Courtney Lawes was a strong presence in the second half
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The British and Irish Lions edged an enthralling contest in Cape Town to take a 1-0 lead against South Africa.
Warren Gatland made a bold selection and a number of players repaid the faith shown by the head coach while some failed to cope with the intensity of the Springboks.
British and Irish Lions
15. Stuart Hogg — 6/10
As ever, he was spritely with the ball, but he spilt high bombs and served up a torrid hospital pass to Henshaw which led to a Springbok three points. Is Williams more suited to the Springbok juggernaut?
14. Anthony Watson — 8/10
Always lively, always hungry, always threatening with the ball. It is easy to see why Gatland adores him. Looked just as dangerous in attack as any other player on the park.
13. Elliot Daly — 6/10 (Farrell, 66)
Was floored by Am early on but never gave up despite his physical shortcomings. Gave away two dim-witted penalties, too, but was there at the end when his team needed him.
12. Robbie Henshaw — 7/10
Could not have fought harder for the cause but he simply had to hold on to the ball in his piercing break before half-time. Another who matured in the second half.
11. Duhan van der Merwe — 8/10 (Williams, 71)
Beyond deserving of his place in the Test side. Chased kicks like a dream, kept Kolbe quiet and fended Etzebeth twice – how many can say they have done that?
Duhan van der Merwe was a physical presence in Cape Town
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10. Dan Biggar — 7/10 (Daly, 67)
Had not played for two weeks and there was a little hint of rustiness – especially off the tee. But he is a thunderous competitor and, when the going got tough, so did Biggar.
9. Ali Price — 6/10 (Murray, 64)
Scrum-half was a problem position when the squad was named and it still seems to be now, although Price improved as the Lions’ pack fought back. Murray’s entrance improved the tourists.
1. Rory Sutherland — 6/10 (Vunipola, 57)
A late call-up for the apparently more solid Wyn Jones; the Welshman was missed, in truth, as Sutherland struggled at the scrummage. Vunipola shored up the scrum upon arrival.
2. Luke Cowan-Dickie — 7/10 (Owens, 57)
His early lineout flawlessness escaped him at the end of the first half but the half-time orange worked wonders, improving – and scoring – in the second half.
3. Tadgh Furlong — 6/10 (Sinckler, 67)
There are not many matches in which Furlong is the second-best tighthead on the field. No howlers but quite quiet for his haughty standards. Like Vunipola on the other side, Sinckler brought dynamism.
4. Maro Itoje — 9/10
The fans sang his name in New Zealand four years ago; imagine the choruses had fans been allowed in Cape Town after this display of such imperiousness. One contest with Etzebeth aside, magnificent.
Maro Itoje was a disruptive influence throughout the match
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5. Alun Wyn Jones (captain) — 6/10
Was it too soon? On the first-half evidence, perhaps, but his presence grew as the game progressed, as his team cried out for him.
6. Courtney Lawes — 8/10 (Beirne, 72)
Put in some terrifying shots in a feisty display but went a little missing in the middle of the match. Came out fighting in the second 40 and could not have worked harder in defence.
7. Tom Curry — 7/10 (Watson, 57)
Leaked several penalties in the first half but his voracity should not be overlooked. Absurd work-rate in defence and had some joy in the carry. Earnt the Lions so much with his kick-chasing.
8. Jack Conan — 5/10
Other than one cheeky dummy and burst, Conan was ineffective against the Bokke ballast. A selection error having no out-and-out No 8 replacement to freshen things up.
16. Ken Owens (on for Cowan-Dickie, 57) 7; 17. Mako Vunipola (on for Sutherland, 57) 8; 18. Kyle Sinckler (on for Furlong, 67) 8; 19. Tadhg Beirne (on for Lawes, 72) N/A; 20. Hamish Watson (on for Curry, 57) 6; 21. Conor Murray (on for Price, 64) 8; 22. Owen Farrell (on for Daly, 66) 7; 23. Liam Williams (on for Van der Merwe, 71) N/A.
15. Willie Le Roux — 8/10 (Willemse, 67)
Laughed in the face of anyone who judged him as an attacking full-back lacking defensive security. Should have checked his run for the disallowed try, but it was a tight call.
14. Cheslin Kolbe — 6/10
Springbok in name and nature, but was hunted rapaciously by Lions on Saturday. One quiet game does not mean Kolbe’s threat is dead, however; the Lions must shepherd him meticulously again next week.
13. Lukhanyo Am — 6/10
His early flattening of Daly was questionable in its legality but not in its force, setting the tone for his team’s physicality which, like Am, dropped off as the game wore on.
12. Damian De Allende — 7/10
The commanding nature with which he took the opening kick-off was endemic of his class. A silly offside penalty allowed the Lions back into the game.
11. Makazole Mapimpi — 6/10
The action largely avoided him but, being critical, Mapimpi never went hunting for it. His chip and tracking support led to the De Klerk try, but that was his sole highlight.
Makazole Mapimpi was lively throughout the contest
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10. Handre Pollard — 7/10 (E Jantjies, 71)
A ferocious competitor, like Biggar, and offers a serious individual threat with the ball. Almost faultless off the tee, too, but missed at crucial moments and tired too easily.
9. Faf De Klerk — 7/10 (H Jantjies, 74)
Uncharacteristically sloppy on occasion but is still such an influence on the Springboks, scoring their only try. Ultimately outclassed Price, even in defeat.
1. Ox Nche — 7/10 (Kitshoff, 40)
Got himself into a pickle at one scrummage against Furlong, but otherwise the ‘Ox’ looked a mighty force before his half-time exit. Industrious in the loose; granite in the tight.
2. Bongi Mbonambi — 8/10 (Marx, 40)
Harshly dealt with for a high-tackle penalty on Jones, but Mbonambi was part of the superior starting front row and his lineout arrows were immaculate. The half-time switch must have been pre-planned.
3. Trevor Nyakane — 8/10
A phenomenal shift from the Springboks’ supposed second-choice tighthead, winning two scrum penalties against Sutherland. Might keep first-choice Malherbe out of the team for a while.
4. Eben Etzebeth — 9/10
Manhandled the talismanic Itoje with his mate Du Toit and, although Itoje rallied fantastically, it was a microcosm of the first half. Few can contain the brute power of Etzebeth; the Lions struggled, even in victory.
5. Franco Mostert — 7/10 (De Jager, 64)
The star of the South Africa ‘A’ match was quieter on Saturday, but any second row in the world would look quiet in the mammoth battle between Etzebeth and Itoje.
6. Siya Kolisi (captain) — 6/10
Simmered without ever coming to a boil but, considering it was his first Test since lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in 2019, he will not care. Will come stronger next week.
7. Pieter-Steph Du Toit — 9/10
Chop, counter-ruck, repeat. It is nigh-on robotic, metronomic, but it is impossible not to marvel at it. The Lions won despite his brilliance, not because he was absent.
8. Kwagga Smith — 7/10 (Elstadt, 64)
Only his second ever loss for the Springboks and filled the void left by Vermeulen admirably. Had a sublime first 40 but, like his team, faded away in the second 40.
16. Malcolm Marx (on for Mbonambi, 40) 5; 17. Steven Kitshoff (on for Nche, 40) 5; 18. Frans Malherbe N/A; 19. Lood De Jager (on for Mostert, 64) 5; 20. Rynhardt Elstadt (on for Smith, 64) 5; 21. Herschel Jantjies (on for De Klerk, 74) 7; 22. Elton Jantjies (on for Pollard, 71) 6; 23. Damian Willemse (on for Le Roux, 67) 6.