14 Jun 2017

Lions tour: Who rated in the Lions game against the Highlanders?

6:52 am on 14 June 2017

By Matt Richens* @MattRichens

The Lions have lost their second match of their 2017 tour, losing to the Highlanders in Dunedin. Matt Richens rates all the players.

Watch video highlights here:

British and Irish Lions v Otago Highlanders, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Tour Match 4

See the ratings for the first three games of the tour here and here and here.

Lions 22 (Jonathan Joseph, Tommy Seymour, Sam Warburton tries, Dan Biggar 2 cons)

Highlanders 23 (Waisake Naholo, Liam Coltman tries, Lima Sopoaga, con 2 pens, Marty Banks con, pen)

HT: 10-10

Read the full match report here, and see how it all went down with Jamie Wall's live blog here.

MVP

3 Waisake Naholo

2 Rhys Webb

1 Jackson Hemopo

The Otago Highlanders celebrate their close win over the Lions in Dunedin.

The Otago Highlanders celebrate their close win over the Lions in Dunedin. Photo: AFP

TEAM RATINGS

BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS - 6/10

Few absolute standouts, but no poor performances either which has been a vast improvement on their previous three games. With a shadow test side expected for the game against the New Zealand Maori, most of Warren Gatland's "B" squad played like they had plenty to prove.

Rhys Webb was superb while the forwards enjoyed dominance until the benches were emptied and then they struggled which was odd because test players who will be playing for the bench spots for the tests were humbled by relative no-names.

The Lions backs looked the best they have all tour too. They'd scored two tries in 240 minutes previous, but enjoyed the dry conditions and added three more. Could argue they were the better team on the park, but lacked the heart of the Highlanders.

OTAGO HIGHLANDERS - 9/10

Played - and celebrated at the final whistle - like it meant plenty. They controlled territory well initially and despite a number of key players away with the All Blacks and Maori, punched well above their weight.

A number of players stood out, especially Waisake Naholo, Luke Whitelock and Jackson Hemopo while few had poor games. Showed better ticker in the final quarter and ambushed the Lions' pack when it counted and helped them nab a famous win.

PLAYER RATINGS - BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS

1 - JOE MARLER - 7

Part of a good early Lions' scrum - their most dominant of the tour and it missed him after he was benched early in the second half.

2 - RORY BEST - 7

Looked dominant in the scrum and strong in the tight. Also got yanked early in the second half after being part of a dominant pack that missed him once he was gone.

3 - KYLE SINCKLER - 6

Showed good wheels for a big man and glided through a half gap with more finesse than most of the Lions' backs have been able to all tour. Stupid penalty giving away an easy three points with a no arms tackle off the ball before going off.

4 - COURTNEY LAWES - 6

Visible early with a couple of strong runs, but took a big hit to the head from Naholo's shoulder when the winger scored. Lawes went off for a concussion test which he failed.

5 - IAIN HENDERSON - 6

Went okay in a relatively quiet first spell, and looked more interested in the second half with a couple of strong runs. Defended solidly and reliable in the lineout. Imposing presence at the breakdown especially blowing the Highlanders off the ball when they were hot on attack.

6 - JAMES HASKELL - 7

The former Highlander got involved early and made some telling tackles and was the top equal Lion in the tackle count with CJ Stander. Didn't feature as well with the ball as he did earlier on the tour.

7 - SAM WARBURTON (C) - 7

Looked to make more of an impact than his previous appearance and did a lot of work over the ball. Good leg drive and smart play to pick and go to score an important try. Got better as the game went on, strong second half before being rested with 15 to go.

8 - CJ STANDER - 8

Ill-discipline cost his side twice in the early exchanges. Great offload in the tackle to create space out wide for Joseph to score. Was busy, had plenty of ball and was a top Lions tackler. Also ran for the most metres out of any forward on the park.

