The Lions fell to a brave Highlanders outfit today in Dunedin. Here, we take a look at three winners and three losers from the clash.
What a showing from the Harlequins tighthead. The prop was effective at scrum-time and immense in the loose, punching holes in the opposition defence. His absence at the set-piece was telling in the final stages.
Just a number of months ago, he wasn’t even in the conversation to be brought on tour. Now he is giving Warren Gatland a headache regarding the Test 23.
It was a tidy performance from the Welsh scrum-half, as he battles with Conor Murray for a starting berth. The decision will not come down to form, as both are performing well, but rather a stylistic angle from Gatland’s point of view.
However, today Webb was one of the real performers.
Without setting the world alight, the Ulster lock was lively throughout the tie, and offers a genuine alternative in a hugely competitive second row set-up.
His ability to play in the back row will certainly stand to him should he be considered for a Test squad.
The captain led by example with his try, when the Lions were struggling for penetration phase-after-phase in the Highlanders 22, but overall it was a disappointing showing, particularly in the first half.
Is he in danger of missing out on a starting berth? Possibly so. This can’t have been a display which wowed Gatland, and the tour captain’s place to face the All Blacks is in doubt.
Laidlaw didn’t do a lot wrong when he replaced Webb, but it is clear that he is not at the same level of his Irish and Welsh opponents for the number 9 shirt.
At this point, it appears that injury to Webb or Murray could be the only ways the Scottish captain will get near the Test squad.
The Ulster fullback was a surprise inclusion in the touring party, but his versatility was recognised as a string to his bow.
With Stuart Hogg being ruled out through injury, Payne had a real chance to make an impression from fullback today, but failed to seize his chance.
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