Chiefs trio dot down in big win for Lions
By Mark Stevens
Exeter Chiefs trio Luke Cowan-Dickie, Jonny Hill and Sam Simmonds all claimed their first-ever tries for the British & Irish Lions as they warmed up for next week’s opening Test against South Africa with a 49-3 win over the Stormers.
Hooker Cowan-Dickie led the way for Warren Gatland’s side, producing a man-of-the-match performance, which includes his first half score.
Lock Hill was also on the mark during the opening 40 minutes, whilst Simmonds came off the bench in the second period to help put the seal on a decent display for the tourists, who were captained on the day by Exeter’s Stuart Hogg.
With the first of three Test matches set to start in a week’s time, head coach Gatland says he expects a lively discussion about selection for the first Test against the reigning world champions.
"We will go through the process over the next 72 hours and there will be some robust debate," he said. "There are going to be some tight calls with regards to the back three and the loose forwards, and how that mix is going to look," he said.
"They are probably going to be the tightest calls, but we will make sure we look at the starting XV and also the impact off the bench as well. We will sit down and have a look at the game and sit down with the medics.”
The Lions also welcomed back captain Alun Wyn Jones after the 35-year-old recovered from the dislocated shoulder he sustained in the pre-tour win over Japan on 26 June.
The Welshman came through unscathed off the bench in the second half on Saturday, but Gatland says a decision still needs to be made over the lock's involvement in the Test series.
"I thought he put a few shots on and defended well," said Gatland. "The big thing was his lungs and getting through the period. I haven't spoken to him after the game but I will.
"I know how hard he was worked to be on this Lions tour. It was a shame he got that injury but we are delighted to have him back. We will have a conversation to see if he is involved as a starter or on the bench, or not at all.
"He is a competitor and he was desperate to get back. It shows how much it means to the players to go on a tour and hopefully be successful. The boys are pretty happy in the changing room."
One player who impressed on debut was fly-half Marcus Smith, who had a hand in two tries and produced a perfect kicking display off the tee.
The Harlequins player, 22, joined the squad as injury cover for Finn Russell on Wednesday after making his England debut earlier this month, and Gatland says the Premiership winner "looked good".
"He had some lovely touches, he kicked well for goal and I thought he defended well," said 57-year-old Gatland. “He will be part of the discussions and he is like everyone else. A lot of people put their hand up tonight and there were some pleasing performances."
As well as the three tries from the Chiefs contingent, the Lions wrapped up victory thanks to additional scores from Adam Beard, Jack Conan, Zander Fagerson and Louis Rees-Zammit. Smith converted all of the tries to finish with 14 points.