Wednesday 23 August 2017

Ratings: Irish players solid but unspectacular as back three put their hands up for Test selection

Robbie Henshaw and CJ Stander
Robbie Henshaw and CJ Stander

Nick Purewal

Elliot Daly seemed to cement his place in the British and Irish Lions' Test squad to face New Zealand with a smart showing in the 34-6 win over the Chiefs.

The England flyer's sharp break teed up a flowing try for Jack Nowell, as the tourists overwhelmed the understrength Chiefs in Hamilton.

Exeter wing Nowell was back in form with a brace, while Jared Payne crossed and a penalty try completed the Lions' scoring at the FMG Stadium.

The Lions start the three-Test series against the All Blacks on Saturday, and this was the last chance for any of the tourists to sway head coach Warren Gatland's thinking for that Auckland clash.

Nowell's impressive showing may still not be enough to see him squeeze into the Test match squad, however - with Daly likely to take a seat on the bench.

Gatland quickly called Daly off the field after he had set up Nowell's second score, with the Lions boss potentially confident the versatile Wasps operator had shown enough form for a Test berth.

Gatland could now be left to ponder whether to start the out-of-sorts George North on the left wing against New Zealand, or promote Daly into the Test XV.

The Lions' midweek men hit back to winning ways after galling defeats to the Blues and Highlanders, but did so against a Chiefs line-up shorn of 10 frontline stars - six of them All Blacks.

Courtney Lawes impressed at lock, especially in shaking off a nasty-looking clash of heads with Joe Marler.

The Northampton second row would be an option off the bench for the Test if required, though is likely to miss out with Maro Itoje, George Kruis and Alun Wyn Jones the three premier locks. 

Here's how the Lions rated:

15 LIAM WILLIAMS - A much-improved showing from the Wales star but not enough to make the Test line-up: 8/10.

14 JACK NOWELL - The match-winner blasted back to form with two tries, but, like Williams, should still just fail to make the first Test: 9.

13 JARED PAYNE - Very solid effort from the Ireland centre, who even slotted in to fine effect at flanker: 7.

12 ROBBIE HENSHAW - The Leinster man raised his level significantly after a patchy tour opening, but still trails Ben Te'o in the Test stakes: 7.

11 ELLIOT DALY - The Wasps flyer showed enough here to force his way into the Test match 23, and will battle George North for a start: 8.

10 DAN BIGGAR - Wales' composed playmaker attacked with purpose albeit against a weakened home side: 7.

9 GREIG LAIDLAW - The Scotland half-back raised his level but was coasting against lower-level opposition: 6.

1 JOE MARLER - Marred his night with a woeful challenge for a deserved sin-bin but at least returned to make some kind of amends: 4.

2 RORY BEST (CAPT) - Wholehearted leadership is never in doubt with Best, but several wobbles again tinged an otherwise fine showing: 7.

3 DAN COLE - A bullish performance from the England man who proved the Lions' scrum power all over again: 7.

4 IAIN HENDERSON - Quiet from the off but grew into the night; one key pass in build-up to second Nowell try: 7.

5 COURTNEY LAWES - Shook off a nasty-looking clash of heads with Marler to grind his way through the night: 7.

6 JAMES HASKELL - Keeps on battling through and emptied the tank as the midweek men hit back to form: 7.

7 JUSTIN TIPURIC - A niggling thorn in the hosts' side at the breakdown all night: 8.

8 CJ STANDER - Always a physical threat, but remains just unlikely to trouble the first Test squad: 7.

REPLACEMENTS:

17 ALLAN DELL (for Haskell, 13-23) - One massive scrummage helped Dell become a real Lion in a 10-minute cameo he will never forget: 7.

20 ALUN WYN JONES (for Lawes, HIA 52-57) - Put himself about even in his short stint on the field and should be in the Test squad: 7.

23 TOMMY SEYMOUR (for Daly, 59) - Full of running in a bid to return to top form but will miss out on Test selection: 7.

UNUSED: K Dacey, T Francis, C Hill, G Davies, F Russell.

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