Duhan van der Merwe scored a try and looked as if he had been in a British & Irish Lions jersey all his career. He was my player of the day as the Lions brushed aside Japan 28-10 at Murrayfield in Edinburgh, but also lost captain Alun Wyn Jones for the tour to South Africa, writes Mark Keohane. Ireland’s Conor Murray is the new captain.
Latest tour changes: Adam Beard replaces Jones in the squad and Josh Navidi replaces Justin Tipuric.
The Lions led 21-0 at halftime and were never never troubled by a willing but ineffective Japanese attack.
Van der Merwe, South African-born and raised and a Junior Springbok in 2014, qualified for Scotland after a three-year residency and his eight tries in 10 Tests for Scotland earned him selection for the Lions eight match tour to South Africa.
The Lions play the South African Lions at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday, 3rd July, and Lions coach Warren Gatland would have taken positives from the strong attacking performance of Van der Merwe on the left wing and also the team’s defensive shape and discipline in the first 40 minutes of the match.
The Lions lost captain Alun Wyn Jones to injury after seven minutes with a left shoulder injury in what will be the biggest take from the one-off Test. Jones is Gatland’s leader and warrior and the coach has often said that the Welsh veteran is integral to the Lions success in South Africa. Gatland confirmed, post match, that Jones had dislocated his shoulder and was out of the tour.
The Lions in those first 40 minutes played typical of the best coached Gatland teams. They were very sound and disciplined on defence, didn’t concern themselves if they didn’t have the ball and struck with accuracy when the attacking opportunities were there.
The match lost shape once Gatland introduced the bench and the Lions also played the final 10 minutes with 14 players to up the intensity and defensive workout.
Japan enjoyed a 56 to 54 possession and 55-45 advantage but they never threatened to turn any such advantage into the points needed to upstage the Lions.
The contrasting style of the two teams was evident in Japan making 257 passes to the Lions 137, but it was the Lions who scored four tries to one. The Lions also won 12 mauls and Japan didn’t win a maul, while the Lions were very strong at the breakdown winning 14 turnovers to five.
The set piece of the Lions was perfect in the lineouts, with 16 wins from 16 throws, but as the game became very loose in the final 25 minutes, the Lions conceded many penalties to take the match tally to 13, compared to the 12 of Japan.
The Lions arrive in Johannesburg on Monday and will be in a strict bio-bubble for the duration of the tour.
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