Search icon


26th Jun 2021

Full Lions ratings as Japan soundly beaten at Murrayfield

Patrick McCarry

Lions ratings


A satisfactory opening match triumph for the British & Irish Lions, but at a cost. The Lions ratings reflect well on many of the squad’s debutants.

The first half was dominated with two narratives – the Lions looking dominant in attack while losing key players along the way.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones (shoulder) and Justin Tipuric (ribs) both left the field before 30 minutes had passed. That was the bad news, but the players left out there were roasting the Japanese – Josh Adams, Robbie Henshaw and Duhan van der Merwe all getting over.

The Lions team line up for the national anthem during the 1888 Cup match against Japan at Murrayfield. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

It took a while for the Lions to finally put the game to bed – Jack Conan and Courtney Lawes both having tries chalked off – but a super Tadhg Beirne score saw Warren Gatland’s side go 28-0 up after 50 minutes.

Both sides made a number of changes and Japan gave themselves something to cling for in the closing stages when Kazuki Himeno crashed over for a try. Japan added a penalty and pushed hard in the closing stages, especially as the Lions [with Jack Conan withdrawn as a precaution] finished with only 14 men.

Here’s how we rated Warren Gatland’s Lions:

Liam Williams – 7

Only made four carries but for 41 metres and did all that was asked of him. So close to a try but the kick through evaded him and resulted in a knock-on. Covered the back-field expertly.

Josh Adams – 7

The man was born and bred to get tries. Was the first Lion to cross the white-wash on the 2021 Tour when he bagged an early score in the corner. Gave away a needless penalty foe an off-the-ball hit.

Robbie Henshaw – 8

Took a great line and burst through a couple of defenders to bag his first try of the tour. Top tackler (16) for the Lions and was abrasive as hell.

Bundee Aki – 8.5

Made a super line-break that had the Japanese reeling and eventually led to van der Merwe’s try. Found himself isolated, snd turned over, in the Japan 22, late in the first half. Continued to show his strength with early turnover in second half. Finished with three turnovers in his 55 minutes.

Duhan van der Merwe – 8

Matsushima almost got away from him, early on, but he recovered well to drag him out of play. Won his side a choke-tackle turnover soon after. Popped up on the left wing then the right, 60 seconds later, to get himself a hard-earned try.

Dan Biggar – 7.5

Lapped over all of his kicks on goal and showed his pace to snuff out a couple of dangerous attacks. Showed some ambition with a couple of skip passes too.

Conor Murray – 7

Went for a snipe but was turned over inside the Japanese 22 when he was left isolated. Was comprehensively stepped by Matsushima and was thankful van der Merwe was covering. Box-kicking was mostly on-point, but did put one out on the full. Three try assists and will be satisfied with his say.

Rory Sutherland – 7

Did all that was asked of him on his Lions debut. Scrummaged well, busy around the breakdown and stuck all six tackles he attempted.

Ken Owens – 7

A big lineout success story as the Lions won all 15 off his throws. Stuck all five of his tackles and ground out some yards for his side.

Tadhg Furlong – 7.5

Another big game from the Ireland tighthead. His leg-drive after contact just sucks in bodies. One such carry should have led to a try but Lawes fumbled. Stuck all eight of his tackles and scrummaged well.

Iain Henderson – 7

A real conduit for his team. Made seven passes and only three carries as the Lions put some air on the ball. Took over as pack leader after Jones went off. Was in double figures for tackles and only missed one. Teamed up with Beirne to prevent a late consolation try.

Alun Wyn Jones – N/A

Lasted only seven minutes before a devastating injury ended his involvement in the match, and possibly tour.

Tadhg Beirne – 8

Shades of Stephen Ferris in 2009 as he made a line break and careened over for the game-clinching try. Some real attacking flair show today – six defenders beaten and three offloads, as well as 49 metres made off eight carries. A full 80-minute shift as he and Henderson fronted up on the tryline to prevent a late score.

Justin Tipuric – 6

Was having himself a decent game until he was the second Lions down and trudging off early. Made five tackles but only one carry during his time on the pitch.

Jack Conan – 8

Won his side an early turnover at the breakdown. Won his second before 10 minutes had ticked by on the clock. Led the Lions for carries and made three turnovers. Left the field of play with 10 minutes remaining as the Lions finished with 14 men.


Courtney Lawes (for Jones ‘8) – 6

Came on early for Jones and was a physical presence. Fumbled close to the line when there was a try a-begging.

Toby Faletau (for Tipuric ’29) – 6

On for Tipuric, late in the first half, and packed down at 8.

Kyle Sinckler (for Furlong ’50) – 6

Conceded a late offside penalty but was otherwise solid.

Wyn Jones (for Sutherland ’50) – 7

Jamie George (for Owens ’55) – 6

Owen Farrell (for Aki ’55) – 6

Ali Price (for Murray ’63) – 6

Anthony Watson (for Williams ’65) – 7

Made a try-saving tackle, late in the day.