Player ratings: Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes key for Lions in physical clash with Springboks

Lawes put himself about physically as you would have expected. Made some big tackles and was the primary lineout winner for the Lions
Player ratings: Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes key for Lions in physical clash with Springboks

British & Irish Lions' Courtney Lawes is tackled by Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi of South Africa. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan


Rory Sutherland – 6/10 Under pressure at the scrum and gave away two penalties. Made his tackles around the pitch but the Lions management would have been looking for more.

Luke Cowan-Dickie – 7/10 Started brightly with some good carries and solid lineout throwing. As the first half evolved the lineout disintegrated through system failures and some bad throws. Took his try well at the back of a strong Lions maul.

Tadhg Furlong – 8/10 The scrum was under pressure on the other side but Furlong showed why he is rated as one of the best tight heads in the world by winning penalties himself. Also played a big part in a strong Lions maul in the second half.

Maro Itoje – 9/10 Some huge moments in the first half to keep the Lions in the game. His battle against Peter Steph du Toit was worth the admission fee alone. Itoje won turnovers and made a nuisance of himself on Springbok ball.

British & Irish Lions' Maro Itoje is presented with the Castle Lager Lions Series Player of the Match. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland
British & Irish Lions' Maro Itoje is presented with the Castle Lager Lions Series Player of the Match. Picture: INPHO/Billy Stickland

As the caller he helped solve the lineout issues and it was fitting that it was his turnover at the end that ensured the Lions win.

Alun Wyn Jones – 8/10 The Lions version of Lazarus put in a huge defensive display and made some big calls early in the second half when turning down kicks at the posts to go down the line where the Lions scored from a driving maul. Possibly could have managed the referee better given the number of penalties the Springboks conceded without any warning of a card.

Courtney Lawes – 9/10 Put himself about physically as you would have expected. Made some big tackles and was the primary lineout winner for the Lions in the first half. In the second half he took on a much bigger role with ball in hand and made some barnstorming runs into the heart of the South African defence.

Tom Curry – 8/10 Was everywhere in the first half. Made his tackles, carried well and his support play as the Lions tried to move the ball wide was very important. Gave away some silly penalties which cost the Lions points.

Jack Conan – 7/10 A huge carrier for the Lions in the wide channels, where he made significant yards when he did get the ball. His main problem was that he didn’t see enough of the ball.

Ali Price – 7/10 Was under pressure at the base of the ruck because of the Springboks physicality. Moved the ball at speed when it was on and he was a main part of the Lions tactic to keep the ball in play.

Dan Biggar – 8/10 His tactical kicking was excellent, putting the Boks under pressure to exit their own half. Show glimpses of what he can do in attack including a beautiful take and pass to allow Henshaw’s line break. His goal kicking was excellent with the only blot on his copybook being the one pulled late in the first half.

Duhan van der Merwe – 7/10 His work on kick chase was excellent but like Watson on the other wing his chances with ball in hand were limited. Was targeted by the Springboks under the high ball but they didn’t get much change out of him. Always a willing heavy carry option into a well set defensive line.

Robbie Henshaw – 7/10 Like De Allende he carried strongly to give his team front foot ball and a platform to set their kicking game.

British & Irish Lions' Robbie Henshaw comes up against Pieter-Steph du Toit of South Africa. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
British & Irish Lions' Robbie Henshaw comes up against Pieter-Steph du Toit of South Africa. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Made his tackles and showed that once he was given a chance in space he could make a line break.

Elliot Daly – 5/10 Was obviously picked in the initial touring squad with playing 13 in the Tests to allow the Lions try to go around the outside of the South African defence. That may have been the plan but today wasn’t Daly’s day. Am won the battle of the outside centres and apart from giving away a few penalties he had little impact on the game.

Anthony Watson – 6/10 Suffered from not seeing much of the ball except when the South Africans kicked it to him. He showed some good cover play and positive intention when the Springboks did kick deep to him. When he did get the ball he showed what he can do with ball in hand.

Stuart Hogg – 6/10 Was under pressure in the air at times due to the Springbok tactical kicking, but it was Hoggs own kicking game and huge boot that helped the Lions win the kicking and territory battle at vital points in the game.

