British & Irish Lions
Report Card: How did the Lions rate?
Huw Baines
July 4, 2009

The British & Irish Lions can head home with their heads held high after a fascinating 2-1 Test series loss to the Springboks, and there were some performances to savour from the men in red. Here's our verdict on the squad that came together to take part in a memorable tour.

Coaching Staff: Ian McGeechan and Gerald Davies went all out to restore the Lions' ethos on this tour, and did so by commendably immersing the players in local culture. On the field, their Lions were brave and competitive, but let down by poor selections in the first Test.

Warren Gatland's forwards were out scrummed and out mauled in the opener, while Shaun Edwards' much-vaunted defence was punctured on first phase twice in the second Test. Rob Howley created an incisive set of backs however, and the coaching staff will look back on the tour as a missed opportunity. B

Paul O'Connell (capt) - Overshadowed by Victor Matfield in the lineout, the Lions skipper nevertheless fought with all he had in the tumultuous Test series. Unfortunately for him he will be remembered as a losing captain. B+

Lee Byrne - The Wales fullback will be bitterly disappointed to have missed out on the second and third Tests due to a thumb injury, but in the early stages of the tour he showed why he's one of the most feared fullbacks in the world game. B

Rob Kearney - Took his chance magnificently when Byrne was injured, absolutely stunning under the high ball, dangerous in attack and rock solid in defence. A

Leigh Halfpenny - One of the many injury casualties, Halfpenny only made one appearance - in a stuttering win over the Cheetahs. He joined the squad late due to his thigh problem, and will dearly hope to get another shot in a Lions jersey in the future. C

Ugo Monye - It seems unfair to single out Monye's two spurned opportunities in the first Test, but that's the way it is. If they had been taken, who knows what would have happened? Redeemed himself to an extent with his interception in the third Test. B-

Shane Williams - The diminutive Wales winger struggled throughout the early stages of the tour, failing to find his scintillating form of 2008. Scored a brace to set the Lions on their way in the third Test, and will be hoping that he's back on track. B

Luke Fitzgerald - Unfortunately for the young Irishman his tour will always be linked to his treatment at the hands of Schalk Burger, but elsewhere he looked quick and willing. Struggled in his one start in the centre and will need to work on his kicking game however. B

Tommy Bowe - Absolutely vital to the Lions' effort in the early matches, but fell away slightly in the Test series. Showed versatility in filling in at the centre in the final match however, and can look back on a fine tour. A-

Brian O'Driscoll - Almost an auxiliary skipper, BOD was at his combative best during the first two Tests and relished his partnership with Jamie Roberts. Set up Tom Croft's first try in the first Test and went to-to-toe with Victor Matfield in the second, a huge effort to close a magnificent season. A

Jamie Roberts - Deserved his place on the pitch for the final win, as did O'Driscoll, but will not let his injury cloud memories of a stunning impact on tour. In a position that was up for debate he slammed the door shut after his brace against the Golden Lions, and arrived on the international stage. A

Riki Flutey - Struggled with injury early on and was frozen out by the O'Driscoll/Roberts axis, took his chance well in the final Test and laid on an excellent try for Williams. B

Keith Earls - Endured a nightmare opening game but showed some nice touches in later tour matches, perhaps too inexperienced to have threatened for a Test place but will return from tour a better player. B-

Gordon D'Arcy - Arrived as injury cover and failed to hit his top form. Enjoyed a difficult afternoon against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth and never realistically threatened the Test reckoning. C

Stephen Jones - The Welsh fly-half ruled the roost this series after taking a back-seat to Jonny Wilkinson in 2005, kicking well and orchestrating play magnificently. His miracle pass to set up Rob Kearney and a record equalling 20 points in the second Test capped perhaps his best international performance. A

Ronan O'Gara - The Ireland fly-half is comfortable in the red of Munster but has never managed to emulate that form in the red of the Lions. His mistake in the closing seconds of the second Test gave Morne Steyn his chance to win the series, something that won't quickly be forgotten. C

James Hook - He was unfortunate not to feature as a replacement in the Test series, and will cite his head injury sustained against the Kings as a big reason why. Was guilty of a loose kick that handed a draw to the Emerging Boks but will take home a special memory in his winning kick against Western Province. B

