By Matt Richens* @MattRichens
The Lions have lost in their second match of their 2017 tour, going down 22-16 to the Blues in Auckland. Matt Richens rates all the players.
Watch video highlights from the game here:
Lions v Auckland Blues, Eden Park, Auckland
Tour Match 2
Tour Match 1 ratings here
Lions 16 (CJ Stander, Leigh Halfpenny conv, 3 pens)
Blues 22 (Rieko Ioane, Sonny Bill Williams, Ihaia West tries, Stephen Perofeta conv, West conv, pen)
3 SONNY BILL WILLIAMS
2 STEVEN LUATUA
1 RIEKO IOANE/IHAIA WEST
BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS - 6/10
The Lions were much improved and more organised on defence than in the tour opener. They recycled well and worked harder at ruck and maul time, but still look short of options on attack.
Accusations of the Lions playing "Warrenball" and having few attacking options will surely grow after this.
They did the basics much better, but still plenty of room for improvement and you have to wonder if they can't sort it out quickly, where will another win come from?
They were much better at set-piece time, but a lack of line-breaking options and scoring options cost them.
They will be worried when they realise the Blues are the easiest of the last seven sides they play on this tour.
AUCKLAND BLUES - 8/10
The Blues showed more ticker than in Super Rugby derby games. Sonny Bill Williams and Steven Luatua were huge as the home side played the more clever footy.
They were outplayed at set-piece, but competed throughout and defended well, shutting down a Lions side short of ideas.
Three tries against the Lions was a good effort and conceding just the one probably more important.
It showed the other New Zealand teams how to beat the Lions, but on this form, just turning up might be enough for the Crusaders, Chiefs, Hurricanes, Highlanders, Māori and All Blacks.
PLAYER RATINGS - BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS
1 - Jack McGrath - 7/10
Big first half work-rate, made a heap of tackles and kept busy in the second half before being called to the pine. Part of an improved tight five.
2 - Ken Owens (c) 7/10
Good call early to go for the try, turning down kickable penalties. Hit his markers in the lineouts and did all his core roles well as part of a pack which asserted itself over its hosts.
3 - Dan Cole - 6/10
Buried his head in, tight, solid at scrum-time. Part of an improved performance in the tight five throughout.
4 - Mario Itoje - 7/10
Safe line-out option. Busy and ran with purpose. Did a lot on defence but not as brutal on attack as the hype around him suggests. Gave away a silly penalty with 30 minutes to go for West to increase the Blues' lead to five. Did a power of work throughout and had a bit of passion.
5 - Courtney Lawes - 6/10
Aggressive on defense and made plenty of tackles. Ran hard, straight and often and was an able lieutenant for Itoje at line-out time, including grabbing his side's only steal.
6 - James Haskell - 7/10
Had one barn-storming run and looked powerful in a performance that was spent mostly in the tight. Noticed his physicality for the most part, but tired before being benched.
7 - Justin Tipuric - 5/10
Made some metres, got his hands on the ball regularly but didn't have a stand-out performance and wasn't dominant as a retriever with only one steal.
8 - CJ Stander - 7/10
Scored the Lions' first try. The Saffa-born "Irishman" finished off a strong drive for their 19th minute opener. Plenty of tackles and the most metres by a Lion's forward.
9 - Rhys Webb - 7/10
Cleared quickly and with accuracy, ran with purpose - offered more than Laidlaw in Barbars game though that's not saying much. Kicked well, peeling off good metres.
10 - Dan Biggar - 6/10
Led the Lions rushed defense before being subbed in 35th minute for Sexton. His side would have been better with him on the field for longer.
11 - Elliot Daly - 5/10
A couple of runs, but a quiet first spell. One of the few to get across the advantage line and made a rare clean break.
12 - Robbie Henshaw - 6/10
Solid and dependable but didn't do a great deal with the good amount of ball he had. Looked a bit short of ideas in the face of some solid defence though that wasn't a problem unique to him.
13 - Jared Payne - 5/10
Let an early chance from a Blue's mistake slip. Should have scored early, but for a Perofeta tackle and poor execution from Lions' backs. Went off injured in the 47th minute. Tackled well though turned the ball over too often.
14 - Jack Nowell - 6/10
Looked for work early. Unlucky to knock the ball back when contesting one that led to SBW's try. A mistake early led to Ioane scoring Blues' first try but important tackle stopped him later. Made decent metres, too.
15 - Leigh Halfpenny - 7/10
Looked good given a chance. Beat a couple of defenders with ease and cover defence was fine. Way better than poor Stuart Hogg in game one. Showed his class kicking an important penalty to give the Lions the lead with nine minutes to play and was much more involved.
16 - Rory Best - 4/10
Came on just as the Lions' scrum stepped up with their side a man-down. Helped assert dominance and continued solid form of Owens. Made a crucial line-out mistake in the dying minutes.
17 - Joe Marler - 4/10
Part of an impressive scrum, but with his side on hot attack with three minutes to go, he got pinged for holding on.
18 - Kyle Sinckler - 6/10
Bit of chat late with Akira Ioane and was one of the first Lions to show some passion.
19 - Iain Henderson - 5/10
Came on late and didn't get a chance to do a lot.
20 - Peter O'Mahony - 5/10
Took the field with 25 minutes to play and didn't make much of an impression.
