The Highlanders handed the British and Irish Lions their second defeat of the tour, with a thrilling 23-22 victory in Dunedin.
A late penalty from Marty Banks gave the South Islanders a famous victory, after tries from Waisake Naholo and Liam Coltman put them into a winning position. The visitors held a slender advantage, before banks was on-target – while Lions attempts at the posts were waived away, and cost the team eventually.
It was an evening with several positives though for the British and Irish Lions. The coaching staff will be satisfied with the improvements in attack although frailties are still apparent with their discipline.
Whispers out of the visiting camp were that this XV was beginning to take the shape of a midweek team, with the absentees being rested for bigger games that lay ahead. But how did the men who took the field perform on Tuesday?
Sam Meade casts an eye over the match day squad.
Highlanders v British and Irish Lions, June 13 – Squad Ratings
Joe Marler 6/10
The Harlequins man is looking more and more like the third choice loosehead prop for the British and Irish Lions. Barely carried before being replaced by Jack McGrath in the second-half.
Rory Best 6/10
The Ireland captain looked more assured in the lineout when he was on the pitch after he was criticised for turning the ball over in the loss to the Blues. Still faces serious battle to start the first Test.
Kyle Sinckler 8/10
Did what you’d expect in the scrum but showed what separates him from Tadhg Furlong when he ran a beautiful line to scythe through the Highlanders defense.
Courtney Lawes 7/10
Had to be replaced after half an hour when he bumped off Waisake Naholo and suffered a blow to the head. Initially had been his usual self, carrying well and still looks an outside bet to start in the Tests.
Medical protocol might well see him rested for the next game, and possibly able to fight for a start in the midweek game against the Chiefs.
Iain Henderson 8/10
From early on was prepared to assume the responsibility of ball carrier. Only Stander carried more regularly and the Ulsterman was colossal in defence gaining some vital turnovers.
James Haskell 6/10
Made as many tackles as anyone in red which made up for his quiet game in attack. Didn’t get the opportunity to carry as much as he would’ve liked and made a couple of lacklustre handling errors.
Sam Warburton 7/10
Got himself on the score sheet but had a relatively quiet game otherwise by his standards and, despite being named captain, is by no means assured of a spot in the first Test.
CJ Stander 7/10
Carried more than any other man in red, although not always with the fruition he would hope. Nevertheless is a calming presence in and around the breakdown and allows his team to build phases in both attack and defence.
Rhys Webb 8/10
His battle with Conor Murray seems to constantly drive the other on. A strong performance after Murray’s impressive display on Saturday. Made some excellent breaks and effervescent in attack. Individualist nature sometimes too apparent.
Dan Biggar 7/10
Admitted during the week he is the British and Irish Lions third choice 10 but played with conviction in Dunedin. Helped again by his relationship with Webb but he put his backs in some good positions and was happy to take the ball to the line.
Robbie Henshaw 6/10
Appears to be losing his battle with Ben Te’o for the 12 shirt should Warren Gatland, as is expected, name a conventional centre at second receiver. Isn’t having the affect he usually has in a blue or green jersey.
Jonathan Joseph 8/10
Needed a big performance and he produced it. Scored the try which levelled the game up and continued to cut some beautiful lines. Carried excellently but did miss a couple of tackles.
The British and Irish Lions number 13 shirt is firmly up for grabs.
Tommy Seymour 7/10
Scored an opportunistic try which showed his aerial ability.
However Naholo opposing him showed the gulf between British and Irish Lions and New Zealand strength. Missed several key tackles and was beaten in the air more often than usual.
Jack Nowell 6/10
Starved of service but an improvement on his debut to forget against the Blues last week. Always keen to come off his wing in search of the ball but even then wasn’t able to fully impact the game as he would have liked.
Jared Payne 7/10
Reverted to fullback, after starting in midfield earlier in the tour [and due to Stuart Hogg injury] Payne looked more assured. Comfortable under the high ball in general, and reliable in defence until replaced in the second half.
Lions Total 104/150
The British and Irish Lions bench did not have the desired affect, with few players coming on to make a difference. Both Elliot Daly and Owen Farrell missed kicks when they came on that could have earned the British and Irish Lions victory. Unfair to rate them on that, but Daly looked eager to get a run.
Greg Laidlaw’s introduction slowed the pace of the game down, which may have counted against the visitors. In comparison to both Webb and Murray, the Scottish captain is lower down the ranks.
Alun Wyn Jones was allowed far more game time than he would’ve expected when he replaced Lawes but wasn’t able to affect the game.
Overall, it was a game for the taking. Three tries to two, but with missed kicks. Penalties hurt the visitors, as did the set piece. A huge scrum turnover by the Highlanders was evidence that emotion still plays a big part in rugby union.
The Lions next play the New Zealand Maori side in Rotorua on Saturday, June 17.
“Main photo credit”