Rebels v Lions: Lions player ratings

15. Rob Kearney: 7
It was a solid but unspectacular day out for the Irish fullback who managed to make 90 metres but never really threatened too much. Swept up at the back and always looked solid but is in the desperately unlucky situation of having a certain Leigh Halfpenny ahead of him.

14. Sean Maitland: 7
A mixed bag from Maitland who showed his blistering pace at times but was also a little loose. Super support work saw him feature in the build-up to his own try, which he finished well. With Bowe and Tuilagi returning from injury his place in the test squad will be fiercely under threat.

13. Manu Tuilagi: 7.5
Strong surge and deft offload in the build-up to Maitland’s try was one of the highlights of the match but he was well marshalled other than that. Made 11 carries and, more tellingly for Tuilagi, five passes – not a huge number by any means, but enough to be conspicuous for a player who has been accused of just putting his head down at times.

12. Brad Barritt: 6.5
Much better than last week from Barritt, who at least showed some endeavour with ball in hand. Never going to set a back-line alight, but there was one nice moment when he grubbered the ball through in a very O’Driscoll-like manner. Eight tackles point to his usual work rate in defence.

11. Simon Zebo: 8
Chants of ‘Zeeeebooooooo’ went up around AAMI Park, and rightly so as it was a fantastic performance from the Munster winger. He was so busy, always looking to get his hands on the ball and while he often found himself with little room to work with the Quade Cooper-esque pass/offload towards the end of the game was a joy to behold.

10. Owen Farrell: 9
Where has this Farrell been hiding? Said after the game he had been asked to play flatter and wider, and the coaches could not have asked for more. Attacked the gain-line, made half-breaks and looked for the offload, and even took two quick-tap penalties. Oh, and continued his flawless kicking. Lions fans can rest easily knowing all is not lost should injury befall Sexton.

9. Conor Murray: 7.5
Another excellent performance from Murray who has had a quietly impressive tour. Unlikely to usurp Youngs or Phillips in the test squad, but gave his all for the midweek team once again. Opportunistic try, featuring a perfectly poised pirouette, capped a good day for the Irishman.

1. Ryan Grant: 8
Thrust himself right into test contention with a busy and powerful performance. The scrums dominated, as was expected, but it was his work rate in the loose that impressed the most – five carries and seven tackles are a strong return for a prop. With concerns over Vunipola’s scrummaging far from allayed, could he be an unlikely test starter?

2. Richard Hibbard: 7
The most encouraging aspect of Hibbard’s performance was his line-out throwing, as after a couple of wayward darts to begin with he regained his composure and from then on it was largely smooth sailing. He is hard to miss with his shock of blond hair and got through a lot of work – the only blemish came in the form of four missed tackles.

3. Dan Cole: 6.5
The scrum looked infinitely more assured than it did on Saturday when Cole came on, and both coaches and Cole alike will be happy with that. Outside of the set-piece, however, there was little to shout about for the Leicester-man who knocked-on in a promising position and was fairly anonymous elsewhere.

4. Richie Gray: 7.5
Hands down Gray’s best performance of the tour. He made several promising runs and totalled 11 tackles, no mean feat for a man with plenty of other responsibilities. Probably just nosed ahead of Evans in the battle for the test bench spot.

5. Ian Evans: 7.5
Like Gray, this was probably his best performance of the tour and it was certainly encouraging to see them, along with Hibbard, clicking at line-out time after last week’s utter failure. Like Gray he put in a huge shift in defence, and was also the chief disrupter of Rebels ball at the line-out. Gatland has a very tough decision on his hands – as if he needed another one.

6. Dan Lydiate: 8
Super stuff from the skipper. Tackled his heart out as always, topping the stats with 15, and once again made these tackles count, stopping men dead behind the gain-line. There was also a gorgeous bit of handling to put O’Brien over for his try. Pushing Croft all the way for a starting spot on Saturday.

7. Sean O’Brien: 8
Another stirling outing for the Irish loose-forward. Offloads, tackles, turnovers, carries and even a try – there was very little missing from O’Brien’s performance. Desperately unlucky to be competing for places in an area with such an array of talent.

