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British & Irish Lions Watch

Sun, May 21, 2017, Posted by   print

2007 World Cup

10:11 AM BST

Warren Gatland will be without just 11 of his British & Irish Lions contingent this week after an intriguing weekend of playoff action in the Aviva Premiership, PRO12 and Top 14.

Jack Nowell and Elliot Daly are the only tourists who will be involved in next week’s Premiership final while Leigh Halfpenny faces La Rochelle in Toulon’s Top 14 semifinal.

Conor Murray, CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony [all Munster] and Ken Owens, Jonathan Davies and Liam Williams [all Scarlets] face-off in the PRO12 showpiece.

And with dust settled on the semifinals, we take a look at how Gatland’s men faired over the course of the weekend.

BACKS

Exeter Chiefs’ Jack Nowell, scrum hat, elebrates with Gareth Steenson, left, after scoring a try against Saracens. Steve Bardens/Getty Images

Leigh Halfpenny (Toulon) 9/10

Halfpenny put in a man of the match performance as Toulon reached the Top 14 last four. He kicked three penalties and a conversion before adding a superb finish to grab a try with 15 minutes remaining to put Toulon in front. After receiving the ball from Ma’a Nonu, he beat Robert Ebersohn and Benjamin Urdapilleta on the outside to score. He then added a penalty which sealed the victory.

Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs) 8/10

Immense in attack and defence. After making a telling tackle on Billy Vunipola in midfield, chased back to cover a Saracens kick through and touch down before the onrushing Chris Wyles. Drew tacklers every time he got on the ball and scored his side’s first try.

Elliot Daly (Wasps) 6/10

Daly was kept relatively quiet by the Leicester Tigers’ defence, and find it hard to find space in possession. He missed two tackles but managed to win a turnover and was on the end of a wayward lineout. Will hope to improve in the Premiership final against Exeter.

Robbie Henshaw (Leinster) 5/10

A poor knock on early set the tone for Henshaw’s night. He offers so much more than the battering ram style which he might be expected to execute in New Zealand. Was easily sold a step inside by Scott Williams which led to Gareth Davies’ try. A nice pop pass led to a penalty for the tip-tackle on Garry Ringrose but overall was well below his best.

George North (Northampton Saints) 7/10

North made a 50-metre break in the second half which deserved an end product, but was stopped when Ben Foden was put in touch. Connacht put in kicks behind North which he coped with without much hassle but Gatland won’t be too impressed with North facing up against a brutal Stade Francais defence next week.

Liam Williams (Scarlets) 8/10

With six points between them and Leinster having just scored a try, Williams settled any nerves with two penalties. Tthe Scarlets led 7-3 when Leinster’s Luke McGrath made a break after picking up a loose Scarlets pass on halfway, but Williams chased back to put in a try-saving tackle on the scrum-half five metres from his own line. He then managed to turn the ball over excellently.

Jonathan Davies (Scarlets) 8/10

It was a huge night for Davies and perhaps he showed Gatland enough to start in the centre for the Lions. He showed class in defence and attack to help Scarlets to victory. A nice little offload in the lead up to Gareth Davies’ try and a decent shift put in in defence.

Dan Biggar (Ospreys) 4/10

A solitary penalty from Biggar was hardly a paltry return and he missed an effort just after the half hour that would have pushed Scarlets back in front. Managed two turnovers in a decent defensive effort but more was expected. A knock on on the Munster 22 let the Irish Province off the hook. It was a day to forget for the Welsh halfback.

Jonathan Sexton (Leinster) 4/10

Sexton was a mere bystander as Scarlets defeated Leinster in their own backyard. A needless forward pass inside four minutes saw a Nacewa try chalked out. His kicking and handling were poor as errors crept in. Puts his body on the line so often in the tackle and at the breakdown, but won’t be able to take the same physical beating in New Zealand or it will be a short tour.

Owen Farrell (Saracens) 6/10

Farrell kicked aimlessly twice early on before kicking a monster penalty from 50 metres. Had one pass intercepted that was lucky to go unpunished and was left for dead by Phill Dollman in the lead up to Jack Nowell’s try. Not being involved in a final will give him a break of sorts and looks like the Lions leading 10.

