The British and Irish Lions faced their toughest test yet on Australian soil on Saturday, eventually overcoming a spirited and frenzied Queensland Reds side, in an extremely physical game in Brisbane. Despite losing players to injury, resulting in a backline re-shuffle, the Lions stuck it out to record a 22-12 win. Here are the players we felt best showcased themselves and put themselves in position for consideration for the first Test against Australia on Saturday week:
North was named as a substitute for Saturday's game, but entered the fray after just 20 minutes, due to an injury to centre Manu Tuilagi. The giant Welshman had featured in the centre in the opening tour game against the Baa-Baas, but he was sent onto the wing upon his introduction and showed up well, with several strong carries as well as impressively aiding the defensive effort.
George North: he loves his hand-offs
North's sheer size is awesome, but he is blessed with serious pace and uses these two attributes to devastating effect and is a joy to watch when on top form. Although he was always favourite to bag the 11 shirt for the Tests, the hand injury suffered by Tommy Bowe, favoured by many to play on the opposite wing in the Tests, would seem to strengthen North's hold on his Test spot. If he shows more of the skills he displayed on Saturday, North may well have a huge influence on the Test series.
Youngs has come into this tour knowing that the Lions are looking to play the Welsh way, aiming to overpower Australia in the forwards before battering them with their backs. Key to this is 6'3" scrum-half Mike Phillips, who uses his size and bulk to act as the proverbial 9th forward, as well as keeping fringe defences honest with his searing breaks from the base. The Gatland game-plan probably helped Conor Murray see off the challenge of Scotland's Greig Laidlaw, due to his physical similarities to Phillips, but Youngs offers a different option and Gatland has been astute enough to bring him on tour.
Youngs is of the diminutive variety of scrum half, but brings the quickest pass of any of the Lions squad , as well as a handy knack of finding the try-line. Indeed, against the Reds, Youngs scored the Lions' only try, with a great piece of opportunism, disrupting the Reds' No.8 at the base of a defensive scrum to dislodge the ball and pounce to score. When brought off the bench, Youngs brings about a massive lift in tempo and pace and if Australia have been battered and bruised for 60 minutes, this could be the key to unlocking what is anticipated to be their tight defence. Phillips may well be a near certainty to start the Tests, but rugby is now a 23-man game, and Youngs looks like he has stolen a march on Murray for that substitute scrum-half spot.