8. Toby Faletau: 9
Should start instead of Heaslip on Saturday. Faletau was absolutely everywhere to offer himself in both attack and defence – the man simply never stops running. 16 carries, 60 metres made, six defenders beaten, 13 tackles – sometimes stats don’t tell you everything, but in this case they at least highlight just how hard Faletau worked, and some of the change he got for that effort.


Ben Youngs was the big winner here, coming off the bench to show just how snappy he can be with a well-taken try showcasing all of his pace and awareness. Elsewhere Tipuric worked well at the breakdown, Rory Best seemed to banish his line-out demons from a week ago and Billy Twelvetrees and Stuart Hogg had a much happier time of things than they did in Canberra.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

35 thoughts on “Rebels v Lions: Lions player ratings

  1. Actually think you’ve been slightly too kind to Grant, who conceded a couple of penalties, both in scrum and at breakdown. Here’s hoping he gets a start on Saturday though.
    Elsewhere, think Barritt deserves at least another half point as he really didn’t put a foot wrong today, and personally I thought Murray was pretty piss-poor by Lion standards, opportunistic try aside. Why on earth Laidlaw isn’t there is beyond me.

    1. Agree massively about Laidlaw, the guy is a touch of class at both 9 and 10, which is not a common trait in the Northern Hemisphere. I thought he was excellent against South Africa the other week.

  2. Good review – Tuilagi didn’t get to do enough to get in, Youngs still first choice hooker. Phillips was dreadful on Saturday, it’s too much about his agenda should be dropped then Youngs on first and Murray backup. Tony Faletau definite to start at 8 – work rate, weight, power and instinct all better than Heaslip who after all just moved further and further down in form during the six nations. Front row inconsistent when changed but hope that Corbisiero’s calf gets better and the hairy one on the other side. Lions to win by a few especially if Beale wears silly boots again – but why did the let him onto a wet pitch with them?

  3. O’Brian and Faletau were both magnificent, always looking to go forward, always looking to get involved. Probably the two best back rows on tour. Hibbard and Gray also were always looking for ball and making ground, plus well done to Farrell – great game.

  4. Good review, can’t find any ratings to disagree with.

    – Dan Cole has had a poor tour, he’s now on the bench as injury/exhaustion cover rather than impact. Think he’s dropping below Wilson in the domestic pecking order.

    – Evans/Gray. If I was picking a player to start I would go with Evans, but for impact off the bench I’ll go with Gray. Both proved their test credentials today though.

    – Faletau, the only disappointing aspect of his performance is he had to play the full 80. I’ll be much happier with the test back row balance if he comes in to do the graft.

    – SOB on the test bench for impact, harsh on Lydiate who was excellent today, but I think Lydiate is a 6 (and not a 20). But if we stick with Croft then we have to utilise him at the tail of the lineout, his ball into Youngs was brilliant. There’s no point having a lineout stacked full of jumpers if we just go to the front and middle.

    – Tuilagi, good but don’t think BOD or JD should be dislodged. France manage to find a way of getting Bastaraud into a 23 shirt, hope we can find a way of doing the same with Tuilagi. Australia were well ahead of us in the ‘game breakers’ department and I think we do need the extra firepower Tuilagi brings.

    – Youngs & Murray, The “Tesco Value” Mike Philips was better than the “Tesco Finest” version. Watching the first Wallaby try again I still can’t understand why Philips stopped running. Sticking him on the bench this weekend will hopefully see him come on ‘spikey’, hope Youngs starts though.

    – Grant, difficult to gauge as his opposite number didn’t look too much of a threat, plus he was with Hibbard rather than Youngs. If we are without Corbs I don’t think we’ll have much of an edge with either Grant or Vuni, but probably less likely to concede pens from Grant (though he gave 1 away today).

