Chiefs 6 – 34 Lions
A good outing for the midweek side against a weakened Chiefs, despite a moment of stupidity from Marler. The backline was built for utility and versatility and it showed. And for once, they had a better game than the pack – who also had a good game – and kept their opposite numbers quiet and passive. The wingers, Nowell and Daly, played excellently, particularly in the case of the former who showed glimpses of his form back home for the Chiefs. Daly too, made a brilliant technical pass back inside showing a real awareness for handling and position. Liam Williams played well too, and could feature as the attacking antidote to Halfpenny’s defence. It was a constant squabble for the pack, with neither sets of forwards backing down, though the Lions’ set piece fared relatively strongly in scrum and lineouts (save an anal Garces’ awarding two ‘not straights’). Stander, Tipuric and Dan Cole were standout performers. But the game was one for the backs with fluid and well worked tries.
Liam Williams – 8
A good performance from the Scarlets’ fullback. When the game opened up in the third and final quarters he took advantage of loose play and exploited holes to put Payne in. He’s an opportunist at heart. 100 metres off 9 runs makes for a good return from the full back.
Jack Nowell – 8.5
He’s a poacher who can step off either foot and his first try freed up his confidence and his game. Looked in charge of his wing and always sniffing for the gap. That performance might be enough to edge Watson.
Jared Payne – 7
Did the outside centre’s job well. Quick distribution to the wings but also testing the Chiefs backline by straightening up. Even added a few horsepower to the scrum!
Robbie Henshaw – 7
In terms of attack, he was used as first point crash ball a few times but largely kept as security out back to put in some tackles (12). Te’o has outstripped him for the starting test.
Elliot Daly – 7
Flexible utility winger who demonstrated some great hands to get the ball inside to Payne. Defence was good too.
Dan Biggar – 7
Played really well, good distribution and kicking and great in defence. More on his no-arms tackle below.
Greig Laidlaw – 7
Poor box kick led to dangerous situation but other than that a decent outing for the Scottish scrum half. Still miles behind Murray and Webb with slow distribution and no added game dimension, but it would be interesting to see a midweek pairing of him and Russell.
Joe Marler – 5
Thankfully, nothing came of his sin binning (13′) but idiot nonetheless. Other than that a relatively good game. Rant saved for below.
Rory Best – 7
Carried really well and put in a good amount of tackles. That’s what we like to see from the Ulsterman. Referees have been pretty hot on lineout spacing and not-straights this tour, and need to hash out a level of consistency.
Dan Cole – 7.5
Solid in the scrum and a lively menace across the field that belied his age.
Iain Henderson – 7
Carried well and put in a decent number of tackles.
Courtney Lawes – 7
It’s not turning out to be his tour with HIAs. Was replaced by AWJ who immediately got stuck in and was involved in the penalty try. He did well to help Nowell out and ankle tap Pulu and snuff out a potential try. He’s been awarded a 7 for a promising start (and customary lineout steals) and getting over a groggy head.
James Haskell – 6.5
In there doing the dirty work and putting in 14 tackles. He’s a midweek surety in that blindside jersey.
Justin Tipuric – 7.5
Brilliant turnover holding the man up and all over the place. Put in the most tackles from either side at 19 (no miss tackles). Even managed to break at one point. Enough to leapfrog O’Brien?
CJ Stander – 7
Did well to turnover in the maul, very acrobatic from the Irish international. Carried well and bulldozed a few Chiefs players.
Kristian Dacey – N/A
Allan Dell – N/A
Forced a penalty at the scrum with his first contribution as a Lion; that’s what props dream of at night. Should have stayed on. Clearly respects the jersey more; rant is building, see below.
Tomas Francis – N/A
Cory Hill – N/A
Alun-Wyn Jones – N/A
Looked at his usual fiery self when Lawes went off for a HIA and used his experience at the lineout to win the penalty try.
Gareth Davies – N/A
Finn Russell – N/A
Tommy Seymour – 6
Broke well but horrible pass that could have put Payne in. Replaced Daly 61’
The Chiefs scrum half, Finlay Christie, was going to have a worthy mention all to himself, for looking particularly sharp and feisty (brings to mind a certain Dwayne Peel with attitude). Instead, it goes to addressing Marler’s tackle and a few other dubious challenges. Firstly, there is no disputing Marler’s sin bin; at this level he was surely aware of the consequences of his actions. That leads on to the next point which comes at a time when Gatland is supposedly devaluing the meaning of being a Lion. It was an idiotic move and looked far too deliberate to have been a mistake; that strikes me as someone who doesn’t respect his jersey to cost his team like that. Allan Dell should have been left on the field and given a chance against a relatively poor opposition. Whilst Garces got that decision right, his adjudication of Biggar’s tackle on Sanders was hasty. Both arms were up in a clear attempt at a tackle, but he caught Sanders high as the no. 8 slipped. Garces also did very little about Mitchell Brown’s cheap shot on Dan Cole with no arms. This is not a tirade against Garces, but about the World Rugby Laws that need to hash out this ‘no-arms’ clause so that it penalises only when it is dangerous and not accidental. Rant over.
Last thoughts and collated results
Overall team rating – 7.00
First XV rating – 7.07
Individual nation ratings
Scotland player rating – 6.50
England player rating – 6.92
Wales player rating – 7.50
Ireland player rating – 7.00
A strong showing from the Welsh thanks to Liam Williams’ vastly improved performance and Tipuric’s legwork. It was a pity Marler’s rating undid Nowell’s performance to let the English contingent down. The Lions’ camp roughly know who’ll be starting the test match and this domination of the Chiefs looks favourable for Nowell, Daly and possibly Williams. Whether it’s enough to give them the start, or a place on the bench is another matter.
By Dave Beach