Warren Gatland was given plenty to consider after an impressive Lions display as the tourists dismantled the Stormers in Cape Town.
Alun Wyn Jones returned to British and Irish Lions action in a crushing 49-3 win over the Stormers as the tourists found form ahead of next week's first Test against the Springboks.
The man who was designated as captain for this tour, only to suffer a shoulder dislocation in the Murrayfield clash with Japan last month, has made a spirited recovery and played almost half an hour of a one-sided tussle in Cape Town.
Whether he now starts against South Africa remains to be seen, but Jones has given coach Warren Gatland food for thought, and he was hardly the only player to do that.
This seven-try demolition was a perfect response to the midweek defeat to South Africa A, with scrum-half Ali Price, hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie and second-rower Adam Beard among the standouts.
Luke Cowan-Dickie v the Stormers 📊— Ultimate Rugby (@ultimaterugby) July 17, 2021
- 49 minutes⏰
- 8 tackles made 👊
- 1 missed tackle ✖️
- 3 turnovers won (most) ✊
- 5 passes ✋
- 8 carries 🏃♂️
- 4 defenders beaten 🕺
- 1 clean break 💨
- 23 running metres 🔥
- 1 try 🏉
- Man of the match 🏅#LionsRugby #STOvBIL pic.twitter.com/ez7dgLm4HE
The Stormers snatched a 20th-minute lead with a penalty from Tim Swiel, but the Lions had threatened already by that stage and it was not long before their quality began to show.
Josh Adams powered into space out wide and made valuable yards before the ball was fed back for Beard to jog through a gap in the Stormers ranks.
The defensive effort again seemed sub-par when Cowan-Dickie scrambled through for the Lions' second try in the 34th minute. He picked the ball from back of a maul, after his lineout throw, and scurried through to just short of the line before the Stormers got close to him.
It was 21-3 by the break, with Price feeding Beard who quickly relayed the ball to Stuart Hogg, and the captain put in Jonny Hill to score in the left corner.
Lions debutant Marcus Smith booted the extras each time and the young Englishman played a key part in the fourth try when his quick pass found Price, who in turn offloaded to number eight Jack Conan to run in from 30 metres.
With the game safe, and an eye on next weekend, Gatland introduced Jones just after the 50-minute mark, the most-capped player in Test rugby replacing Beard. The coach was looking for a steely run-out from the captain who dislocated his shoulder just three weeks ago.
Jones was not shirking anything, and Gatland made good use of his bench as the match went on, with Price doing his hopes of a Test start no harm before making way for Gareth Davies as the hour approached.
Tadhg Beirne had a try disallowed after a forward pass, before a fifth score for the tourists arrived in the 68th minute when Zander Fagerson dived over from close range.
Fagerson's fellow replacement Louis Rees-Zammit bolted in off the wing to net the Lions' late sixth try.
Smith, who created the space for that try, was again immaculate from the tee, converting for a seventh time after Sam Simmonds dotted down a last-gasp effort.
NAME YOUR PRICE
Is Conor Murray inked into Gatland's Test team, or might Price have done enough to edge ahead of the Irishman? Scotland scrum-half Price was impressive here, scurrying busily and purposefully like the man on a mission that he is. Price has done himself the power of good on this tour, and the Springboks will have taken note of the Glasgow Warriors man's threat and quick thinking behind the scrum.
SMITH MAKES INSTANT IMPACT
Harlequins fly-half Smith was a late addition to the tour party, joining up to provide cover due to Finn Russell's achilles injury. But could he yet force his way into the Test XV? The new England cap was a bundle of energy in this encounter as he stepped up to Lions level, and at the age of 22 the chance may not have come too soon. A promotion to the team to tackle the Boks would be a gamble, given Smith's lack of international experience, and Gatland may prefer to use him off the bench as one of his finishers and potential game-changers.
View this post on Instagram
View this post on Instagram