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Player Ratings | Maro Itoje superb in losing Lions effort

The British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa ratcheted up a gear on Wednesday, when they took...

Stephen Kisbey-Green
Stephen Kisbey-Green

21:39 14 Jul 2021



Player Ratings | Maro Itoje su...
Rugby

Player Ratings | Maro Itoje superb in losing Lions effort

Stephen Kisbey-Green
Stephen Kisbey-Green

21:39 14 Jul 2021

The British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa ratcheted up a gear on Wednesday, when they took on a Springbok-laden South Africa 'A' side in Cape Town.

With 18 World Cup winners named in the 25-man squad for the hosts ahead of the match, the warm-up game became an unofficial fourth test, as South Africa remain in search of much-needed game time ahead of the official three-match test series.

The difference in opposition between the previous warm-up games and this one was clear from the opening minute for the Lions, as South Africa looked much less threatened by the tourists' attack, while also looking much more dangerous on attack themselves.

The Lions kicking game in particular was poor in the first half, with Conor Murray and Owen Farrell putting in a number of aimless, and inaccurate kicks.

They also failed to capitalise on a two-man advantage late in the first half, with the South Africa 'A' defence fronting up well in the face of the tourists.

The second half was much improved for the tourists, as they looked to exploit their two-man advantage early on, before a drastic improvement to their overall kicking game and a strong performance on defence.

Rees-Zammit Lions

British and Irish Lions Player Ratings

Wyn Jones 7/10

Wyn Jones scored the only try for the tourists against one of the most dogged defences in World Rugby. That alone is impressive, however his string carries were used well all over the park, and he also made the biggest impact on defence out of the starting front rowers.

Ken Owens 6.5/10

Linking up well with his jumpers, Ken Owens was in fine form as a lineout thrower, and did well against the internationally inexperienced Joseph Dweba at scrum time. He was used as one of the main carriers to attempt to add some physicality to the Lions attack, but he was unable to make as big an impact in that area as his replacement.

Kyle Sinckler 6.5/10

The South African scrum is legendary for its strength, but Kyle Sinckler and Jones fronted up well against a very strong front row. While he was more of a dummy runner on attack, rather offloading than taking contact, the Sinckler was used very well on attack, even though the South African defence was superb to stop whatever came at them.

Itoje SA A

Maro Itoje 8.5/10

Maro Itoje showed the form that he was in in the World Cup, back when he was heavily touted as a Lions captain. He was incredibly impactful on a leadership basis, making his presence known physically and lifting the players in the second half. His defending at the lineout and the base of the ruck in particular were outstanding.

Iain Henderson 6/10

After a great game in his last outing to being almost anonymous in this one, Iain Henderson will be worried about his place in the starting XV for the tests, particularly with the return of Alun Wyn Jones. Henderson made just one meter in five carries and only made two tackles, which was particularly glaring considering how important the defences were tonight.

Josh Navidi 6.75/10

While Josh Navidi made no impact at all on attack, he made the second most tackles for the losing side and was looking to make his presence felt at the breakdown. However, he was often overpowered by the bigger South Africans, and will worry about his prospects as a test starter against similar opposition.

Curry Lions South Africa 'A'

Tom Curry 8/10

Tom Curry was the best Lion by far in the first half, with a number of strong carries, as well as being his usual nuisance self at the breakdown. Curry made his impact known all over the park, making the most tackles for his side as well.

Taulupe Faletau 6.75/10

It is always telling when a number eight makes more running meters than his back three, however Taulupe Faletau made that happen with only five proper carries. However, in a match where defence was key, Faletau left his teammates to make the tackles, and needs to improve his overall effort without the ball in order to secure a test jersey.

Murray Lions SA A

Conor Murray 6.5/10

The Lions captain needed a much better second half performance, and delivered on that front, not least of all because he was given better ball at the breakdown in the second 40. Conor Murray's usual box kicks were inaccurate in the first half, but put the South Africans under great pressure in the second.

Owen Farrell 6.5/10

Owen Farrell was saved by a drastically improved second half, as his first half was rife with errors, and lack of composure. In particular, his much improved kicking game in the second half helped the Lions back into the match, after trailing by 14 at half time. He would also be thankful that he wasn't asked to make a one-on-one tackle on Cheslin Kolbe.

Anthony Watson 6.75/10

Going up against some of the best wingers in world rugby was never going to be easy, but Anthony Watson did well to not only make the second most meters, but also managed to get the better of his opposite number out wide on a few occasions. While he might not start the first test, all of the Lions wingers have put their hands up for that first XV.

Aki SA A

Bundee Aki 7/10

Bundee Aki's place in the starting XV for the first test at this point is purely dependant on where Owen Farrell plays. He put together a strong account of his ability against the World Cup-winning centre pairing, with some strong carries, but in particular his stalwart defence.

Chris Harris 8/10

Chris Harris was very strong on defence, but carried well in the second half in particular. Although he was sat down on defence by Cheslin Kolbe's side step, but you can't count that against him as Kolbe could sidestep anyone from the inside of phone booth. He aslos got his own back on the World Champions winger, bouncing him off with a powerful carry.

Louis Rees-Zammit 6.5/10

Louis Rees-Zammit tried to do a lot with the little ball that he got, but a lot of what he tried did not come off. It was a decent outing for the youngster, however going up against World Cup-winning wingers, he failed to ignite as much as he had throughout the series.

Liam Williams N/A

Liam Williams was unable to make a major impact due to suffering a head injury in the 14th minute of the match, and ultimately failed his HIA.

Notable South Africa 'A' performers: Franco Mostert 7.5/10; Cheslin Kolbe 8/10; Malcolm Marx 7.5/10

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Read more about

Anthony Watson British And Irish Lions Bundee Aki Cheslin Kolbe Chris Harris Conor Murray Dan Biggar Iain Henderson Jacques Nienaber Josh Adams Josh Navidi Ken Owens Kyle Sinckler Liam Williams Lions Louis Rees-Zammit Lukhanyo Am Maro Itoje Morne Steyn Owen Farrell Rassie Erasmus South Africa Springboks Taulupe Faletau Tom Curry Warren Gatland Wyn Jones

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