Gerry Thornley’s Lions Tour player ratings

Our rugby correspondent hands out the marks after drawn series against All Blacks

British and Irish Lions and New Zealand All Blacks’s teams on the podium after at the presentation of the series trophy. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

British and Irish Lions and New Zealand All Blacks’s teams on the podium after at the presentation of the series trophy. Photo: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

PLAYERS WHO PLAYED IN TEST MATCHES

Sam Warburton - Tour Captain (Tests P3 – started 2, replacement 1; 180 mins)

Outstanding tour captain yet again. Mature beyond his years, modest and a model pro. He brought a real physicality across the gainline and at the breakdown in second and third Tests and his selection as captain was vindicated by his dealings with Romain Poite in third Test endgame. Rating: 8

Jonathan Davies (P3 – 240 mins)

Players’ player of the tour, which says it all. Ever present for second series in a row. There were a few missed tackles, but was primary figure in Lions’ attacking game, with 36 carries and seven line breaks. Ability to stay involved in moves epitomised by contribution to O’Brien try. Rating: 9

Elliot Daly (P3 – 240 mins)

Earned the left-wing slot in the Test side, and delivered. Very good on the ball, carrying and passing well (notably in contribution to Seán O’Brien try) and his massive left boot proved invaluable with 60 metre penalty in third Test. Rating: 8

Taulupe Faletau (P3 – 240 mins)

Selfless, consistent and disciplined ever-present in series; indeed he completed six 80 minute games and only lost once. Made 76 tackles and had 56 carries, with strength, footwork and a really good finish to complete to spark comeback in Wellington. Rating: 8

Taulupe Faletau was one of the standout performers over the six weeks. Photo: Getty Images
Taulupe Faletau was one of the standout performers over the six weeks. Photo: Getty Images

Owen Farrell (P3 – 240 mins)

Understated contribution from intelligent, competitive footballer. Missed 11 tackles, but dovetailed nicely with Johnny Sexton, and put aside jittery opening 20 in final Test to show nerves of steel. Landed 16 of 21 kicks, including penalties to win second Test and draw third. Rating: 7

Liam Williams (P3 – 232 mins)

Wild, wild, wild. Touches and passages of pure brilliance, from sparking that wonder try in the first Test, to fumbles on the ground and in the air. He began third Test by stepping over the touchline, then failed to gather fateful final restart, although did produce try-saving tackle in final play. Rating: 7

Jamie George (P3 – 218 mins)

Another of the tour successes. Pretty much nailed the Test No 2 shirt, and a couple of costly crooked throws in the third Test were his only real blemishes. Good team and squad man who has been rewarded for his hard work. Interesting to see how his English career goes from here. Rating: 7

Anthony Watson (P3 – 227 mins)

A strong tour, filling in at full-back against the Crusaders, showed pace, footwork (beating more defenders than anyone else on tour) and while toughest test against Savea last Saturday, in many ways that was his best performance. New studs mightn’t go amiss. Rating: 8

Watson came into the Test side and took the opportunity with both hands. Photo: Getty Images
Watson came into the Test side and took the opportunity with both hands. Photo: Getty Images

Conor Murray (P3 – 218 mins)

Big performances in wins over Crusaders and Maori, and ever present in Tests. Speed to, and passing from, the breakdown maintained Lions’ momentum, outstanding kicking game, trademark defence and football around the pitch, and sharply taken try in second Test. Cemented status as truly world-class player. Also 2-1-2 this season against All Blacks. Rating: 9

Seán O’Brien (P3 – 193 mins)

His body held together for four games, including two and a half Tests, which was enough to showcase his world-class ability and make the Lions competitive. Superb carrying, strong tackling, good at the breakdown, scored try of the tour, and major leadership figure. Rating: 9

Maro Itoje (P3, 2 starts – 192 mins)

Young enough to make another three tours! A force of nature and a virtual constant source of energy and physicality in defence, where he often sparked the Lions into life in leading the line up aggressively, and at the breakdown, where his clearouts were emphatic. Rating: 8

Tadhg Furlong (P3 – 181 mins)

The Wexfordman was one of the tour’s undoubted successes. Furlong carried and tackled strongly, and for the most part, scrummed very well, nailing down the Test tighthead position and has now played against Joe Moody six times this season while he has a record of 2-1-2 v the All Blacks. Rating: 9

Tadhg Furlong continues to reach new heights and is still just 24-year-old. Photo: Getty Images
Tadhg Furlong continues to reach new heights and is still just 24-year-old. Photo: Getty Images