Mike Phillips - Combative, powerful and heroic, Phillips was one of the best performers in the Test series. He rediscovered the form that he had shown in Wales' 2008 Grand Slam and will be a better player for his duel with Springboks counterpart Fourie du Preez. A

Harry Ellis - Always a feisty competitor, Ellis nevertheless suffered against the breakdown-savvy South Africans. His pace of delivery was just a bit slow in comparison to Phillips, but will have enjoyed his cameo role in the third Test. B

Mike Blair - The Scotland skipper replaced the unfortunate Tomas O'Leary and never made the impact desired on tour. Touted as a Test starter at the start of the year, he failed to stake a claim for the final games of the tour. C

Gethin Jenkins - Denied his chance to claim a sixth straight Lions Test cap by his fractured cheekbone, Jenkins' workrate and breakdown work was first-rate throughout. Secured a memorable tackle on Bryan Habana in the first Test. A

Andrew Sheridan - A powerful presence in the third Test, some negativity at the breakdown left Sheridan out in the cold for the opening Test and his carrying ability couldn't convince the selectors that he should usurp Jenkins. Still, a strong effort. B

Lee Mears - Looked for all the world like the Test hooker after the tour games, suffered under pressure from the Springboks scrum in the first Test and never reappeared in the remaining Tests. Size does matter, it seems. B-

Matthew Rees - Doubts remain about his throwing at the set piece, but the Welsh hooker provided extra weight to the Lions' front-row and finished with three Test caps due to his boisterous work around the field. B

Ross Ford - A late call-up due to an injury to Jerry Flannery, Ford won the only Scottish Test cap in the series and his extra bulk was welcome following injury to Rees in the third Test. B-

Phil Vickery - Another who was an automatic Test selection in most eyes, Vickery was mauled by Tendai Mtawrira in the first Test - giving away a good number of the penalties that lost the game for the Lions. Redeemed himself to a degree in the third Test. B-

Euan Murray - Had his tour ended by injury before the Tests, but seemed unlikely to feature after mainly playing a supporting role. Will be disappointed after an excellent season with Scotland and Northampton. C

Adam Jones - One of the most popular characters in the camp, Jones' effort in the second Test will remain an abiding memory for fans. Unfortunate to suffer a severe injury in that game, but still quite turnaround from his early years with Wales under Steve Hansen. A

Alun-Wyn Jones - Perhaps too slight a figure in the first Test, Jones is nevertheless a name for the future and already touted as Wales captain. Won three Test caps and will return a stronger player. B

Simon Shaw - The veteran lock finally got his chance in a Lions Test in Pretoria, putting in a magnificent performance. Blotted his copybook in the third Test with a sin-binning and citing however. A-

Donncha O'Callaghan - Failed to find his best form on tour, but served the Test side well in shoring up the scrum in the first Test. B-

Nathan Hines - His ban for a dangerous tackle against the Emerging Boks effectively ended his hopes of a Test appearance, but his physicality around the field had placed him in the mix early on. B-

Joe Worsley - Too upright in the tackle at times and was shown up at openside in the tour games, Worsley recovered well in winning his first Test cap in the final Test. B-

Tom Croft - A puzzling omission from the original squad, Croft seized his opportunity well and bagged a brace in the first Test. Still only 23, expect him to have future impact in a red shirt. A-

Stephen Ferris - Looked likely to force his way in to the Test side early on, but had his tour wrecked by injury. Hugely unfortunate, but performed very well in his few opportunities. B

Martyn Williams - A modern great in a Wales jersey, Williams suffered with injury early on and was perhaps too fast and loose for the Lions' Test gameplan. Scored an important try against Western Province and was excellent in his first Test start in the final game. B+

David Wallace - His greater carrying game saw him edge out Williams for a Test berth, and he competed well for the tourists both in attack and defence. A powerful presence. B+

Andy Powell - Was too one-dimensional in his early performances and spent far too much time on the deck, but perhaps unlucky to not have made the bench for at least the final Test. Showed flashes of his best against Western Province and the Emerging Boks. B-

Jamie Heaslip - Excellent in his opening performances but quiet during the Tests, Heaslip saved his best performance for the victory in the third Test. B+

Huw Baines is the Assistant Editor of ESPNscrum.

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