9 - RHYS WEBB - 9

Benefited from good quick ball early, and looked sharp with a good eye for a gap, with a dangerous looking run early in the first half. Almost scored a typical cheeky halfback try soon after by diving over a maul. Did enough to secure the spot as Connor Murray's deputy for the big games. Was the Lions' best, despite a few turnovers.

10 - DAN BIGGAR - 6

Looked good off the tee, striking it sweetly. Good distance on touch finders. Did a lot of work, but looked reluctant to take it to the line with any great vigour, possibly due to injury as he limped off after 67 minutes.

11 - TOMMY SEYMOUR - 7

Naholo made him look silly early, but he more than made up for that when he pounced on a poor Lima Sopoaga cross kick. Seymour out-leapt Fekitoa and ran 40m to score early in the second spell. Most metres gained by a Lions' back.

12 - ROBBIE HENSHAW - 5

Outshone by his midfield partner. Dependable on defence but didn't see a lot in attack aside from a couple of turn-overs. Decision making questionable.

13 - JONATHAN JOSEPH - 6

Ran with more conviction, making some handy yards. Poor on defense, missed a couple of one on one tackles, one in the lead up to Naholo's try but went on to score his own without a hand being laid on him.

14 - JACK NOWELL - 5

Hands let him down at times and conceded too many turnovers at this level. Made some good tackles, and did well not to miss any. Didn't cut down Tevita Li enough.

15 - JARED PAYNE - 5

Attacked the ball when kicked through from the Highlanders. Great turnover when the Lions were back peddling fast and under pressure. Played well enough, but poor hands let him down, especially 15 into the second half to gift the Highlanders territory and possession.

RESERVES

16 - KEN OWENS - 4

The Lions seemed to lose a bit in work-rate and scrum power when Best was benched. Won't enjoy looking back at late scrum replays or Highlanders' lineout drive try.

17 - JACK MCGRATH - 5

Came on with 25 to go, had a couple of strong runs. Looked very keen to get his hands on the ball, but was also part of a poor late front row.

18 - DAN COLE - 4

Should have got stuck in instead of complaining when Patrick Osborne won a turnover with five to go. Didn't have much of an impact in the second half and like McGrath and Cole, had little to be proud of as they were swamped by their Highlanders counterparts.

19 - ALUN WYN JONES - 4

Early replacement for Lawes, visible, but not dominant. More expected from him.

20 - JUSTIN TIPURIC - 5

Quiet contribution after a big second half from his skipper.

21 - GREIG LAIDLAW - 5

Pass looked sharper than previous outings but didn't assert himself on the game in the short amount of time he had.

22 - OWEN FARRELL - 4

Came on with 15 to go and missed first kick soon after and didn't offer much more after that in the little time he had. Will be disappointed the kick he missed would have been enough to give the Lions victory.

23 - ELLIOT DALY - 6

Replaced Payne and was almost the hero with a big kick to win late but agonisingly short. Beat a defender and made a nice off-load.

PLAYER RATINGS - OTAGO HIGHLANDERS

1 - DANIEL LIENERT-BROWN - 4

Made some tackles, but missed a couple too. Not dominant at scrum time.

2 - LIAM COLTMAN - 6

Didn't really assert himself in the first half with ball in hand. Man at the back of an impressive lineout drive to score. Good at line-out time only giving up one line-out steal.

3 - SIATE TOKOLAHI - 4

Made a couple of handling errors and wasn't able to assert dominance at scrum time but did help win a late penalty at scrum time, probably on the back of a dubious call, though.

4 - ALEX AINLEY - 5

Busy on defense including one big hit early and supported well. Made a couple of strong runs and beat a couple of tackles. Didn't need to do a lot of work at lineout time, but did basics well.

5 - JACKSON HEMOPO - 9

A hit as big as his hair early then halted Lions' attack in the redzone by holding the ball up and winning back possession. Had a high tackle rate - second only behind Whitelock - but didn't get many chances with ball in hand. Still, looked more than comfortable and stood out against test players and is one to watch for the future.

