Four-time British & Irish Lions head coach Sir Ian McGeechan and two-time captain Sam Warburton believe Hamish Watson made a real statement in the convincing win over Sigma Lions.
In their first match on South African soil for 12 years, the Lions ran in eight tries to secure a 56-14 triumph with Josh Adams crossing the whitewash on four occasions.
Louis Rees-Zammit, Watson, Ali Price and Gareth Davies got the other tries, while the defence largely held firm in the face of Sigma Lions pressure.
WATSON MAKES HIS MARK
And Sky Sport pundits McGeechan and Warburton were particularly impressed by Scottish flanker Watson, who tore around the field, carried hard, disrupted the breakdown and assisted a try in addition to his own score.
Warburton said: “Watson carried so explosively and over that five-metre distance, he’s probably one of if not the most powerful ball carrier that actually we have in the Lions team. He brings that to his game.
“I thought he was great on the floor and he competed hard at the breakdown as well.
Watson makes case for the defence after Sigma Lions win
“He just gives you speed of ball, he just doesn’t allow the defence to set, he puts in big defensive hits but he really led from the front.
“He’s a player I played against many times, he was certainly one of the best sevens that I played against and he thoroughly deserves his chance.
“He knows he has to have a big game because he’s got Tom Curry, who is one of the best sevens in the world, starting next week.
“But Hamish Watson had a fantastic start and realistically couldn’t have had a better first game in a Lions shirt.
McGeechan added: “Sometimes his [Watson’s] size goes with his power to be a real positive, because he actually hits low, which is very difficult to stop, and then comes up.
“So he’ll hit and then he will spin or he’ll change his way so he doesn’t lose his footing.
“I think against Sigma Lions, he was just showing that when you have that power and that balance, then the big men can’t do anything about it.”
Adams became the first player to score four tries in a game for the Lions since Shane Williams in 2005 and his tally now stands at five in two matches, after also dotting down against Japan a week ago.
And the Welsh wing wizard impressed three-time Lions tourist and current Sky Sports pundit Ronan O’Gara.
O’Gara explained: “When you measure up, you kind of create a team in your head and you visualise how it’s going to go.
“You need a bulletproof goal-kicker to win Test games, you need a strong scrum, you need a good driving maul but you also need a winger that can get you over the line and every time I throw on the telly, Josh Adams is scoring tries for Wales and he’s done it in another red shirt here.
“The good players have a nose for arriving in the right place at the right time and he always seems to be around the ball.”
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Adam also impressed Warburton with his work-rate and kick-chase: “He works so hard on his kick chase, he is very brave in the air, he’s brilliant at cover tackling.
“He actually brings a lot of physical edge to that contact area, these things get heightened in a Test series.
“Right now these things kind of just go unnoticed but if you have a really good kick chase in a Test series, where you compete for the ball on the wing and you win that ball back, that’s gold dust.
“Those moments are so hard to gain against a team like South Africa. So he does all the stuff off the ball as well, which is unseen, but that would get highlighted, the higher the level we go.
“With the ball and without the ball, Josh Adams was great.”
HOGG AND RUSSELL TAKE THEIR CHANCE
And over on talkSPORT, 2017 British & Irish Lion Greig Laidlaw gave special mention to a couple of his fellow Scots – captain Stuart Hogg and fly-half Finn Russell – for their displays against Sigma Lions.
Laidlaw said: “I think [Stuart Hogg] was very solid this evening, he took two high balls very cleanly early in the game and was able to give the Lions momentum by catching the high kicks.
“He made a wonderful try-saving tackle and covered 50 or 60 metres of the field to get back, so a strong performance, a couple of nice touches in there as well. Very solid all round.
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“Meanwhile, Finn [Russell] is going to push the boundaries, the coaches know that, I believe that’s why they selected him to go on the Tour because you’re going to need points of difference.
“If you use him in the right way and at the right times he can be devastating for you.
“I think he is pushing boundaries and there were a couple of errors but you’re going to get that with Finn as well as a couple of excellent touches and the cross-kick for Josh Adams’ third try.”