IT would be wrong, given the modest nature of the opposition, to read too much into the British & Irish Lions’ 56-14 victory over the Sigma Lions on Saturday. But a couple of conclusions can be confidently made all the same.
First, Hamish Watson hit the ground running with a commanding display that saw him named man of the match. Too small to thrive on the South Africa tour according to some of his critics, the Edinburgh openside bossed the breakdown with his accustomed aplomb.
Second, Josh Adams is now a firm frontrunner for one of the wing berths in the Test series against the Springboks. A week after scoring a try against Japan from the right wing, the Welshman added four in the No 11 jersey at Ellis Park as his team began their eight-match schedule in South Africa with an impressive eight-try performance.
Adams might well have been named man of the match, Watson in fact was, and after the game in Johannesburg both men suggested that the other was the worthier recipient of the reward. “I said to him at the end ‘I don’t know what that’s about’,” Watson explained when asked if he had mentioned the matter to his team-mate. “He played amazing.”
For his part, Adams insisted that Watson’s contribution to the match had been a more substantial one. “I had a few walk-ins, so I can’t take too much credit,” the Cardiff player said. “But I’m happy to score four, of course I am.
“I’ve said it before: you think of a winger maybe like a striker in football. They score goals – it’s my job to score tries.
“I didn’t have to do too 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.
“To be fair to Hamish, I thought he was outstanding. You can stand and applaud the tries, but Hamish does all the unseen work. I thought his defence was outstanding, so it’s thoroughly deserved.”
Some of Watson’s work was out in the open all right, notably his try in a first half that ended with the visitors 21-7 ahead. Of the other Scots involved, Chris Harris was impressive at outside centre, Finn Russell put in some excellent kicks including the one which gave Adams his first “walk-in”, Ali Price joined Watson on the score sheet and Zander Fagerson helped inject new energy into the pack after coming off the bench.
Captain Stuart Hogg, meanwhile, put in a try-saving tackle in the second half as the home side tried to hit back. Prompt action was needed by the full-back after a defensive lapse by his team-mates, and the tourists know they have a lot of work to do in that department ahead of the altogether more difficult fixtures which await them.
As for Adams, if he does claim a place in the Test side, it will be the culmination of a remarkable recovery by a man whose chances of getting into Warren Gatland’s squad were damaged back in February when Wales suspended him for the first two games of the Six Nations Championship after he broke Covid regulations by going to a family gathering. Yet whatever worries may have lurked in the back of his mind at the time, Adams insisted he had not lost faith in his ability to claim a place on tour.
“You have to believe,” he continued. “If you lose belief, then it can easily slip away.
“Missing the two games didn’t help, of course it didn’t. But luckily I played in the last three and we went on a good run as a team, which helped.
“I had great support around me. The Union were fantastic as well, all the coaching staff, all the players. I was always kept in the loop. I just had to make sure I worked hard for when I came back.
“You’ve got to keep your focus, keep your head down, and take every chance you get. As long as you keep working hard and doing the things that are asked of you, off the back of that good things can happen.”
The family gathering in question was to celebrate the news that Adams’ fiancee, Georgia Davies, is pregnant. Five months on, she is now due to give birth in two weeks.
Adams opted to go on the tour to South Africa with her blessing and that of their families, but it is still an anxious time for the couple as the due date approaches and the pressure of the tour intensifies. “She spoke to me after the game,” the winger said when asked how Davies felt after seeing him score four tries. “And I did tell her not to jump around too much – we’ve got to hold off a bit.”