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Iain Henderson gives himself a shot but Rory Best's lineout comes up short

The five Irishmen all delivered a high work rate against the Chiefs in Hamilton.

Murray Kinsella reports from FMG Stadium Waikato

THE LIONS KEPT their momentum rolling ahead of the Test series against the All Blacks with a 34-6 win over the Chiefs in Hamilton.

Read our match report here, but below we focus on the Irish involvement.

Robbie Henshaw

The Leinster man has had a frustrating tour and this performance summed it up. There were moments where his class shone through, but there were also occasions on which the 24-year-old would have been disappointed with himself.

Johnny Faauli with Robbie Henshaw and Dan Biggar Source: Photosport/Bruce Lim/INPHO

An early penalty concession for a tackle in the air on Chiefs scrum-half Finlay Christie was one of them, while his attempted grubber kick flew straight into touch on the full around the quarter mark.

He was opened up in the tackle by Johnny Fa’auli but only seconds later he earned a breakdown turnover – his tour encapsulated in a flash.

Henshaw ran a great support line in the build-up to the second Jack Nowell try, just getting hauled down after the Lions backs had broken out of their own 22.

The Irish midfielder will continue to keep his head up and hope for an opportunity in the second or third Test, but his next outing is likely to be against the Hurricanes in a week’s time.

Rory Best

The Ulster hooker got in referee Jerome Garces’ ear early on around the Chiefs’ kick escorts and eventually the Frenchman leaned in the Lions’ favour and awarded a penalty against Fa’auli.

Rory Best receives a hongi Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Muscular in all aspects, the lineout was where Best struggled and he had two wayward throws.

Those moments will damage the claims he had to making the Test 23 for the weekend, with Jamie George and Ken Owens in more reliable form in that department.

In every other element of the game, Best excelled. He rucked aggressively, hammered into tackles and carried with determination. His captaincy was strong as the midweek team finally got a win, but the lineout issues will likely count against him.

CJ Stander

Stander is always loud on the ref mic, but he took it to a new level tonight, cajoling and encouraging his team-mates throughout, urging them to get stuck in physically and keep the work rate high. The number eight practiced what he preached too.

CJ Stander with Nepo Laulala Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The Munster man was excellent in contact, as always, and one maul turnover with Joe Marler in the bin was crucial to denying the Chiefs access into the contest.

Stander fought his way through the middle of the maul to get his hands around the ball and he shouted to Garces, ‘He’s not getting it off me, sir, he’s not getting it off me.’ The turnover scrum followed.

With 14 big carries and eight strong hits in defence, Stander showed how impactful a player he can be and he is still an option for the Test bench. Still, going for the full 80 today might just suggest that Stander will be left out.

 Jared Payne

While his excellent support line saw him rewarded with a second-half try, Payne’s best moment of the evening came during his short stint as the stand-in blindside flanker, when he helped the Lions to a huge scrum penalty behind replacement Allan Dell.

Jared Payne scores their fourth try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

We knew that Payne was not afraid of fronting up in those physical contests, and he was as strong in defence as ever against what was a poor Chiefs side.

Payne had one bad pass in the first half, floating the ball far too high to Liam Williams and drawing a knock-on from the fullback, but he was far better in the second 40, with his pass and offload in the build-up to Jack Nowell’s second try truly outstanding.

A class player.

Iain Henderson

Again, going for the full 80 minutes maybe doesn’t bode well for Henderson’s Test 23 chances, but this was another gritty, grinding showing from the Ulster lock, who offers a fine bench impact option.

Jared Payne celebrates scoring their fourth try with Rory Best and Iain Henderson Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Alun Wyn Jones only played a handful of minutes off the bench as a HIA replacement for Courtney Lawes, who was also excellent in the engine room.

It means that Gatland has several superb options in the second row for the weekend.

Henderson was denied a try off the back of the maul when Garces headed under the posts for a penalty try, but the Ireland lock did get an assist with a superb left-handed pass to Nowell for his second.

While Henderson’s tour started poorly against the Provincial Barbarians, he will feel he’s done as much as he could have done since to put himself in the mix.

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Murray Kinsella

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