Conor Murray (Munster) 8/10

Quick hands from Murray released Keith Earls for the Simon Zebo try which killed the game off. He blocked down a box kick from Brendon Leonard early on and provided a sweet reverse pass for Earls in the build up to the opening try. Sniped well around the breakdown but there was an anxious moment when Murray was down holding his arm with half an hour remaining and he should have been pulled ashore earlier, with the game won.

FORWARDS

Saracens’ Billy Vunipola goes down injured during the Aviva Premiership semi final against Exeter Chiefs. Steve Bardens/Getty Images

Jack McGrath (Leinster) 5/10

McGrath was replaced after less than a quarter of an hour and didn’t look comfortable as he exited. Warren Gatland will be sweating over his fitness with Leinster coach Leo Cullen admitting afterwards that he may need an X-ray.

Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers) 6/10

Part of a Leicester pack that found the going tough at the Ricoh Arena. Put in an impressive shift defensively to help put the Tigers in touching distance of the final, but ultimately is now free to concentrate his energy on earning a place in Gatland’s Test team.

Tadhg Furlong (Leinster) 6/10

Did a superb skip pass early on from a breakdown and made a few good carries, but he left the field after an hour of Leinster’s defeat to Scarlets having not had the impact that has become expected. Cullen insisted it was for cramp and he should be good to go for the Lions.

Mako Vunipola (Saracens) 5/10

Conceded the first scrum penalty of Saracens’ defeat to Exeter and would give up two more before the final whistle. Was is usual effective self in the loose but three missed tackles told the story of a disappointing afternoon.

Jamie George (Saracens) 6/10

He lost his first lineout, conceded a penalty and left four minutes after the restart but still put in a huge 14 tackles while on the pitch. Also won a good turnover but it looked as though he wasn’t as effective as usual as he conceded two penalties.

Maro Itoje (Saracens) 7/10

One concern is the number of missed tackles by Itoje [four this week]. He brilliantly delayed his pass, drawing Jack Nowell, before putting in Chris Wyles to score the first Saracens try and will be a key figure in Gatland’s plans for the All Blacks.

George Kruis (Saracens) 5/10

Kruis won the first penalty at the breakdown to get Sarries on the scoreboard but it was largely a day to forget. Was a threat with his carrying, but four missed tackles wasn’t good enough.

Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys) 6/10

Jones got his first 80 minutes under his belt since injuring his shoulder against France on March 18. It wasn’t a memorable one as the Ospreys fell to defeat but he can now focus on the Lions.

Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) 9/10

Lawes put in a man of the match performance as Northampton defeated Connacht to reach the Champions Cup playoff final. Lawes and Louis Picamoles put in a brilliant tackle at the death as Connacht looked for a way back into the game. Solid performance.

Justin Tipuric (Ospreys) 6/10

Tipuric put in a big shift as the Ospreys’ top tackler at Munster. He also provided two nice offloads and made two line breaks, but as his team failed to make early dominance count on the scoreboard, his focus now turns to the Lions.

Billy Vunipola (Saracens) 7/10

Made a mistake early on, taking Chris Wyles out after an Exeter box kick but made up for that with a line break inside 10 minutes that perhaps should have resulted in a try and then made a try-saving tackle on Thomas Waldrom.

CJ Stander (Munster) 7/10

Was not his usual barnstorming self with ball in hand — making just eight metres on 12 carries — but put in a monumental shift in defence, putting in 19 tackles. One more game before he can meet up with the Lions.

Peter O’Mahoney (Munster) 5/10

A quiet game by his own standards as he missed three of eight attempted tackles and conceded a couple of penalties. Munster got the job done emphatically nevertheless and he will hope for better in the final.

Source Article from http://www.espn.co.uk/rugby/story/_/id/19425150/british-irish-lions-watch-ahead-their-tour-new-zealand-face-all-blacks

British & Irish Lions Watch

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