Johnny Sexton (P3, started 2 – 172 mins)

Just came in under the threshold of six games (of 35 minutes or under) after enforced first-half appearances off the bench against Blues and especially Crusaders helped him rediscover his mojo after scratchy start. Attacked the line (38 carries), made his tackles (42) and was a warrior cum leader in the end. Will be crestfallen that he didn’t help complete a series winner but a major contributor. Also 2-1-2 v All Blacks this season. Rating: 8

Mako Vunipola (P3, 168 mins)

Big games in wins over the Crusaders and the Maori, and ever present in series as part of a fine frontrow, so therefore was only on losing side once. Athletic and strong in the collisions whether on the ball or tackling. Rating: 8

Alun Wyn Jones (P3 – 163 mins)

A la Itoje, who made 49 tackles, the Welsh warrior contributed 48 tackles, and his energy and physicality vindicated Warren Gatland’s decision to retain him for second and third Tests. Ever-present in both a series win and series draw. Rating: 8

George Kruis (P1 – 80 mins)

Fine lineout operator but limited impression on ball. Strong enough showings in wins over Crusaders and Maori, but fell out of Test 23 after low-key first Test display. Judging by warm-ups before second and third Tests, Kruis retained a positive enthusiasm. Rating: 6

George Kruis suffered the same fate as O'Mahony in starting the first Test and being exiled afterwards. Photo: Getty Images
George Kruis suffered the same fate as O'Mahony in starting the first Test and being exiled afterwards. Photo: Getty Images

Ben Te’o (P2, started 1 – 68 mins)

The hard-edged Kiwi-born, Aussie-influenced, ex-rugby league, ex-Leinster man was as honest as ever about the journey he has taken and earned his place in first Test through strong carrying and tackling in wins over the Crusaders and the Maori, before his passing limitations limited him to bit part thereafter in third. Rating: 7

Jack McGrath (P3, as replacement – 64 mins)

Luck of the draw meant he started the second game against the Blues rather than the Crusaders game, but thereafter was frustratingly confined to a role as an impact replacement. This was largely due to Mako Vunipola’s form, but McGrath did make big impact in all three Tests. Rating: 7

Kyle Sinckler (P3, as replacement – 59 mins)

Picked for the impact off the bench he shows for England, and that’s what he provided here. His enthusiasm gets the better of him at times, but no doubting his exceptional power and speed for a prop, although needs to improve scrummaging. Rating: 6

Peter O’Mahony (P1 – 54 mins)

Came from a long way off the radar with strong showings against the Crusaders and the Maori to earn captaincy in first Test. Excellent lineout operator but went from Test captain to outside the 23 thanks to form of O’Brien and Warburton. Still, he’s a Lions Test captain. Rating: 7

Peter O'Mahony's tour started so positively but ended on a very disappointing note. Photo: Getty Images
Peter O'Mahony's tour started so positively but ended on a very disappointing note. Photo: Getty Images

Courtney Lawes (P2, as replacement – 51 mins)

Overall had a very good tour. Carried very well and athletic and skilled in the lineout, where he had four steals, and ultimately made significant impact off bench to win and draw in the Test series. Rating: 8

CJ Stander (P1, as replacement – 40 mins)

Huge stats – 84 carries, 170 metres, 56 tackles and six turnovers won – contributed handsomely to the tour. Was rewarded with Test cap in finale it was his corner flagging that helped stop Jordie Barrett’s last gallop for glory and save the draw. Rating: 7

Rhys Webb (P2, as replacement – 32 mins)

Personal ambitions suffered mainly thanks to the form of Murray throughout tour. Trademark sniping and pace was a feature of the Highlanders game, and made impact in first Test with try and in the third Test. Rating: 6

Ken Owens (P2, as replacement – 22 mins)

Akin to McGrath, started defeat to Blues and thereafter confined to replacement duty. And like McGrath he reacted well and made impact off the bench when asked, but that wait during Poite’s referral must have been the longest minute or so of his career. Rating: 7

Ken Owens is caught offside in the dying minutes of the final Test, leading to Romain Poite's controversial decision. Photo: Getty Images
Ken Owens is caught offside in the dying minutes of the final Test, leading to Romain Poite's controversial decision. Photo: Getty Images

Jack Nowell (P2, as HIA replacement and replacement – 13 mins)

Exeter’s Premiership win left him playing catch up, and he did. Things didn’t fall for him v Blues and Highlanders, before two-try display v Chiefs earned him caps off bench in second and third Tests. Top player, top bloke and good tourist. Rating: 7

Leigh Halfpenny (P1, as replacement – 8 mins)

Didn’t hit the extraordinary heights of four years ago, although error-free against the Maori. Uncharacteristically dropped a high ball against the Hurricanes when fighting for his place in the test squad and perhaps pushed too hard. Still kicked 11 out of 11. Rating: 6

AND THE DIRTRACKERS . . .

