After the British and Irish Lions’ three-match Test series against New Zealand ended in a draw it was only right that some winners emerged from the tour.
So here we take a look back at some of the standout individuals and moments from the last five weeks with our Lions 2017 awards.
Try of the tour – Ihaia West
Our first award goes to a man who did not feature in any of the three Tests but provided one of the highlights of the warm-up matches. With the Lions leading the Blues 16-15 with seven minutes to go, West collected the ball from a Sonny Bill Williams offload 10 metres inside the Lions half and forged a route through a sea of red shirts to soar clear and touch down under the posts. The Lions went on to lose the match 22-16 – their first defeat of the tour.
Match of the tour – Third Test
The third Test in Auckland was a thrilling watch. Beautifully poised at 1-1 following the Lions’ shock victory in Wellington a week earlier, the All Blacks remained strong favourites to wrap up the series win and scored two first-half tries through Ngani Laumape and Jordie Barrett. However, two misses from the tee by Beauden Barrett, along with the accurate kicking of Owen Farrell and Elliot Daly, kept the Lions in touch, and the Saracens man rescued the draw with a pressure kick three minutes from time. Cue the awkward scenes of nobody knowing whether to celebrate or to mope.
— Sam Warburton (@samwarburton_) July 9, 2017
The depiction of Warren Gatland as a clown on the front page of the New Zealand Herald early in the tour was harsh – also unoriginal after they gave Australia coach Michael Cheika the same treatment in October. But it was Gatland who had the last laugh, turning up to his news conference after the final Test in a red nose.
Starting media duties. ?
The outcome of the series might have been different had Williams not seen red for a shoulder charge on Anthony Watson in the first half of the second Test. The collision between Williams’ shoulder and Watson’s head earned the centre the first red card shown to a New Zealand player in 50 years. Williams was handed a four-week suspension and apologised to Watson. The Lions went on to edge that Test 24-21.
PR gaffe of the tour – ‘The Geography Six’
The less said about this band of call-ups of convenience the better. Finn Russell, Allan Dell, Kristian Dacey, Tomas Francis, Cory Hill and Gareth Davies were called into the squad as cover based on the fact Scotland and Wales were playing Tests closer to New Zealand than England or Ireland. The decision did not go down well and only Russell and Dell got any game time at all, with Gatland seemingly reluctant to rock the boat any further.
Chant of the tour – Ohhh Maro Itoje
One memorable moment from the tour was when cameras captured Lions veteran Alun Wyn Jones walking down the tunnel at the end of the second Test chanting the name of Maro Itoje – the youngest member of the squad – to the tune of Seven Nation Army. You know you’re on to a winner if the players get involved.
Davies was a giant for the Lions in the three encounters with the All Blacks and the stats back that up. The centre tops the charts for clean breaks and ranks second for offloads and metres made. He is also the only Lion to make the top five for carries across the three Tests, kept off top spot by Beauden Barrett and Kieran Read.
Jones became the first player since the game turned professional in 1995 to feature in nine consecutive Lions Tests and is one of only seven men to have won matches against New Zealand, Australia and South Africa with the Lions. That surely deserves recognition!