    So for Sat (assuming Corbs doesn’t recover) I would like to see:
    1) Grant
    2) Youngs
    3) Jones
    4) AWJ
    5) Parling
    6) Croft
    7) Warbuton
    8) Faletau
    9) Youngs
    10) Sexton
    11) North
    12) JD
    13) BOD
    14) Bowe
    15) 1/2p

    16) Hibbard 17) Vunipola 18) Cole 19) Gray 20) SOB 21) Philips 22) Farrell 23) Tuilagi

    Youngs can cover wing, Bowe can cover FB.

    We can empty the tank this week, so only go to the bench if someone is struggling, injured, or we are behind.

    1. That’s a great post Matt. I think i agree with all of that.

      Corbs needs to be fit, otherwise it’ll be nearer parity in the scrum. Not much of a Grant fan before, but was impressed today, in all aspects. And an average tighthead against him today notwithstanding, I now have him above Mako – less risk. Hibbard at least gave us confidence today with most of his throwing, but Youngs still has to start. Cole was better today in the scrum, but still not doing what he’s done previously e.g. for Leicester. He seems to be scrummaging too close at the engagement – he did it in the 6 Nations v Wales & look what happened. Agree that Wilson is edging in front of him; Stevens might even be a better bet off the bench & at least he can cover loosehead if there is a Vunipola ref issue….. I’ve noticed that Cole always has issues when his loosehead is a bit weaker: I think he has a lot to be grateful to Ayerza for that.

      Very close to call between Evans & Gray – but agree that the latter is probably more for impact. Much of the bench issue is like that – do you pick someone to close a game out (e.g. Lydiate & Evans) or someone who can make an impact when needing to chase a game (O’Brien & Gray)?. As I’ve said all tour, I think Faletau, Croft & Warburton offers the best blend, with SOB as the best all-round bench option.

      Youngs over Phillips after the latter’s poor display on Sat (Genia has the measure of him). Farrell played v well today & cemented the bench and has imparted greater confidence now.

      I’m loathe to change the BOD/Davies centre combo, although it wasn’t great on Sat, but I think Tuilagi offers us the chance to make a massive impact off the bench & change things if it’s not working. Bowe can always switch to F-B if needs must. Unlucky on Maitland who did pretty well today & Cuthbert who did some good stuff on Sat.

  5. really impressed with Farrell, he’s clearly coming on leaps and bounds, never seen him play that well, thought the 2nd row worked well and one of them could have put their hands up, thought that was the best back row of the tour so far, great balance, personally for the 2nd test my ideal backrow would be: SOB, Warbs, Faletau, think it would be really balanced. Understand about the lineout but croft is not the be all or end all at the lineout.

    1. It’s a good point, the lineout functioned pretty well today and Warburton is a better lineout option than Lydiate. We also went to the tail much more today without Croft than we did with him in the test.

      I understand the argument that he’s going to be marked and can be a decoy, but if we are not using him to deliver the fantastic quality ball at the tail then his ‘point of difference’ for inclusion vanishes.

      1. Further to my post above in response to your suggested Sat line-up, I’ve now heard that Corbs is almost definitely out on Sat. Really frustrating. Thinking about it, I wonder whether Vunipola might go OK as a starter if he’s got Jones at 3? Looking back at the scrums in detail, I think that Cole’s or Stevens’ side has actually been at fault sometimes rather than Mako’s. I’m not sure Vunipola’s ‘impact’ is what we need late on – he gives away pens in the loose & was even sin-binned for England as a sub. Perhaps we should put faith in him to start & have the more reliable Grant on the bench (with Cole) if things go wrong…Plus make Jones blow for 80 mins if possible!

        Bring back Rendall and Probyn……….

        1. More I think about it I reckon we will see Vunipola, Youngs and Jones. Reason being they can train and scrum together all week so a better chance of being a well drilled unit. Grant is going to be doing mostly recovery work for the next couple of days.

          Although Vunipola seemed to take the brunt of the criticism on Sat I agree with you, we seemed to have most of our issues on Cole’s side.

      2. absolutely agree, if your not going to use him at the tail then I don’t see any other reason that he should start ahead of O’Brien? I’m not a Croft hater but I think his importance to the lineout is being hyped to much, warbs and sob are both capable of taking ball at the tail as long as youngs throwing is accurate, if the throw is accurate there’s not a huge amount the jumper can do wrong?, definitely think Faletau needs to start, he’s been great all tour.

