15. Leigh Halfpenny – 9
Scampered around to splendid effect, putting his head where sane humans would fear to put their feet in order to diffuse the dangers of probing chips and charging runners. Nerveless from the tee, rock solid under towering bombs and dangerous in attack, too. One misdirected clearance failed to blight a brilliant display.
14. Alex Cuthbert – 8½
A pair of predatory finishes was just the icing on a distinguished, mature showing from this burgeoning talent. Timely interventions in defence defined his dominance over opposite number Mike Brown, while less eye-catching carries epitomised his willingness to roll up sleeves at close quarters.
13. Jonathan Davies – 7
Centre was let off the hook when a calamitous midfield mix-up in opening three minutes opened a gaping gap for Manu Tuilagi. After his opposite number dropped that opportunity though, Davies grew into the game nicely. Left-foot option was important and one snaking break in the second half confirmed the significance of his strength. He knew to give his pass to Cuthbert early for the opening score as well.
12. Jamie Roberts – 8
With a mind free from the stress of university exams, the Lion finally found his snarl. There was one overcooked clearance and Mako Vunipola turned him over towards the end, but Roberts was exemplary elsewhere, even man-handling Tuilagi at some points. Judged running lines far better and found good gains because of that.
11. George North – 7½
Tore over Chris Ashton and was set for a scintillating score on the half-hour mark before Brown intervened. Popped up all over the park to provide real menace and topped the hosts’ metres-gained statistics. Hulking figure on the wing injects genuine panic during kick-chase as well – a really classy operator.
10. Dan Biggar – 7½
Quietly ubiquitous early on, the fly half fielded high balls and probed with punts during a harum-scarum start. He then took hold of proceedings admirably in the second half, although undeniably aided by the mismatch in front him. A sweet drop-goal that killed the game off could well be Biggar’s coming-of-age moment.
9. Mike Phillips – 8½
Tweaking his big-match temperament slightly, spiky Mike put aside petulant sledging to channel his aggression into a phenomenal all-round evening. Imposing and relentless, he helped his back row by tying in Tom Wood. Managed a turnover to go with a team-topping return of 13 tackles and 60 running metres – a figure boosted by one rampaging dart from a tap-penalty. Immense.
1. Gethin Jenkins – 7½
Conceded one scrum penalty but put in an incredibly tough 61 minute-shift against Dan Cole, grinding into England in the rucks and contributing significantly to game-winning set-piece. Got Steve Walsh well on side and extracted something truly special from his charges – great leadership to mark his 98th cap.
2. Richard Hibbard – 8
Monstrous strength was destructive in the front row and one missed lineout could not tarnish incredible effort in other areas. Hits with ferocious power and demonstrated the striking extent of his fitness – may have played his way into a trip Down Under.
3. Adam Jones – 9½
This veritable gem of a player was even more outstanding than usual. He truly terrorised Joe Marler to a humiliating degree, deciding the outcome of the match by transforming the scrum into a penalty factory. Also burrowed away after latching onto deft offloads from fellow forwards and notched up eight tackles.
4. Alun-Wyn Jones – 8
Rubber-stamping selection for a second Lions tour, Jones directed a bloody-minded operation up front from the toughest seat at the Millennium Stadium – the second-row boiler-house. A central figure as Wales bullied the tight exchanges, he also threw his weight around, passing out of contact and collecting the hardest yards.
5. Ian Evans – 7½
Flying off at break-neck speed, Evans’ industry to repel English carriers in the opening stages was astonishing and the unsung lock ending up third on the Welsh tackle count. Capped a very consistent tournament with muscular, unassuming quality throughout.
6. Sam Warburton – 8
Didn’t need the official captaincy to set the bar for his teammates and the glorious charge that led to Cuthbert’s decisive second will forever be an abiding image of this year’s competition. Unlucky to concede a pernickety penalty that gave England their only points, but that was engulfed by positive contributions, including lineout prowess, dirty work on the deck and impenetrable defence. Far more dynamic than opposite number Tom Croft.
7. Justin Tipuric – 9
Link man supreme, Tipuric turned in a career-defining shift as his tag-team partnership with Warburton flourished. A total pest on the floor who stayed just on the right side of the law, his handling, pace and decision-making with ball in hand beggared belief. Few Welshmen will ever forget how he picked off Brad Barritt and Brown for the final try.
8. Toby Faletau – 8
Scrambled well when Brown looked like stretching the hosts and cleared up to exemplify his composure in tight spaces, a trait that also allowed him beat four defenders – the most by a man in red. Intelligent positioning, fierce physicality and footballing skills were all in evidence as the occasion brought out some of Faletau’s best.
As he often does, Ken Owens starred as a substitute. It was his (possibly illegal) work on the floor that pre-empted Cuthbert’s first try and he joined the fray with huge enthusiasm. Likewise Paul James, who won a penalty from an out-of-sorts Cole. The rest had too little time, but fully deserved to take the field and soak up a triumphant atmosphere – especially Andrew Coombs, whose first international adventure has been an amazing one.
By Charlie Morgan