Lions player ratings: Itoje and Lawes shine in opening Test triumph


he British and Irish Lions took a 1-0 lead in their three-match series against South Africa after producing a strong second-half display to defeat the reigning world champions 22-17 in Saturday evening’s First Test in Cape Town.

Standard Sport’s rugby correspondent Will Macpherson assesses the individual performances from Warren Gatland’s side in a memorable opener.

Has waited so long for a Lions Test start, but this performance was neither here nor there. As ever, was exciting with ball in hand – but not as convincing under the high ball as is required.

Just a class act. Some excellent early carries, especially in his own 22. The Lions’ most threatening back.

It was hard work for Daly in his first start at outside centre in a Test match since 2016. Absolutely melted by Lukhanyo Am in the fourth minute, then back on the field in the dying minutes, he failed to secure a key kick-off.

Short on game time going into the Test. Brilliant break on the brink of the break, but spilled under pressure from Willie le Roux. Just adds a touch of quality to the Lions’ midfield, and is an absolute warrior.

11 Duhan van der Merwe – 7

Absolutely justified his selection. Chased well, ran hard. Provided presence.

Not at his best with the boot, missing a very simple kick from the left that would have provided the Lions three more. Generally did well, having not played for a couple of weeks.

Another who had a solid outing after a controversial selection. Provided energy.

A late call-up after Wyn Jones’ injury. Did a job until Vunipola came on, part of the effort to win one scrum penalty and lose another.

The Lions’ lineout was perhaps not as reliable as they would have hoped. But scored a trademark try and had a generally positive day.

4 Maro Itoje – 9 | Star man

Pair of massive first-half turnovers on Kwagga Smith, then – somehow – lifted his game after the break. An outstanding performance, and a simple player of the match decision.

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