      3. absolutely agree, if your not going to use him at the tail then I don’t see any other reason that he should start ahead of O’Brien? I’m not a Croft hater but I think his importance to the lineout is being hyped to much, warbs and sob are both capable of taking ball at the tail as long as youngs throwing is accurate, if the throw is accurate there’s not a huge amount the jumper can do wrong?, definitely think Faletau needs to start, he’s been great all tour.

  6. Hmmm, was also mulling whether Wilson has crept in front of Cole in the pecking order. Cole hasn’t really had a great 6 months, but has been immense up to this year so don’t know.

    Hibbard – missed tackles again. Didn’t see the game, so can’t really comment, but not good and with 2 missed throws will be on the bench again.

    Farrell finally showing why he played at centre for a time. He can play just doesn’t do it consistently which is maddening, but he does have time on his side. Although to be fair to him it might have been SL orders on how to play. Probably puts him back into the England 10 shirt ahead of Burns.

    Even more undecided on the backrow now.

    1. I was “multi-tasking”, will have another view tonight, but I think the missed tackles (Hibbard and Farrell) are partly down to Farrell Snrs style of defence. Specifically, get off the line as fast as possible, disrupt them well behind the gainline, doesn’t matter if the first man misses as long as the second man gets him.

      Hibbard and Farrell (Farrell chased everything, narrowed angles for kicks etc) were really up and at them today and contributed to the Rebels having no time on the ball and being unable to get any pattern of play going. ‘Nilling’ a Super Rugby side that averages over 24 points a game at home his season is a pretty good day on ‘D’!

      1. Does the likely inclusion of Parling vice the injured POC make the lineout a bit stronger & perhaps lessen the importance of having Croft, thereby allowing you to include either SOB or Lydiate in the starting XV? Or perhaps Croft & one other could be bench options vice a specialist Lock?

        My preference is still for Warbs, Croft & Faletau with SOB as bench cover, but I offer those as debating points…………

        1. Don’t see the need to use Croft as second row cover as today’s pair were both excellent.

          With both Parling and Croft there’s 2 things I hope we do this week that we didn’t in the first test:
          – Ball to the tail (done to death!)
          – Get in the air and challenge the Wallaby lineout. I think they only had about 5 lineouts last week but we didn’t seem to put the pressure on, I expect Parling to be after some of that ball this week.

          If the 4 back rowers announced on Thurs are Warburton, Faletau, SOB & Croft I’ll be happy, regardless of who is in the 20 shirt.

  7. I am really disappointed for Cole. It was only 6 months ago he was being billed as the best tightheads in world. He was dominant at scrum time and was acting as an extra flanker in the loose. But like I say over the past 6 months he just seems to be in a decline. Coming under pressure from Wilson back in England, who lets not forget, nullified the Argentinian scrum.

    1. to say he nullified it is a disservice, he munched it. I genuinely think Cole has suffered since he has become more “streamline” and lost any excess weight. It has meant he cant just drops his hips a bit in the scrum and sit on his weight if he loses the hit. Also i have noticed that every time in the scrum because of the angle he gets to he has his knees scraping the floor which just isn’t good for his grip with his feet. check it out

      1. Pure conjecture, but I wonder if the amount of rugby he is playing is a factor as well. Castro has moved on as he can’t get a game, I wonder if Cockerill has made a mistake through not managing the workload more evenly between them.

        Cole never seems to get an injury so has gone full season -> RWC prep -> RWC -> full season -> SA tour -> full season -> Lions tour. 2+ years almost non-stop for someone playing in the most physically demanding position (often for the full 80 for England).

        If dropping a bit of weight has impacted his scrummage you wouldn’t expect it to also be the reason he’s become far more anonymous in the loose. So I think there must me something more to it than that, all I can come up with is workload.

  8. To be fair to Cole, he just didn’t see much of the ball yesterday, but working tirelessly at every ruck and breakdown. I don’t think he had a bad game, just a quiet one. Saw the ball twiced, passed one, carried one, made 6 tackles, none missed and won a couple of turnovers. I also thought most of the scrum pressure seemed to be coming on Grant.

