Ali Price steals the show as Scots put their Lions credentials on the line
It was the final audition for the first Test and Ali Price embraced centre stage.
The Scotland scrum-half excelled as the British and Irish Lions returned to winning ways with a 49-3 victory over the Stormers in Cape Town.
Only the injured Finn Russell was missing from the tartan coterie as they set about trying to prove their credentials to Warren Gatland.
The last Scot to start a Lions Test was prop Tom Smith in Australia 20 years ago. It’s a miserable statistic and will surely be put to bed on Thursday when Gatland names his side to play South Africa on July 24.
Price played with a tempo seldom shown by Conor Murray and Gareth Davies on this tour and had a hand in tries by Adam Beard and Jonny Hill. He linked the play well and helped young Marcus Smith enjoy a smooth Lions debut at stand-off.
The big caveat was the quality of the opposition and if Gatland does ultimately opt for the experience of Murray, Price will certainly be on the bench in Cape Town.
The other four Scots who started against the Stormers did their selection chances no harm. Stuart Hogg led impressively in his first outing since July 3 following a spell in isolation. He showed lovely quick hands to play in Jonny Hill for a first-half try and had another assist for Sam Simmonds’ late score. Whether it will be enough to dislodge Liam Williams from the No 15 Test jersey remains to be seen.
Duhan van der Merwe couldn’t add to his five Lions tries but made more yards than anyone. His trademark ability to bump the first tackler proved vital, never more so in the build up to the first try after an indifferent opening from the Lions. He looks nailed on for the Test 23.
So too does Hamish Watson but it is a dogfight between him and Tom Curry as to who starts at openside. The Scotland man made 15 tackles against the Stormers, more than anyone else.
Rory Sutherland played 49 minutes and Gatland must now decide between the Scot, Wyn Jones and Mako Vunipola at loosehead.
Zander Fagerson stepped off the bench and scored his first Lions try and the Glasgow prop looks likely to understudy Tadhg Furlong in the first Test.
Chris Harris had a 23-minute run-out as a replacement for inside centre Robbie Henshaw but remains a strong contender to start at outside centre on Saturday.
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