6 - GARETH EVANS - 9

High work rate early. Made a couple of barnstorming runs leading up to Naholo's try. Good with ball in hand gaining the most metres by a Highlanders forward with 34. Topped off his impressive night with a couple of nice offloads.

7 - DILLON HUNT - 5

Won an important turnover and looked busy, providing a handy link on attack. Did his job without being outstanding before being replaced after 58 minutes.

8 - LUKE WHITELOCK (C) - 8

Dropped ball in early conflict but went on to make the most tackles in the match, some of which led to turnovers. Didn't get a lot of chances with ball in hand but led an inexperienced forward pack well. Typically tough.

9 - KAYNE HAMMINGTON - 5

One knock on as bad as his moustache, but busy on defence. Didn't play poorly, but tried to do to much too often instead of utilising the skills of his backs.

10 - LIMA SOPOAGA - 6

Good vision early, kicking in behind the defensive line which came up quickly all game. Looked inventive, but mistakes crept in and a horror pass early in the second half led to Warburton's try.

11 - TEVITA LI - 8

Good positional play and safe under the high ball. Showed good gas and a sharp step and made plenty of first half metres, which he backed up in the second half to make the most for the match (106).

12 - TEIHORANGI WALDEN - 4

Quiet first half, overshadowed by some strong performances by his outsides, but did help get the ball to them. Turned the ball over a team-high four times.

13 - MALAKAI FEKITOA - 5

Ran sideways early when straight running and drawing his man would have led to a try. Went looking for work, and had a couple of strong runs. Got told off for being naughty and running into a scuffle looking for trouble. Proved the AB selectors right by leaving him out. Others are better.

Highlanders winger Waisake Naholo celebrates a try against the British and Irish Lions.

Highlanders winger Waisake Naholo celebrates a try against the British and Irish Lions. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

14 - WAISAKE NAHOLO - 10

Two fantastic early touches and won an important turn-over which secured the Highlanders' a penalty attempt. Scored the first try of the match with apparent ease, beating two players. Seemed to beat players at will and really did nothing wrong. Gave Steve Hansen plenty to think about.

15 - RICHARD BUCKMAN - 8

Ran hard and stepped well, had a knack for beating the first tackle or two. Seemed to pop up lots when it mattered. Had a couple of nice touches in the closing minutes.

RESERVES

16 - GREG PLEASANTS-TATE - 7

Part of the big scrum inside the last 10 and enjoyed telling the Lions all about it with a massive grin. Will become a crowd favourite now.

17 - AKI SEIULI - 6

Helped make up for poor first half scrum with a big one to remember at the end. Busy on defence.

18 - SIOSIUA HALANUKONUKA - 6

Added some grunt to the scrum and outplayed test players. Quiet 20 minutes apart from that.

19 - JOSH DICKSON - 7

Couple of important lineout wins, with one leading to a try after an impressive rolling maul. Made some handy metres on attack.

20 - JAMES LENJTES - 7

Looked to get involved when he took the field and impressively caught a charge down, but it was after the whistle so didn't lead to anything.

21 - JOSH RENTON - 6

Was quick with the ball in his few touches and pigged it out to end the game, something he'll remember for years to come.

Marty Banks of the Highlanders makes a kick at goal during the DHL New Zealand Lions Series match between the Highlanders and the Lions, held at Forsyth Barr Stadium,

Marty Banks makes a kick at goal during the New Zealand Lions Series match between the Highlanders and the Lions. Photo: Photosport

22 - MARTY BANKS - 7

Looked lively, positioned himself well. Clutch kick to take the lead with just over five minutes to go turned out to be a winner, adding to his cult status.

23 - PATRICK OSBORNE - 6

Played his part competing for the ball then followed it up with a strong carry in a short stint on the field.

*Matt Richens has been a sports journalist for 11 years, is still mourning the Crusaders' loss to the Lions and was helped with the player ratings by mates Batesy and Lip.

Get the new RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs

We have regular online commentary of local and international sport.