    On Hibbard, not sure you can give a 7 to someone who misses nearly half the tackles coming this way (5 made, 4 missed). That’s a pretty poor stat frankly. Carried well and offloaded, but

    For Farrell aswell. A much improved and surprising performance, but he’s only doing what any fly-half should be doing. I saw a few aimless kicks as well, one straight to a fullback in space in the Lions half. Also missed 4 of 7 tackles which is not a good stat for a FH.

    The thing we have to remember about this game is it was weak opposition which tends to give a lot of unimpressive people look great. Maitland for example was brilliant for his try, but threw a lot of aimless passes and wasn’t punished for them. Faletau ran well, but he was very much allowed to run. If the Rebels had taken half their chances

    re: Croft, lineout is not the only thing he’s selected for, though it is useful. He is selected because he offers greater athleticism in the backrow. Tackling well and hard, but instead of carrying into contact, he carries through contact and makes breaks, disturbing the line and moving play up and threatening the opposition line. Lydiate tackles well and hard, but he doesn’t do much going forward. I’m still not convinced he’s done enough to oust Croft nor does he offer cover to put him on the bench ahead of O’Brien. That said, I’m sure Gatland will still select him for the bench.

  9. Croft is a show pony who doesn’t offer anything in defence or at the breakdown .
    Lydiate is a warrior and has to start ahead of him

    1. Lydiate is a cart horse who offers nothing but a tackle.

      Croft showed in the last game that he can defend and hit the rucks.

      Lydiate is yet to prove he can attack like croft.

    2. Great stats quoted to prove a thoroughly valid point. Bravo. Tom Croft works hard at the breakdown and well in tackling, oh yes, and he scores tries. Perhaps you can show me the stats on all of Lydiate’s carries and offloads and try assists and tries to convince me that his tackling and breakdown work actually means something more than metres gained and points on the board.

    3. Thank you Spidey. Finally some reasoned and impartial views on this site! Look fwd to your views on Manu (1 dimensional, can’t pass), shld he be picked.

  10. Defiantly overrated Grant, 5 at best, very luck not to get pinged for boring in, slipping his binding, not binding. Hope that he is a spectator come Saturday. Who gets the bench spot cover for 2nd row, too hard to call from this performance? And now just to throw two in to the mixing pot.
    1. Fatelau has to start therefore Heaslip at 6 with Croft on the bench.
    2. Tuilagi at 13 with Jonathan Davies at 12 with Roberts, if fit on the bench.

    1. How many times has Heaslip played at 6? Not many I wager. Look at how bad it looked in the 6N when Wood (an excellent flanker) was playing at 8. It is a different position with different responsibilities and it’s madness just to say a player is a back rower when he’s only played one position. SOB is a backrower with lots of experience in all of those positions, Heaslip is a number 8 with lots of experience as a number 8. Croft is a 6 with lots of experience at 6 (and 4 and 5)

      Much more sensible I feel would be Croft, Warbs (I still prefer Tips) and Heaslip (or Faletau if you prefer) and SOB on the bench to cover all.

      I suspect 2nd row bencher would be Gray. Both played better yesterday, but his impact off the bench as a speedy strong ball carrier against tired legs just strikes me as the better opportunity

  11. Croft has to play; simply pu the lineout isn’t the strongest hence we are not going to the tail, we should risk more. POC was the lineout caller and one of the targets, I think it is harsh on Youngs to lose both Croft and POC from one week to the next. I hope the Tigers link makes it even stronger lineout and we risk more on our throws.