Replacements: Ken Owens and Mako Vunipola both came on early in the second half and made a huge difference at scrum time to give the Lions a platform. Hamish Watson was lucky to stay on the pitch when he lifted Willie Le Roux beyond parallel. Conor Murray and Owen Farrell came on, and despite a few scary moments they helped the Lions play a more territorial game and their game management in the closing period was vital to the win.

South Africa

Ox Nche – 6/10 Started the game well and put in some huge carries. Was under pressure from Furlong at scrum time as the half went on and was replaced at half time.

Bongi Mbonambi – 7/10 Part of a very strong Springbok lineout in the first half but was popped a number of times in the scrum due to his loosehead being under pressure. Made a big impression with ball in hand.

Trevor Nyakane – 7/10 Won an early scrum penalty against Sutherland and didn’t seem unduly tested at the set piece. Won a great jackal turnover before the entire starting front row were replaced at half time.

Eben Etzebeth – 7/10 A huge physical presence in the Springbok defensive line and he made life difficult for the Lions at the breakdown. He made some huge hits and was a constant threat to the Lions lineout.

Franco Mostert – 5/10 A quiet day for Mostert who failed to impact the game. His decision making around the ruck led to turnovers at crucial points and the South African management may well be rueing the loss of RG Snyman.

Siya Kolisi – 6/10 Like the team themselves he started well, with some big carries especially in the wider channels. As the game wore on he drifted out of the game slightly and could do little to stem the Lions comeback. One has to wonder how much of an impact a lack of game time for their preparation and Covid had on the captain and the team overall.

Pieter-Steph du Toit– 8/10 A huge performance from the Springboks blindside. Got through a mountain of work in defence both in the tackle and at the ruck. Showed his athleticism in the second when he recovered a stray pass inside his own half, sidestepped a number of Lions defenders, offloaded to Mapimpi and was the first chaser of the ensuing kick close to the Lions try line.

Kwagga Smith– 6/10 Pre-match his role in the wider channels was thought to be key, but the Lions managed him very well. He carried well out wide but the Lions targeted him from kick offs and while he carried well in the wider channels the Springboks were obviously missing Duane Vermeulen and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go with Jasper Weise for the next test.

Faf de Klerk – 7/10 He had an armchair ride for a lot of the first half and was able to use his kicking game to win territory and pin the Lions back into their own half. Once the Springboks started to lose the collisions his influence understandably diminished.

Handre Pollard – 6/10 Along with his half-back and full-back partners he helped the Springboks control territory and landed all four of his penalties in the first half. You can’t help but think that the missed conversion and penalty in the second half may have changed the nature of the game slightly.

Makazole Mapimpi – 6/10 He didn’t have much chance in attack but when he did he showed his true class. Always looking to exploit space when he had the ball in hand but he spent most of the evening chasing kicks.

Damian de Allende – 7/10 Such a strong carrier and always offered front foot ball to his team. Very lucky to have his try called back for an earlier knock. Along with Am he controlled the midfield and didn’t allow the Lions very many attacking options.

Lukhanyo Am – 7/10 The midfield general for the Springboks and he helped shut down the Lions attacking intentions in the wider channels, including one thundering tackle on Elliot Daly.

Cheslin Kolbe – 6/10 Like his back three colleagues he didn’t have many chances to shine with ball in hand. He was targeted under the high ball by the Lions but passed the test. The pre match hype of Kolbe’s match up against Scottish international but South African born winger Duhan van der Merve turned into a no show with both players starved of the ball.

Willie le Roux – 7/10 A strong performance from one of South Africa’s most underrated players. His kicking game helped pin the Lions deep in their own territory during the first half and with the Lions keeping the ball in play with the exit kicks he was able to show his speed and footwork in transition. Very unlucky to be forced off due to the tackle from Hamish Watson.

Replacements: The “Bomb Squad” were the much vaunted difference in a number of crucial Rugby World Cup victories for the Springboks, but today it was the Lions who won the battle of the bench. The replacement front row of Kitshoff, Malherbe and Marx failed to make any impression and lost a series of key scrum battles. De Jager and Elstadt couldn’t match the physicality of the Lions pack and the backs' replacements had no platform to play. This will be a significant worry for Jacques Neinaber for the remaining games.

More in this section

Price info

Subscribe to unlock unlimited digital access.
Cancel anytime.

Terms and conditions apply


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox