Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 3°C
# On your marks!
The player ratings as the Lions are held to a draw by Hurricanes
Iain Henderson stood out for the tourists, but his yellow card signaled the start of a brilliant ‘Canes comeback.

THE LIONS WERE held to a draw in their last midweek match of the tour to New Zealand as the Hurricanes rallied to claim a 31 – 31 share of the spoils. Here’s how we rated Warren Gatland’s midweek men.

Leigh Halfpenny: 4

Drafted into the 23 as a last minute replacement for Jared Payne and then introduced as Robbie Henshaw’s replacement in the first half. We can understand his reasons for never looking very comfortable in this game. With the Lions trying to play a running game his counter-attacking efforts were weak and soon his kicking suffered too. Dropped a late high ball that could have cost his team.

Tommy Seymour: 6

Intercept tries are usually pretty fortunate events, but Seymour certainly played his part in creating the score as he shunted in to Otere Black make him force the pass which Laidlaw picked off. His second score made him the leading try-scorer on this tour.

Tommy Seymour scores their third try Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Jonathan Joseph: 5

An extremely quiet day for a man widely touted as a Test starter before the tour. Got through a decent shift defensively, but his most impactful moment on the game was arguably the role he played in the Iain Henderson tip tackle.

George North: 5

Shifted into the centre midway through the first half with Robbie Henshaw injured. The ‘Canes constantly looked to exploit his unfamiliarity with midfield and successfully did so moments after the restart for Ngani Laumape’s try.

Jack Nowell: 5

Looked pumped and ready to compete for a Test place while at fullback and worked hard in every engagement including a nice hit to stop Julian Savea. The reshuffle disrupted his rhythm though and his impact was limited thereafter.

Dan Biggar and Jordie Barrett after the game James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Dan Biggar: 6

Bar one missed touch in the first half and getting run over by Ngani Laumape, it was a good day for the Osprey. Looked sharp and purposeful with the ball in hand as the Lions tried to play an up-tempo, expansive game. Late drop-goal fell short, but from that distance it was always a gamble.

Greig Laidlaw: 6

His best performance of the tour by some distance. Excellent intercept and assist for the opening try and marshalled his pack well with good service to boost Biggar.

Joe Marler: 6

Got through a very good day’s work in the loose with 10 tackles, eight carries in traffic and ensured a steady day at the scrum.

Rory Best: 7

You don’t often see Rory Best angry. He’s a man who keeps control, but he used his captaincy privileges to  let his temper flare at Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi after his post-try gloating slap on Dan Biggar (who was clearly uncomfortable as the medics were ready to put him through a HIA). Had a quietly efficient game, imposing himself at the breakdown, maintaining a 100% line-out and putting in 14 tackles for good measure — only Justin Tipuric had more.

Dan Cole: 6

The tighthead played 80 minutes last week and looked like the fitness trial did him the power of good. Looked sprightly for the first hour before the wear and tear of Gatland’s reluctance to use replacements took its toll on everyone.

Iain Henderson: 8

The best forward on the park. Carried well in tight situations, but also proved very effective at the choke and breakdown. His mobility brought him chasing Biggar’s high ball and he showed lovely hands to slip it away to give George North an easy finish.

His tip tackle with 15 minutes remaining was an ugly moment though, and he was fortunate the player landed on his shoulder. A head impact would have been an automatic red. The Canes didn’t miss their chance to come back in his absence.

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Iain Henderson Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Returned to lend his power to an excellent late maul that crucially took the Hurricanes out of scoring range.

Courtney Lawes: 8

Didn’t quite cover the ground that Henderson did, but certainly put in a big shift of work at set-piece and in defence. Replaced by last week’s Test starter George Kruis after 54, which would suggest Gatland wants him playing on the Westpac turf again on Saturday.

James Haskell: 6

Looked as tired as anyone come the end, but he had good reason to be after throwing his weight about for 14 tackles and 10 carries.

Justin Tipuric: 7

Always overshadowed by someone in a Gatland tour, but his performance is remarkably consistent. Got through a Trojan 20 tackles and was an absolute pest at the Hurricanes breakdown, crucial in stunting their efforts to unleashing that stellar back-line.

CJ Stander: 7

Did all the relentless ball-carrying you’d expect of a man called CJ Stander and also lent his weight to impact the breakdown and maul.

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