    SOB is better for the bench, more flexible, can play 6,7,8 no problems and has more impact than Lydaite, I hope we get him this week. I wouldn’t mess too much with the starting 15.

    for me

    1 – Vunipolo (corbs if fit)
    2 – Youngs
    3 – Jones
    4 – AWJ
    5 – Parling
    6 – Croft
    7 – Warbs
    8 – Hisleap
    9 – Youngs
    10 – Sexton
    11 – Cuthbert, Bowe (if fit)
    12 – Davis
    13 – BOD
    14 – North
    15 – Halfpenny



  12. Sob and Falatua what do they have to do. I agree that cofts linout ability is being over used as he reason for inclucion. People say oh croft sores trys out wide. Well sob has scored more tries than croft on tour (opposition wasnt as good ino). Croft does hit rucks and he does carry ball but sob will do double in that department. sob is probaly the most wasted player on tour he is good enough to be a starter and more than good enough for a p[lace on the bench but we use him for nether so far makes no sense and is hard on the lad

  13. Croft is absolutely essential. The lineout is bad, esp. with O’Connell gone. He holds jumpers in lineouts allowing more room for others. He hit so many rucks on Sat and was the top carrier in the back row.

    SOB definately on the bench. Faletau at 8 now too for some grunt.

    Saw a stat the other day – before the Brumbies game Owen Farrell was second behing North for line breaks with 6!!! Played v well on tour.

    1. The lineout was bad at the start of the tour maybe due to combinations and maybe we were holding a trick or two back. In the last two games since the 1st test the lineout has been excelent even yeasterday without croft the lineout was excelent. Its great to have extra lineout opinon in croft but most teams can win their own lineouts with 2/3 opions i dont see why the lions are any different. We have two good lineout jumpers with our 2 locks and pick 1 backrow forward who can give a serous opion (be it croft or heaslip not both). Bring in o brien or falatua for there carrying, tackling and a Genuine threat at the breakdown. This should give a better balence aswell.

      1. Croft is the 3rd genuine option.

        As I have said about 2-3 times in response to you, the options we have free up Heaslip as an extra freed up option.

        The lineout might have been pretty decent in other games, but the lions have not faced the likes of Mowen, Horwill or Douglas. The only other truly top class lineout forwards (Simmons and Kimlin) are in the Aussie camp.

        The only one of any of these to have played against the lions (excluding the 1st test) was Kimlin and we all know how well that went!

        I get your point about the carrying, and you are not wrong. But the lions want to guarantee top class set piece ball. The players selected bring the most in the set piece. I would argue that they are also the most rounded players, often referred to as “skilful footballers”. Having said that, I do rate Faletau and SOB quite highly, and I feel they do have a fair few strings in their own bows.

        1. Simo 1st of all i do real rate your opinions you clearly know what your talking about its great to chat with rugby nuts like myself. I do think your right croft and heaslip are skilful footballers as u put it so well the are the moderm all ball playing type of players which is great to have in your team if you want to play a fast open game. I just think with the 2 of them in there together its not that they wont do the hard yards. I know there both capable especialy heaslip. I watched the last game of the 2009 tour last week and heaslip was apsolutly on fire dont think he has been as good this tour better than this season but not as good as he was in 09. Anyway i just think we should put croft in say he u go win your lineouts play out abit wider when you get a chance do what you are so good at. Then we need to bring in faletau tell him to stay in tight hit everything help warburton do what he does week en week out so well let croft have free rein of the pitch . We need sob on the bench for impact and if the lineout doesnt work well and croft isnt winning us the ball we want or giving us the advantage we want in this area then atleast we have o brien to come on and bring a different type of danger to the aussies. saying that heaslip hasnt done anyting wrong i just think this way we have a specalist play in every area ie the breakdown the lineout the ball carrier/work monkey

          1. I agree totally with your points here.

            Faletau is a better balanced 8 to play alongside croft.

            Similarly, SOB is a great bench option. He is a handy starter, but he is definitely the best suited to “impact” as well.

            I think that the reasoning behind selecting Heaslip and Croft together is their set piece prowess. Both also run wider.

            With gatland’s gameplan, the tight channels are run by either the tight 5, 9 or 12. This means that he actually needs guys like Croft and Heaslip attacking a bit wider.

            Although I think SOB and Faletau are great ball carriers, I think that Croft and Heaslip are two of the most likely forwards (probably in the world) who could score from 45m+. Together they balance quite nicely the fact that Gatland likes to have an absolute bulldozer (who even though they are capable of more, don’t get to show it) at 12.

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