Lions beat poor Blues

Date published: March 7 2015

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The Blues went down to their fourth-straight loss of the Super Rugby campaign on Saturday as they lost 13-10 to the Lions at North Harbour Stadium.

Errors aplenty, low confidence in attack and a failure to turn pressure into points cost the Blues as they crashed to a disappointing home defeat.

Meanwhile, the Lions will take their smash and grab victory with both hands as they head to the Crusaders with a tour win under their belt.

The Lions had the chance to take a 3-0 lead on ten minutes when the Blues inside backs were caught offside at scrum-time. However, fly-half Elton Jantjies was off target with a relatively easy shot and it almost cost the visitors in the resulting play, as Ihaia West broke upfield. Unfortunately for the Blues, loosehead prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi coughed up the ball ten metres from the whitewash as an open start remained scoreless.

West did manage to break the deadlock on 22 minutes after the Lions infringed at ruck time in a surprisingly long wait for the game's first points. Usually matches between these two saw high scores amassed, with last season's fixture in Johannesburg seeing a 75 points racked up.

Three more were added on 25 minutes via the boot of Jantjies to level matters when Blues lock Josh Bekhuis was caught offside, but there was a general mood of amazement that neither try-line had been breached, wing Melani Nanai having been held up the nearest moment.

The deadlock was finally broken from the resulting play though, as Jerome Kaino planted the ball at the base of the upright for a 3-10 lead. And that was how the score stayed going into the break, despite the Blues continuing to dominate on the Lions 22 against a spirited defence.

Unfortunately the occasion of Keven Mealamu's record appearance did not live up to its billing as regular scrums and errors marred the game. Mealamu in fact left the field after 47 minutes as the veteran All Black hooker is eased into the new season. He hoped he would now watch a win.

Jantjies made Mealamu sweat on 50 minutes when he landed a long-range penalty goal to cut the lead to four points, but that seemed to rally the hosts, with Luke Braid leading the charge as the Blues set up camp on the Lions try-line. A second try would possibly floor the visitors.

But it didn't come from a sustained period of pressure as poor decision making allowed the spirited Lions an easy out, which led to a shock score for the South Africans. It arrived when replacement scrum-half Faf de Klerk sparked an attack before Jantjies found Ruan Combrinck for the left-hand corner. Jantjies' excellent touchline conversion meant it was now 13-10 to the Lions with only fifteen minutes remaining.

The Blues fans were shell-shocked in Albany and their team could have been six points down had De Klerk not tapped from a kickable position. But when Combrinck missed a penalty shot from distance soon after, one felt the Blues would have one more big opportunity to save their skin.

West would have that chance off the tee from wide out but his miss to level on 75 minutes summed up another disappointing day, as the Lions saw the game out to record their first victory of the campaign. For the Blues, serious work needs to be done before they face the Hurricanes.

The scorers:

For Blues:
Try: Kaino
Con: West
Pen: West

For Lions:
Try: Combrinck
Con: Jantjies
Pen: Jantjies 2

Blues: 15 Lolagi Visinia, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Charles Piutau, 12 Francis Saili, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Josh Bekhuis, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Ofa Tu'ungafasi.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Hayden Triggs, 20 Brendon O'Connor, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Hamish Northcott.

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Sampie Mastriet, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Martin Muller, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Corne Fourie.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Derick Minnie, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Howard Mnisi.

Referee: Matt O'Brien
Assistant referees: Ben O'Keeffe, Brendon Pickerill
Television match official: Glen Newman

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