Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
# out of 10
Tullow Tank in high gear! Player ratings as the Lions take down Crusaders
What did you make of Gatty’s boys this morning?

THE LIONS GOT back to winning ways on their 2017 tour of New Zealand with a gripping 3 – 12 win over the Canterbury Crusaders in Christchurch. Here’s our match report and below you’ll find how we rated Warren Gatland’s side.

Anthony Watson: 6

With Stuart Hogg a bloodied victim of some friendly fire from Conor Murray, Watson was sent in as fullback in the first-half, a move which makes it clear that Gatland is considering Liam Williams as a Test wing rather than a utility option. Watson’s pace is a real asset and helped pin back Crusaders in the second half, but looked uncertain any time he was turned.

George North: 6

The Tourists were unable to put him to work in attack, but the Saints wing was solid on defence and his presence alone was enough to thwart Crusaders on a number of occasions.

Ben Te’o: 7

Not quite the stand-out role he played against the NZ Barbarians, but there was plenty of industry and line-breaking prowess about Teo’s display today. Begun the second half with handling errors though, including an awful high pass off his left over the head of Liam Williams.

Owen Farrell: 8

Whether at 10 or in the centre, Farrell is continues to deliver controlled aggression at an impressive rate. His temperament suits him to the hostile environs of New Zealand rugby and allows him to quickly focus on maintaining his excellent strike rate at goal and pin-point kicking from hand.

inpho_01220836 Photosport / John Davidson/INPHO Photosport / John Davidson/INPHO / John Davidson/INPHO

Liam Williams: 7

No howlers in the air this time around, but still the odd error punctuated a game that promises to burst to life. The Lions attack is understandably still building a fluidity and there was some evidence of Williams being put on the end of set plays that just malfunctioned at the final moment. Showing plenty of spark and invention when he does get away in open field, just needs to finish off a chance or two.

Johnny Sexton: 7

Called into the game in place of Jonathan Davies in the first half and the out-half seemed to make an effort not to force his game. Without delving for flash game-breaking moments, the Leinster man looked back to his best and his running threat came into play in the second half as the game opened with the hosts desperately chasing a deficit.

Conor Murray Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Conor Murray: 9

Settled immediately into a partnership with Owen Farrell that looks set to be the Test half-back combination. After Rhys Webb delivered a huge step up in nine play in midweek after Greig Laidlaw’s pedestrian opening, Murray proved himself another few rungs up the ladder. On top of accurate box-kicking his service and presence at every ruck was assured and that in turn grew confidence throughout the side.

Mako Vunipola: 8

Looked like a veteran out there, lending his weight to a fine scrummaging weapon and making big plays over and over again in open play.

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Jamie George: 7

The most athletic option Gatland has at hooker and looked the part in Christchurch. Often pigeon-holed as an impact man, but with the line-out functioning smoothly and his impact in the loose, the Saracens man is a viable option from the start at any level.

Tadhg Furlong: 8

One back-pedalling scrum aside, it was a good night for the primary set-piece with Furlong to the fore against All Black opponents. On top of that bread and butter, the Wexford man delivered a heap of work in the loose and great handling skills in greasy conditions in the deep south island winter.

Tadhg Furlong and George Kruis Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Alun Wyn Jones: 8

Led the pack and the team in accomplished fashion. His grizzled physicality is an important quality to meld together a team from four nations and his immense defensive maul contributions seemed to sum all that up.

George Kruis: 7

Along with his Saracens team-mate at hooker, Kruis oiled the wheels of the line-out and was an efficient powerhouse at the breakdown. Replaced around the hour mark by Maro Itoje, but his combination with AWJ – up against Sam Whitelock – bodes well for the Test series.

Peter O’Mahony: 8

A terrific shift from the Munster captain, this is just the sort of contest he is built for. Never shirked any role; from  the line-out option he offers, to brilliant breakdown contributions, to popping passes and changing the point of contact for bigger carriers and of course a few leg drives of his own.

Peter O'Mahony with Luke Romano in the line-out Photosport / Martin Hunter/INPHO Photosport / Martin Hunter/INPHO / Martin Hunter/INPHO

Sean O’Brien: 8

Looks in peak physical condition despite having not played since 1 April. Some barnstorming carries and work-rate on the deck was further furnished by a terrifically athletic covering run in the first-half as he matched pacy out-half Richie Mo’unga stride for stride.

Taulupe Faletau: 9

Further evidence of his credentials as the Test number eight, Faletau was magnificent from start to finish, jumping off the front foot onto loose balls, impacting breakdowns and twisting confidence out of the hosts.

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