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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# out of 10
Set-piece and Seanie to the fore: Player ratings as the Lions hammer NZ Maori
Who do you think played their way in (or out) of the Test team today?

THE LIONS  COASTED TO A 10 – 32 win over the New Zealand Maori. Here’s our match report from Rotorua and below you’ll see our player ratings from the contest.

Leigh Halfpenny: 7

You expect nothing less than extremely steady goal-kicking from the Welsh fullback, but he also managed to impress in the air and positionally. His limitations in the creativity-stakes are well known, but with Stuart Hogg gone injured and Warren Gatland picking replacements on a criteria of geographical proximity, he’s the certain Test starter.

Anthony Watson: 5

On a wet and slippy night in Rotorua, conditions were far from suitable for a man like Watson and his stats sheet had him down for just three runs and three tackles by the hour mark. Without much ball, he applied himself well to chasing duties.

Jonathan Davies: 7

Jonathan Davies makes a break Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Competed well on the deck and also looked one of the more potent attackers on show from the tourists with some useful line-breaks. His kicking game is also a very useful weapon with the Lions putting so much stock in the line-out.

Ben Te’o: 7

A late break brought the tourists’ bench to its feet. The Kiwi’s comfort in the tackle, natural offloading ability and sort of power, late or early, have long marked Te’o out for a big role in this series.

George North: 5

As with Watson, it was a tough night for wings to shine. North’s first half was a tale of  two covering slides. The first, North coughed up with help from Halfpenny to allow Messam the softest of tires. The second, he did brilliantly to collect within five metres of his line and power clear despite Maori hanging off him. Elliott Daly’s energy and boot offered much more when he was introduced.

Johnny Sexton: 7

Looked bright. Hungry to raid gaps and take contact to make use of the front foot ball secured by the pack. Managed the game well in tough conditions, blending the need to turn the Maori around with a will to attack on their own terms.

Jonathan Sexton with Kane Hames-Tasman Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Conor Murray: 8

Brilliantly marshalled his pack throughout and even tossed in a reminder of the physical presence he possesses on top of exceptional ball skills by unleashing a fierce clean-out that led to Maro Itoje’s try.

Mako Vunipola: 8

Another excellent hour from the loosehead and his shove was crucial in forcing the penalty try that pushed the Lions 12 points clear.

Jamie George: 7

Contributed to a good day in tough conditions at the line-out and showed his carrying power at crucial stages.  Gatland won’t be afraid to send him into the first All Black clash, but it would be nice to see the breakdown threat of Rory Best or Ken Owens from the start over the coming three Tests.

Tadhg Furlong: 7

Got a cheeky bit of tutoring from future Leinster team-mate James Lowe about his hands in a ruck, but more than made up for that penalty concession with good scrummaging, carrying and clear-outs that would make even the bravest poacher think twice.

Maro Itoje: 8

Showed some of his class with a terrific first-half turnover penalty in his own 22. Naturally, his partnership with a Saracens team-mate in the second row looked secure and he put in a tremendous amount of carrying and tackling work.

George Kruis: 8

Given plenty of carrying to do  in the first-half and, as ever, ran the  Saracens-fuelled line-out to a superb standard.

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Maro Itoje scores their second try Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Peter O’Mahony: 7

Limped off at the break, but struggled on to be replaced by the tour captain midway through the second half. We hope he’s okay, because he’s an inspirational presence to have in any back row and adds quality to every aspect of the game.

Sean O’Brien: 9

Showed the coach he has plenty of fuel in the tank with 80 minutes at openside even when Sam Warburton was introduced. No coincidence that he came in for some physical attention from the Maori after the game was lost. The Tullow Tank is one of the few players who Kiwis respect enough to remember his name.

Sean O'Brien with Damian McKenzie Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Didn’t hit the same levels of athleticism as his comeback match against the Crusaders – nobody did – but showed the dynamism that makes him an effective passing option even when he’s not crashing up ball.

Taulupe Faletau: 8

Topped the tackle count with Itoje (both 13) and just ahead of Te’o (12). Slots in seamlessly between two Irish flankers adds an incessant work-rate and energy to effect every phase.


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