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The big winners and losers from the Lions’ western show of Force

More positives than negatives for Warren Gatland but the cloud of Cian Healy’s injury looms.

"Jamie who?" O'Driscoll poses with Tuilagi after today's match.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Winners

Although the host broadcaster awarded Lions captain Brian O’Driscoll the man-of-the-match, it was impossible not to be wholly impressed with fullback Leigh Halfpenny. The Welshman, who played one game of the 2009 Tour before succumbing to injury, kicked 11 from 11 off the tee and never shirked in his defensive duties. O’Driscoll linked up extremely well with Manu Tuilagi for the second of his two tries and another Test combination takes shape [Jamie Roberts/O'Driscoll with Tuilagi on the bench covering both positions].

While it was match to forget, on a day to remember, for Cian Healy [see below] his replacement Mako Vunipola played his way into Test contention. The England prop is surprisingly mobile and showed a Healy-esque eye for the tryline when he crossed for a score in the second half.

Sean O’Brien edged out try-scorer Tom Croft and rampaging Jamie Heaslip for pick of the Lions back-rowers. Justin Tipuric was superb against the BaaBaa’s and Sam Warburton holds the captain’s ace card but the Tullow Tank may yet face Australia at blindside.

Sean Maitland spurned a scoring chance against the Barbarians and drifted out of the contest for long periods. To tie down the starting spot on the left wing, George North simply needed to contribute and make his presence felt. He exchanged a fine one-two for Brian O’Driscoll’s first try and gave a tantalising glimpse of things to come when he claimed a Jonny Sexton crossfield kick on the charge. He was then isolated and conceded a penalty for not releasing but he was otherwise impressive.

Losers

Cian Healy will have been itching to get out on the field today and make an impact on his Lions debut. He lasted just 35 minutes, during which he conceded a penalty at a scrum, was subjected to trial by video after Brett Sheehan alleged the prop bit him, and damaged his ankle ligaments. The biting controversy will hopefully be concluded, for good or ill, promptly but scan will reveal whether his tour will continue or whether his summer holidays will start earlier than expected.

Cian Healy is tended to by Dr Eanna Falvey and Dr James Robson. (©INPHO/Dan Sheridan)

The opportunities to make an impact before the First Test are limited and Rory Best failed to grasp his today. The hooker was 75% with his throws but only had four darts to fire – one went too long – as both Lions and Force kept ball in hand for long periods of play. Best made two carries for a combined total of two metres but his tackling – seven made, none missed – was on the money. He is harshly adjudged a loser on strict criteria due to the fine start for Welsh hooker Richie Hibbard on Saturday. Alun Wyn Jones will rue his yellow card but he was otherwise solid.

Who do you think today’s winners and losers were?

As it happened: Lions v Western Force, 2013 Tour

Biting allegations against Healy but injury may have ended tour early

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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