21 - Greig Laidlaw - 5/10
Came on late, didn't get a chance to make as many errors as in game one.
22 - Johnny Sexton - 5/10
Came on late in the first half - didn't make much of an impact. Did more with his mouth talking at the officials than anything else and wasn't even as good as coach Gatland's son in game one.
23 - Liam Williams - 3/10
Lucky he's not playing Super Rugby or might have got two red cards for his careless jumping. Was contesting, but still threw arms around Duffie. Got yellow carded with 25 to go leaving his side with an uphill battle.
PLAYER RATINGS - AUCKLAND BLUES
1 - Ofa Tu'Ungafasi - 6/10
Under pressure in the scrum led to one penalty that cost points. Tackled well and had plenty to make.
2 - James Parsons (c) - 7/10
Seemed assured at line-out time. Showed good speed to break out from own 22 and make a truck-load of metres. Led well especially from a pack that was outplayed.
3 - Charlie Faumuina - 5/10
Penalised to relieve pressure with Lions back on their own line. Scrum was never decimated but didn't always hold up. Expected more from an All Black with a jersey to play for.
4 - Gerard Cowley-Tuiotu - 5/10
Looked to make his presence felt on defense but was quiet in the line-out as Luatua dominated. Made few errors, just didn't excel. Strong enough game.
5 - Scott Scrafton - 5/10
Very quiet. Didn't make much of an impression and used sparingly at line-out times, again as Luatua took the most ball.
6 - Akira Ioane - 7/10
Busy on defence. Didn't stamp his authority on the first half but made up for it in the second half with some powerful runs and a match-high 14 tackles.
7 - Blake Gibson - 5/10
Didn't really impose himself on the game but did make a number of important tackles. Like Tipuric couldn't assert himself with turnovers.
8 - Steven Luatua - 9/10
Handy line-out option early, used multiple times. Looked interested and busy with a few notable surging runs as if he knew Steve Hansen was watching. Upped his usual workrate and led the loosies well in the absence of Jerome Kaino. Was a stand-out in a very mature performance and his off-load to SBW started the run for West's try.
9 - Augustine Pulu - 7/10
A couple of questionable decisions early on but looked busy without a lot of quality ball to work with. Snappy with the ball, igniting a couple of Blues attacks while also enjoying a clean break himself.
10 - Stephen Perofeta - 7/10
Nervous start though made a couple of clever kicks and a copy-book pass led to the first try. Was up and down, but not a bad first start. Try-saving tackle in the 11th minute. Missed two of his first three shots at goal, but one rebounded off the post to set-up Williams' try. Good signs.
11 - Rieko Ioane - 8/10
Scored the first try; got ball wide from Perofeta, but still had work to do. Showed good hands to almost score a second, denied by a hoof on the chalk. Racked up some handy metres, making two clean breaks and was solid throughout the second spell.
12 - Sonny Bill Williams - 9/10
Won an early penalty to stop early Lions' onslaught. Followed it up quickly with a couple of useful turnovers. Strong defensive display throughout. Showed off the trade-mark off-load a few times - one leading to a try - and even tried his hand at grubber-kicking. Showed desperation to score try late in the first half. Player of the match and genuinely impressive.
13 - George Moala - 4/10
Quiet first half, didn't get a lot of ball, but didn't really go looking either. Expected more and not an All Black performance. Outshone by SBW by plenty.
14 - Matt Duffie - 5/10
Made an early knock-on and a poor decision to take a quick lineout to himself and put the Blues under pressure. Took some big knocks, including a couple in the air and survived a concussion test and came back well. Didn't have a lot of ball in space to show his skills.
15 - Michael Collins - 7/10
Pin-point punt gained useful position in first half. Looks good returning the ball and clocked up plenty of metres - the most in the game with 84m.
16 - Epalahame Faiva - 4/10
Came on late, made a tackle and conceded a turn-over. Big boots to fill in Parsons.
17 - Alex Hodgman - 5/10
Made his physical presence felt in his 23 minutes with a handful of tackles. Wasn't as physical as Tu'ungafasi, but also faced up against a much improved Lions front row strengthened by the bench.
18 - Sione Mafileo - 5/10
Came on as part of a suite of changes with 20+ to go. Wasn't a stand-out. Scrum started to suffer as the game went on though not his fault alone.
19 - Jimmy Tupou - 5/10
On for 20+ minutes, made a few tackles and not too bad a showing for a bloke who only got called up at the 11th hour.
20 - Kara Pryor - 5/10
Wasn't a stand out during his 15 minute stint. Fresh legs and threw himself into plenty of rucks.
21 - Sam Nock - 5/10
Quiet few minutes at the end spent mainly defending, but did get the honour of kicking the ball out to end the game.
22 - Ihaia West - 8/10
Looked assured when he came on and got involved early. Will remember his impact for the rest of his life, twinkle toes and speed to score the match winner with five minutes left and landed a penalty and a conversion.
23 - Tinoai Faiane - 5/10
Came on briefly for Duffy and then again late in the second half for Moala. Quiet contribution but will be stoked to be part of a victory over the Lions; something Patrick Tuipulotu will regret missing out on.
* Matt Richens has been a sports journalist for 11 years, is the new president of the Mitchell Hunt fan club. He was helped doing the ratings by mates Nick and Phil.