Rory Best

Will be disappointed to have missed out on Tests again but this was an altogether better tour and bigger contribution than four years ago. A little unlucky to be pitched into opener and Highlanders game, he led midweek side superbly in win over Chiefs and draw with Hurricanes. High numbers all round (47 tackles) and valued squad leader. Rating: 7

Dan Biggar

Really solid and positive contribution from the Welsh outhalf, who was something of a rock for the midweek side. Kicked, ran, tackled and passed well, and landed 14 out of 16 kicks. Never dropped his head. Rating: 7

The Welsh kicker did himself no harm with his performances. Photo: Getty Images
The Welsh kicker did himself no harm with his performances. Photo: Getty Images

Dan Cole

Scrummed and tackled well enough; tried to be a nuisance at breakdown and barnstorming finish to Hurricanes draw, but negligible contribution on the ball and limited work-rate in the higher tempo of New Zealand rugby. Rating: 4

James Haskell

Strong input and a popular tourist. Made 50 out of 54 tackles and his 80th-minute run to effect a clearout for the counter-attacking try off a lineout turnover which Jack Nowell finished was one of the tour highlights. Rating: 6

Iain Henderson

On the back foot in the highly competitive lock pecking order from the opening kick-off, which he failed to gather, but grew and grew into the tour, notably with bravado carrying against Hurricanes before yellow card. Unlucky not to make Test 23. Rating: 6

Robbie Henshaw

Luck of the draw, or lack of in his case, cast him into midweek side in opening defeat against the Blues and there he stayed. Had limited space or opportunity to work with in attack, but defended very well until tour cut short by bad shoulder injury. Rating: 6

Robbie Henshaw is facing four months out after suffering a pectoral muscle injury. Photo: Getty Images
Robbie Henshaw is facing four months out after suffering a pectoral muscle injury. Photo: Getty Images

Stuart Hogg

Anti-climactic and unlucky tour. Was probably front-runner for ‘15’ jersey in Tests. Very mixed bag in opener, and collided with Conor Murray 20 minutes into win over Crusaders. Young enough and good enough to make third tour in four years’ time. Rating: 5

Jonathan Joseph

Pace to burn and admired by Gatland, he took his try well against the Highlanders, but had his issues defensively and in part due to niggly injuries ultimately never really threatened to make Tests. Rating: 5

Greig Laidlaw

Provided some midweek leadership, control under pressure and box kicking, but was slow at the base, added little offensively and missed eight tackles. Rating: 5

Joe Marler

Came out as English first choice but slipped to third choice here when overtaken by Vunipola and McGrath. Made negligible impression and incurred costly and silly yellow card against Highlanders. Rating: 5

It wasn't the best tour for Joe Marler as he was quickly bumped down the pecking order. Photo: Getty Images
It wasn't the best tour for Joe Marler as he was quickly bumped down the pecking order. Photo: Getty Images

Ross Moriarty

The unluckiest squad member of all, a back injury limited him to just the opening game against the Provincial Barbarians and so the strong carrying and big hits throughout the Six Nations were never an option thereafter. Rating: Did not play enough to earn rating

George North

Like Halfpenny, never scaled the extraordinary heights of four years ago. Didn’t arrive in good form, looked a little hesitant before contact and ironically showed his best form when shifted to centre in draw v Hurricanes, after which a torn hamstring ended his tour. Rating: 6

Jared Payne

Dogged by injuries before arrival and throughout tour, which ended due to migraine problem. Never quite looked himself, and amid glimpses of his class there were spilled balls in losses to the Blues and the Highlanders before his well-taken try against the Chiefs. And that was his lot. Rating: 6

Tommy Seymour

Had a decent tour, and indeed is the leading try scorer with three after his finish against the Highlanders (a slip in seeking to narrow the angle contributed to a costly missed conversion by Farrell) and brace against the Hurricanes. Never really looked like Test material. Rating: 6

Justin Tipuric

Quality all-found footballing abilities shone through. High-class tackler, carrier and good over the ball, but was competing with O’Brien, Warburton et al. Rating: 6

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