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Lions review: How did the backs perform in New Zealand?

Jonathan Davies and Conor Murray were the pick of the backs for us.

Image: Billy Stickland; ©INPHO/Billy Stickland/INPHO

WITH THE CURTAINS being drawn on the 2017 Lions series, we’ve reflected on the performances of each of the players involved, and here the backs follow the forwards.

Each player has been marked on a scale of three stars [⭐️], from one to three.

One star represents a minimal impact on the tour, two stars signify a good tour, while three indicate that the player had a major impact for the Lions.

Conor Murray ⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Ireland scrum-half was always the front-runner to wear the Lions’ 9 shirt and he was excellent for Warren Gatland’s side.

His composure was already well-known, while his box kicking quality went up another notch on this tour – particularly some of the stupendous exits from the Lions’ 22. Scored one of his trademark tries against New Zealand in the second Test and defended superbly.

Rhys Webb ⭐️⭐️

The Welshman offered something different to Murray with his lively sniping game and bagged a try late in the first Test, as well as cleverly winning the penalty that allowed Owen Farrell to level the third Test at 15-15.

Greig Laidlaw ⭐️

A disappointing tour for the Scot, who was called up to replace Ben Youngs after the Englishman dropped out. Laidlaw’s passing was poor and he couldn’t bring any tempo to the Lions’ attack.

Owen Farrell ⭐️⭐️

The Englishman started the first Test at out-half but was underwhelming and shifted out to inside centre to make way for Johnny Sexton in Wellington, performing superbly in the 12 shirt in that second Test.

He had too many errors in the third, getting intercepted when the Lions had their best try-scoring chance, but his place-kicking was vital. He nailed the match-winning penalty in the second Test and then held his nerve to clinch the draw in the final clash.

Jonathan Sexton Source: Dan Sheridan; ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Johnny Sexton ⭐️⭐️

Had a rough start to the tour as he made several errors against the Provincial Barbarians, but Sexton grew into the tour impressively, eventually forcing Gatland to turn to him before the second Test.

Reinstalled to the starting XV, Sexton was excellent in the final two Tests and showed his enduring class. He also demonstrated durability until an unfortunate ankle injury in the third Test. But even then, he strapped up and played on. Gutsy.

Dan Biggar ⭐️

The Wales out-half was always going to be hard-pushed to get past Sexton and Farrell for the Test 10 shirt but he was solid in the midweek games. Probably suffered a little from the poor service provided by Laidlaw on occasions.

Ben Te’o ⭐️⭐️

Started the first Test and delivered a muscular performance, although his failure to pass early in the second half saw the Lions miss an opportunity.

The Worcester and England centre relished every single physical exchange and was superb in the warm-up games, firmly moving beyond the highly-fancied Robbie Henshaw in the pecking order at 12. Missed out to the Sexton/Farrell axis in the second and third Tests.

Jonathan Davies ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Davies picked up where he had left off with the Scarlets and was deservedly voted the players’ player of the tour by his Lions team-mates.

Produced searing linebreaks, clever grubber kicks, imposing tackles – Jordie Barrett got the brunt of it in the the third Test – and a big work rate too. With his passing game having vastly improved in recent years, Davies is the complete centre. Quite simply outstanding.

Robbie Henshaw Source: Dan Sheridan; ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Robbie Henshaw ⭐️

While he was strong individually, this tour did not work out for the Leinster centre and he departed home early after tearing his pec muscle in a tackle during the draw with the Hurricanes.

Henshaw ended up in the ‘wrong’ team and never got a chance to play with the likely Test starters. A frustrating experience.

Jonathan Joseph ⭐️

Another man who will feel things didn’t quite work out his way. Showed his undoubted attacking class against the Blues but in the same game he was bumped off twice in the tackle, quite probably ending his Test hopes.

Jared Payne ⭐️

Not the kind of return to his native New Zealand that Payne would have hoped for, he started the tour with calf issues and ended it early due to migraines. In between, there were glimpses of his class but also some handling errors, particularly when given a run at fullback against the Highlanders.

Anthony Watson ⭐️⭐️

Perhaps the most dangerous individual attacker in the Lions backline, Watson didn’t get the kind of supply line he was craving. However, when he did get on the ball he invariably beat defenders and he was also strong on kick chase. An excellent player.

George North ⭐️

The star of the 2013 tour in Australia, things could not have been more different for the Welshman this time around. He looked timid around contact for the most part and could not find his try-scoring best form. Went home early with a hamstring injury.

Tommy Seymour ⭐️

Ended up as the Lions’ top try-scorer with three, but played himself out of Test contention in the Highlanders game, when he scored an excellent try but had a high error count. A gritty player, Seymour will bounce back next season.

Elliot Daly ⭐️⭐️

Played himself into the Test side the Tuesday before the first meeting with the All Blacks and proved to be worth his place. Had poor moments, such as being beaten by Rieko Ioane in that first Test, but also memorable ones like his long-range penalty in the third Test.

Gatland and his coaches spoke very highly of the impression Daly made on tour and they expect big things from him with England in the near future.

Jack Nowell ⭐️

A poor performance against the Blues was damaging to his prospects of a Test start, but the Exeter man rebounded in style and was on the bench for the closing two meetings with the All Blacks.

With an incredible engine, Nowell would have been desperate to see more game time in those Tests.

Leigh Halfpenny ⭐️

He looked nailed-on for the fullback slot in the Test series after a strong showing against the Maori All Blacks, but lost out to Liam Williams on account of his inferior attacking game.

That has long been the doubt around Halfpenny, though his aerial and defensive work are generally excellent.

Stuart Hogg ⭐️

The most unfortunate of injuries – a fractured eye socket sustained in an accidental collision with Conor Murray’s elbow – sent the exciting Scotland back home early, after he had endured a disappointing night in the opener against the Provincial Barbarians.

Liam Williams ⭐️⭐️

Sparked one of the greatest Lions tries of all-times with his counter-attacking brilliance and was generally a menace with ball in hand.

Williams also made some brave and important tackles in the backfield, though he always had scope for a damaging error, particularly under kicks. Still, an excellent signing for Saracens.

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