As the dust settles after a titanic battle at Eden Park, leaving the series locked in a stalemate, we ask: which Lions and All Black players enhanced their reputations during the tough New Zealand tour?
We take a look at the performances of the Test players on each side in the drawn series.
Deservedly won many Player of the Series plaudits after a rock solid tour in which he combined excellent defence with powerful attacking runs. Singled out as one of Warren Gatland’s ‘favourites’ before the series, he let his play to his talking and won the debate.
In the first 15 minutes of the third Test, it seemed to be the All Blacks vs Itoje as he made one of the most impressive starts to a Test by a forward seen on New Zealand shores. His performance tapered off a little after that but overall, he showed why there’s real substance behind the hyperbole that surrounds his play.
Really grew into the series after trying to overplay his hand a little in the first Test. Made some big bruising runs and while he didn’t dominate in the scrums, the platform was solid enough.
Consistently dangerous and involved throughout the series. Should perhaps invest in some new boot studs, but was always a threat when he managed to maintain his footing. Showed he is more than just a finisher.
Perhaps a touch unlucky to lose his starting place after probably being the standout performer in the first Test loss. Te’o ran powerfully all tour and took care of the offloading threat of Sonny Bill Williams in the first Test.
Incredibly industrious in tackling and while his attacking drives didn’t eat up as many metres as his All Black opposite, he was in no way dominated.
Not the most likeable of players, but came up with some big plays off the bench during the series, none more so than his milking of a penalty in the second half of the third Test.
Some excellent passing to open up channels of attack during the series, brave tackling and his goalkicking returned to its usual metronomic self. However, he made two first half errors, throwing the pass which Beauden Barrett intercepted when the Lions were hot on attack and made another poor play thwarting a promising counter-attack. Not terrible, but not top drawer either.
His box kicks were precise, and his sniping runs returned in the second Test but few could say that Murray’s form was as good as his previous two Tests in Chicago and Dublin against the All Blacks. Just seemed to be lacking the sharpness in pace and confidence to back himself and his killer instincts.
Made a few blistering breaks but was also prone to a few whoopsies under the high ball and slipped off a few tackles against Ioane and Savea.
Busy around the field giving the Lions more mobility and competitiveness at the breakdown and in discussions with the referees.
A few nice connections in counterattacks but generally not as threatening as expected after his strong Six Nations form. Landed a monster penalty at a crucial time in the third Test.
Some strong support play and good pace around the park shown in spectacular style in his try of the series in the first Test.
A strong second Test but less influential in the third, as he found it hard to recover from an early knock.
Alun Wyn Jones
Strong tackling but seemed to be rocked backwards every time he carted the ball up.
Some discipline problems in the second Test and didn’t seem to be at peak fitness.
A few wobbly throws at key moments in the third Test, and generally didn’t show up much during the series.
Like Maro Itoje, Jordie Barrett showed that where there’s smoke, there’s fire as he lived up to the media hype concerning his potential. Set up one try and scored another, won two kick-offs and was defensively sound.
A couple of errors crept into his play in the second half, but overall an incredibly assured performance, which must guarantee him at least a bench spot for the upcoming Rugby Championship.
Laumape showed he is much more than a mini-tank in the third Test, scoring the first try and making a sumptuous offload to set up the All Blacks’ second.
Has the vision and skill to operate under high pressure and pace. Sonny Bill Williams may struggle to make it back into the Test side if Laumape can retain this form.
A monster first Test and while he didn’t hit quite the same heights in the second and third, he always made metres going forward and provided his usual brittle defence.
Was expected to struggle against Furlong and co. in the scrums, but probably came out on top overall. Good stamina and tackling and it was nice to see his discipline problems from last season not reemerge.
Regained his position as starting halfback and noticeably was kept on until very late in the third Test, showing Steve Hansen’s respect for his decision-making abilities. Usual snappy delivery and improving length on clearing kicks but not so many darts in his running game.
Not as influential after the first Test, but he was much fresher and more aggressive in his running than last season.
Consistent, hardworking involvement throughout the series, especially after Kaino was benched in the second Test.
Not quite as spectacular as last season, but some impressive moments such as his connection linking Laumape and Jordie Barrett for the second try. Has some special skills and seems on the brink of catching fire this season.
Consistent strong man play in the series. Definitely not dominated by the opposing front row and the All Blacks scrum was noticeably weaker when he was benched.
Good showing filling some pretty esteemed hooker boots in the series. His catch off his bootlaces to score in the first Test the undoubted highlight of his series.
His stocks skyrocketed in his two-try blitz in the first Test, but an anonymous second Test showed that consistency remains the biggest challenge for the outrageously talented Ioane brothers.
Hardworking and consistent with few errors and also a few standout moments.
He didn’t play badly but, equally, Barrett didn’t play like the World Player of the Year either. His placekicking went from flawless in the first Test back to flaky in the third and his running game never really caught fire as it was swallowed up by the Lions’ rush defense. Some useful cross kicks and distribution though.
A strong first Test but his form and confidence fell away a touch after that. His move back to the wing was a telling sign of Hansen’s confidence in his form.
When Savea had the ball in the third Test he made a lot of metres. However, the problems he had with his hands blew a few very promising All Black attacking raids, and he must be worried about slipping down the All Black pecking order for the Rugby Championship.
Seems frustrated to have lost his starting position and more memorable for his mouthing off to the referee than his play.
Sonny Bill Williams and Jerome Kaino
It is all too easy to bag SBW and Kaino for their moments of ill-discipline, which proved crucial to the outcomes of the second and third Tests. Split second reactions can have huge consequences and while both players’ actual form was good, it is those moments of indiscretion which will live on in the memories of fans and perhaps selectors.
Ben Smith, Ryan Crotty & Waisake Naholo
A little unfair to put Ben Smith in this category given he only played 20 minutes of the first Test before being sidelined with suspected concussion. However, he, Crotty and Naholo’s injury issues seem to be reaching a point where Steve Hansen’s patience and compassion must be wearing thin.
Aaron Cruden and Charlie Faumuina
Off to France after chalking up 50 caps apiece. Not especially memorable farewell performances in otherwise impressive All Black careers.
Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena
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Read More About: aaron smith, all black coach steve hansen, Anthony Watson, Anton Lienert Brown, beauden barrett, Ben Smith, Brodie Rettalick, Codie Taylor, conor murray, Eliot Daly, Jamie George, Jerome Kaino, Joe Moody, Jonathan Davies, jonathan sexton, jordie barrett, kieran read, liam williams, lion head coach warren gatland, lions tour, Mako Vunipola, Ngani Laumape, owen farrell, Owen Franks, Rieko Ioane, Ryan Crotty, sam cane, sam warburton, sam whitelock, SBW, Tadhg Furlojng, TJ Perenara