
Payne 6 did ok when he was on, was quite visible but could have done better when kicking through as those chances have to be taken in tight pressure situations when chances are few and far between. Similarly he could have scored in the corner but often wingers can score those but centres aren’t quite so good at it
Henshaw 6 – did ok but I feel lacks a bit of pace and creativity
Daly 7 – played well all round in all facets, apart from one long kick which rolled out albeit he was saved as we already had a penalty. Would have been good if he could have got the ball in hand more when he was moved to centre
Biggar 6 – did ok and kept the game flowing. Was a shame he had to go off injured in the first half
Webb 6 – lively on the ball and arguably the Lions best attacking threat but kicking was poor, far too long. Scrum half kicking needs to be accurate and give your team a chance to compete. Dare I say it but Wigglesworth is the best at this and is on the button every time
McGrath 7 – prominent and part of a strong front row. High tackle count
Owens 7 – ditto McGrath. Captained well and did himself no harm at all. Just a shame about his final crooked line out throw
Cole 7 – experienced and showed it with his fellow front row boys who were well on top
Lawes 7 – lively and prominent. A good match.
Itoje 7 – similar to Lawes. Competed well but still not quite at the top of his game but is getting there. Could be a big player on this tour. Needs to cut out the penalties
Haskell 7 – lively. His best game for a while. Hungry for action and made a positive impact. Probably a bit disappointed to be subbed so early
Tipuric 8 – best Lions player on the day in my view. Prominent and makes an impact, good with his hands. A very good no 7
Stander 8 – strong and aggressive. Never takes a backward step and was very effective in all aspects of his game
Sinckler 8 really makes a difference, just needs to make sure that his natural exuberance doesn’t get the better of him. I see him in the test squad as an impact sub
Marler 6 good scrummager, prominent in open play and a bit unfortunate to concede that penalty under the posts when attacking at the very end of the match (or was it stupidly trying to gain a few extra metres by crawling after being tackled ?)
Best 4 not on for long but fluffed his lines spectacularly at that final line out. A hooker has to find his jumpers in such a critical stage of a match. It could have made the difference between winning and losing today.
OMahoney 7 – lively prominent and made a decent contribution
Laidlaw – 6 had very little time but is clearly not an impact sub
Sexton 5 – is beginning to annoy me. Whilst he has been the heartbeat of the Irish team in recent years, is fiercely competitive and is a winner, I think he sees this as a personal crusade for him to get the no 10 shirt in the test team v Farrell. He is trying far too hard and I feel that he is playing for himself not the team. A couple of examples today – firstly when Liam W got penalised the first time it was after Sexton put up a high crosskick when the Lions had a penalty advantage. Sexton sees himself as a precision kicker and feels he can further his cause that way. However, with vision he would have realised that the Lions had acres of space outside with numbers and if he had kept the ball in hand and just moved it down the line we’d have had far more chance of scoring. Also, the winning try came after he put up another high kick which we lost and they came away and scored that brilliant try. I’m not blaming him for the try but if he’d kept the ball in hand rather than going for a speculative 50:50 kick then they wouldn’t have had the chance to score that try. His mind is clearly jumbled and he’s scared, he’s just so desperate to be the no 10 that his game has become badly affected. In Ireland he is the stand out player, first name on the team sheet, so he can focus on the team and how to win. Depending on how the stuttering midfield go in the next 2 matches Gatland might have to eat his words and pick Farrell at 12 with Sexton at 10. Farrell is not precious and will play wherever and this would enable Sexton to relax and play his natural game for the team’s benefit, not his own.
Liam Williams 4 – it could be argued that he was a bit unlucky but you need to play smarter at international level. Whilst I like his desire to compete for the high ball, giving away 2 pens which led to the loss of a potential 3 points at a critical stage of the match, field position and a yellow card is simply not good enough.
All in all, we were good in the tight, especially the scrum but were found wanting outside with very little creativity. Not unsurprising really for a scratch team but fairly soon they will need to get an idea of the likely back division. It will be very interesting to see how they go this w/e with Murray, Farrell, J Davies, North and L Williams guaranteed starters. It will be interesting to see who he picks to play with them – T’eo at 12 and Hogg at 15 would be my guesses.
As for the result, not crucial but never good to lose Tour matches especially when leading close to the end. Whatever anyone says, it’s not good for general tout party confidence. I think that The Blues deserved to win for their ambition outside, flair and that wonder try. Also they are a team and have been playing together all season.