Warren Gatland claimed that he is not thinking about Test selection, but that simply isn’t true and Josh Adams knows it — which is why he was so glad to deliver another compelling audition.
The British and Irish visitors scored eight tries at an empty Ellis Park to overwhelm their fellow Lions — let’s call them Gauteng, as that is the province they represent — and Adams was responsible for half of that haul.
The Wales wing has now touched down six times in two games, having scored a brace against Japan at Murrayfield, to enhance his prospects of being picked to face the Springboks.
Josh Adams inspired the British and Irish Lions to a 56-14 victory against the Sigma Lions
Wales and Cardiff Blues winger Adams scored four tries to help Warren Gatland’s side triumph
Boss Warren Gatland claimed he is not thinking about Test selection but that is simply not true
British and Irish Lions: Stuart Hogg (c); Louis Rees-Zammit, Chris Harris, Owen Farrell, Josh Adams; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Wyn Jones, Jamie George, Kyle Sinckler, Maro Itoje, Jonny Hill, Courtney Lawes, Hamish Watson, Taulupe Faletau.
Replacements: Luke Cowan-Dickie, Mako Vunipola, Zander Fagerson, Iain Henderson, Sam Simmonds, Gareth Davies, Bundee Aki, Elliot Daly.
Tries: Rees-Zammit, H Watson, Price, Adams x4, Davies
Conversions: Farrell x8
Sigma Lions: EW Viljoen; Jamba Ulengo, Mannie Rass, Burger Odendaal, Rabz Maxwane; Jordan Hendrikse, Dillon Smit; Nathan McBeth, PJ Botha, Ruan Dreyer, Ruben Schoeman, Reinhard Nothnagel, Sibusiso Sangweni, Vincent Tshituka, Francke Horn (c).
Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Sti Sithole, Carlu Sadie, Ruhan Straeuli, Emmanuel Tshituka, Morné van den Berg, Fred Zeilinga, Dan Kriel.
Tries: Tshituka, Maxwane
Conversions: Hendrikse x2
Whatever their comments in public, of course head coach Gatland and his assistants are plotting the make-up of the side to start the series opener in Cape Town on July 24 and 26-year-old Adams’ exploits have seen him emerge as a prime contender.
‘I had a few walk-ins so I can’t take too much credit, but I am happy to score four,’ he said. ‘It is a shorter tour with fewer warm-up games, so you’ve got to take a chance when you get it and every opportunity you get to play is a chance to make a statement.’
Gatland acclaimed Adams’s finishing instincts and the Cardiff flier added: ‘A winger is like a striker in football — it’s my job to score tries like it is theirs to score goals.
‘There are other aspects of the game that are important but once you get on a run, you work your hardest to keep it going. I didn’t have to do much for one or two, but that’s how it goes; you’ve got to be in the right place at the right time I guess.’
Adams committed to this tour despite missing the birth of his first child — a daughter — this month. He joked that he told fiancée Georgia ‘don’t jump around too much’ when they spoke after Saturday’s game and he is pleased that he has justified the trip with such stellar early performances.
‘It’s nice I had the full support of my family,’ he said. ‘It’s about repaying them for giving me their support. Everything I’m doing out here, the hard work I am putting in, is all for them back home.’
While another Welsh wing making his Lions debut, Louis Rees-Zammit, scored the visitors’ opening try, Adams was the busier and more productive of the two wide men — showcasing his pace, timing and predatory nature.
Duhan van der Merwe and Anthony Watson are also in the hunt for Test places, but those two and Rees-Zammit may be tussling for one vacancy at this rate.
There were several other stand-out performers, notably Scotland flanker Hamish Watson, who was named man of the match for his try-scoring, all-action display.
He received an effusive tribute from captain Stuart Hogg, who said: ‘It’s like somebody winds him up before the game, then he runs around at 100mph and makes 20million tackles!’
26-year-old Adams, man of the match, rounded off the scoring and now has five in two games
Yet, the individual award could have been bestowed on another member of the Lions’ back row, Courtney Lawes, who was a thunderous asset at blindside with his carrying and ability to offload in tight spaces to open up the home defence. That was a feature of Lions play which Maro Itoje also embraced in a rampaging contribution.
Further back, Scotland centre Chris Harris was superb with daring dashes in attack, along with his trademark excellent defence and communication.
It was a day when midfield selection became ever more complex, as Elliot Daly also shone when he came off the bench and Gatland revealed that Ireland’s Robbie Henshaw could be out for two games with a hamstring strain. It is hard to imagine the coaches have anyone even pencilled in for their Test centre places.
Owen Farrell kicked his goals at Ellis Park and led from the ranks with the usual aggression — physical and vocal — but his missed tackle allowed the hosts to score and he was often asked to run hard lines into contact rather than functioning as a secondary playmaker, which comes more naturally.
There was a lack of chemistry between Farrell at 12 and Finn Russell at 10, even though the Scot showed glimpses of his artistic brilliance.
Centre Chris Harris (right) was superb but England’s Owen Farrell (left) had a mixed display
England’s captain has often played well for his country at inside centre but that is in an alliance with George Ford, his long-time friend. That pair seem to have a telepathy and Farrell won’t have long to establish the same rapport with Dan Biggar or Russell, which could impact his Test prospects.
Gatland was satisfied with a tour opener which his Lions came through without apparently suffering new casualties. They also showed how lineout precision and innovation can be a deadly weapon, although their mauling and scrummaging are still work-in-progress areas.
Gauteng had a few memorable moments but overall they were outclassed. Once again, there is a danger that the Lions will glide serenely through low-grade warm-ups and then struggle to cope with the step-up for the Tests.
If the countries who stage these tours want to hide their international players, the whole model might need to change, with Tests against other countries rather than provincial fixtures to help the Lions sharpen up.
Nevertheless, the bandwagon is rolling and it is hard to see it being slowed too much before the Boks.