Byrne best of poor bunch

Keo.co.za brings you the Lions’ player ratings from the tour opener in Rustenburg.

15 Lee Byrne(8/10) - In just his second match since Wales’ Six Nations decider against Ireland, Byrne initially took time to adjust to the pace of the game. He tried unsuccessfully to counter from his own 22 in the first quarter and his hands let him down on attack on a couple of occasions, but was largely solid under the high ball. He was the biggest danger in the backline and got stronger as the game wore on, while his siege-gun boot will also be a danger for the Springboks come Test time.

14 Tommy Bowe(6/10) – Ireland’s Ospreys winger threw a shaky pass early on but ran a good line for the Lions’ first try of the tour. Other than that he was extremely quiet and his inability to look for work wouldn’t have impressed Ian McGeechan and co.

13 Keith Earls (4/10) – The youngest member of the squad had a day to forget. The 21-year-old dropped a simple pass from a turnover in the first 15 minutes and never fully recovered. He lost possession twice in the following five minutes, with the third one from an up-and-under leading to Wilhelm Koch’s opening try.

12 Jamie Roberts(7/10) – He was repeatedly used to get over the  advantage line and with his 106kg frame he did so effectively. He successfully beat the first tackler on most occasions and always looked to offload.

11 Shane Williams  (4/10) - The IRB Player of the Year had a quiet opening half as his side failed to put him into space with decent possession. His lack of a solid kicking game meant he tried too hard to run from deep, which put his side under unnecessary pressure, while he also botched two tries with the line beckoning. The first came from his poor pass, which dribbled into touch, and the second as he lost control of the ball over the line.

10 Ronan O’Gara(6/10) - O’Gara scored a try and slotted five kicks from five, but all barring the second last one were straight forward. He put in a neat pass for Bowe’s try but in the first half he failed to produce his effective kicking game. In the second stanza he used the boot more often but the standard was still not up to his expectations. His frail defence was also exposed in the build up the Royals’ third try.

9 Mike Blair(5/10) – His first kick of the game was charged down and his tactical use of the boot didn’t allow his chasers to compete. He also initially struggled with the harassing Sarel Pretorius at the back of the scrum. He did well to pressure Pretorius late in the first half, but should have scored when he had the chance.

8 David Wallace (5/10) – The Irishman was a late replacement for Andy Powell, who cried off with an insect bite, and he struggled with basics of eighthman play. He repeatedly failed to protect Blair at the back of the scrum as he wasn’t in his favoured position and was generally quiet.

7 Martyn Williams(6/10) – The only true opensider in the Lions squad forced the first penalty with his good work at the breakdown. But all in all the visitors didn’t have it all their own way at the breakdown, with Williams failing to set the tone effectively.

6 Joe Worsely(6/10) – Worsely had a workmanlike game doing the basics efficiently. However, his major strength will be highlighted when his side has more defending to do.

5 Paul O’Connell (7/10) – It started poorly in his captaincy debut for the Lions, as he allowed a team-mate to take a quick tap with points on offer. But he grew in stature as the game progressed and carried the ball manfully. It would have been a worrying sign however, as his pack were bullied in the opening stages.

4 Simon Shaw (4/10) -The giant lock was picked for his physicality but was largely absent in the opening stanza. As the game wore on the 36-year-old didn’t seem to have the legs to go the full 80.

3 Adam Jones(6/10) – The woolly-haired Welshman was better than Sheridan at scrum-time and also completed his all-round duties solidly. 

2 Matthew Rees(4/10) – With Jerry Flannery’s injury, it was Rees’s chance to stake a claim. Two haphazard throws robbed his team of momentum, while the second lost ball with his team on attack set the platform for Rayno Barnes’s try. He also lost a crucial 5m scrum ball five minutes before half-time with his team poised to score, proving his set-piece frailties.

1 Andrew Sheridan(4/10) – The much vaunted Englishman carried the ball well, but struggled to dominate as expected at the set-piece against Bees Roux. He certainly didn’t cement a Test spot with Gethin Jenkins waiting in the wings.

16 Lee Mears – Not on long enough to be judged.

17 Phil Vickery – Not on long enough to be judged.

18 Alun-Wyn Jones(6/10) – The Welsh lock was used in the final 15 minutes and delivered the match-winning score to avoid an upset.

19 Jamie Heaslip – Not on long enough to be judged.

20 Mike Phillips – As above.

21 Stephen Jones – As above.

22 Riki Flutey – As above.

By Grant Ball, at Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace