Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
# out of 10
How we rated the Lions as Gatland's men slipped to first defeat of 2017 tour
A disappointing result but there were a couple of encouraging individual performances.

THE LIONS SUFFERED their first defeat of the 2017 tour this morning as the Blues recorded a famous victory over the tourists in Auckland. Our match report from Eden Park is here, and below we take a closer look at the contributions from those in red.

Leigh Halfpenny dejected after the game Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Leigh Halfpenny: 6

A composed presence at the back for the Lions and while he was faultless from the tee — kicking 11 of the Lions’ 16 points — he didn’t offer a huge amount in attack.

Jack Nowell: 4

Was given a torrid time by the explosive Rieko Ioane and had a difficult night at the office as he missed three tackles and knocked backwards to allow Sonny Bill Williams to score in the first half.

Jared Payne: 5

It was a big night for the centre as he made his Lions debut on his return to Auckland but it ended in disappointment as he suffered a relapse of the calf injury which forced him out of the tour opener. Was denied a try in the first half with his left knee just adjudged to have been in touch.

Jared Payne receives treatment after leaving the field with an injury Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Robbie Henshaw: 5

Grew into the game in the second half and a couple of clever grubber kicks put the Blues defence under pressure but wouldn’t have made the impression he would have liked with his opposite number Sonny Bill Williams making the telling contributions.

Elliot Daly: 5

Didn’t see a huge amount of the ball but when he did get it in hand, was lively and a couple of bright breaks got his side on the front foot. Moved into the centre after Payne’s withdrawal.

Dan Biggar: 5

Didn’t see much of the ball and his night was cut short just before half time when he was hit by Ofa Tu’ungafasi and failed the subsequent HIA.

Rhys Webb: 7

One of the standout performers as the Welsh scrum-half certainly staked a claim for that number nine jersey for the first Test with an assured display. Granted he was given better possession by the forwards, Webb’s passing was crisp and he looked sharp throughout.

Jack McGrath: 7

Tasked with the formidable task of coming up against the All Black front row on his Lions bow, the Leinster prop stood up and helped the Lions dominate the set piece for large parts. McGrath was also did superb work at the breakdown with the St Mary’s man making 12 tackles before being replaced on 55 minutes.

Ken Owens dejected Photosport / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO Photosport / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO / Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

Ken Owens: 6

Captain on the night, his high work rate meant Owens led from the foot before being replaced by Rory Best with 12 minutes remaining.

Dan Cole: 6

Along with McGrath and Owens, the Englishman excelled at scrum time and certainly the set-piece is one positive the Lions can take from this game. Hardly put a foot wrong.

Maro Itoje: 7

The Saracens lock must now be an absolute certainty to start in that first Test against the All Blacks as he continued his brilliant form.

Courtney Lawes: 7

The Lions’ line out was one of the most improved facets of the game from Saturday and Lawes and Itoje were central to that as they disrupted the opposition set-piece. A huge first-half hit on Perofeta was a particular highlight with his work rate typically high.

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James Haskell: 6

A solid, typically powerful and combative display which included some big carries before making way for Peter O’Mahony after 53 minutes.

Justin Tipuric: 7

Superb in defence as the Lions back row unit worked tirelessly. His crucial tackle on Akira Ioane in the second half prevented a certain try, but he also conceded two penalties.

CJ Stander Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

CJ Stander: 7

Marked his Lions debut with a typical CJ Stander try, crashing over after the Lions showed patience from the rolling maul. It was no surprise he was near the top on the tackle charts although a blot on the copybook was the high tackle which eventually led to Williams’ try just before the break.

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