Planet Rugby

Blues cruise past the Lions

10th April 2009 10:25

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Tuitavake stepping Lions

Hot stepper: Anthony Tuitavake on his way to his team's second try

The Blues piled the misery onto the Lions in the Super 14 on Friday with an utterly one-sided 36-102victory at Eden Park on Friday.

With the attack firing on all cylinders and the defence rarely pressed into action, those Blues fans who turned up in their numbers were treated to a fine display from the home team, who still harbour outside hopes of reaching the semi-finals. If they keep playing like this, they should get there. Just a little more finess is required.

The visitors were starved of possession all day and never even remotely threatened the scoreboard operators until a brief surge in the 65th minute which was quickly snuffed out.

Credit to their defence, which staunched the flow through the floodgates in the second half and made 133 tackles (but also missed 35), but with Eugene Eloff coming to the end of his 'three-year-plan', questions have to be asked about any continuation of his role. The Lions are a shade tighter than three years ago and are not now losing every match, but that's about it - little tangible reward for three years of investment.

Back to the home side, who should have rained down the points in the first 20 minutes but were guilty of some awful finishing. The ball was moved superbly from one side of the pitch to the other with depth and precision, quick support, yet as soon as the spaces became tighter the hands would go to pot. There were five handling errors in the first nine minutes, all of them in the Lions' 22, three of them could have been considered scoring passes.

From the subsequent scrums, Andre Pretorius would clear. The Blues would get a line-out, win it and attack again. Eventually, there'd be a knock-on. From the subsequent scru- you get the idea.

The Blues had thirteen line-outs in the opening 20 minutes not losing a single one. They spent nine of those minutes in the Lions' 22. By the end of that 20 minutes they had enjoyed some 70 per cent possession. By the end of that 20 minutes they led merely 7-0, courtesy of Chris Smylie's snipe around the back of a ruck.

The domination continued, perhaps with a bit less gusto than in the opening quarter. Eventually the lead doubled when Smylie counter-attacked down the left off a turnover in his own half and the ball was moved wide to the right for Anthony Tuitavake to step home - Isaia Toeava converted both tries.

Smylie should have increased the lead further moments later but inexplicably dropped the ball when tapping a free-kick after the Blues' backs had broken up to 5m out - a perfect microcosm of the Blues' first half.

The second half continued as the first had left off. Two quickfire tries gave the Blues their bonus point: first Rudi Wulf dived onto an adroit Toeava grubber, then Joe Rokocoko finished off superbly in the right-hand corner. Toeava hit the post with both conversions.

One brief moment of Earl Rose magic ensured the Likons avoided the ignominy of being nilled, with Rose chipping and regathering brilliantly and offloading to Henno Mentz who scorched home.

That merely prodded the Blues into action though. Wulf pounced after Pretorius' clearance had been charged down by Tasesa Lavea - excellent on his return from injury - and Toeava converted again.

Then Peter Saili crashed over, following some magnificent handling down the right from the Blues again.

Game, set and match, except for Jano Vermaak's irrelevant last-minute score. But a greater concern for the Blues may be the number of players who limped off injured. Otherwise, the Blues are by no means dead and buried in this tournament.

Man of the match: Not a mention throughout the above text as he was not a finisher, but involved at key moments in every Blues move was Josh Blackie. Always there in support, always taking the ball on an extra few hard yards to help his backs exploit the space and keep the Lions defence retreating at the breakdown, Blackie was magnificent.

The scorers:

For the Blues:

Tries: Smylie, Tuitavake, Wulf 2, Rokocoko, Saili

Cons: Toeava 3

For the Lions:

Tries: Mentz, Vermaak

Con: Pretorius

Blues: 15 Paul Williams. 14 Joe Rokocoko/Rene Ranger, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Isaia Toeava, 11 Rudi Wulf, 10 Tasesa Lavea, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Josh Blackie, 6 Chris Lowrey, 5 Anthony Boric, 4 Kurtis Haiu, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu, 1 Charlie Faumuina.

Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Jay Williams, 19 Peter Saili, 20 Grayson Hart, 21 Michael Hobbs, 22 Jimmy Gopperth/Rene Ranger.

Lions: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Shandre Frolick, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Deon van Rensburg, 11 Henno Mentz, 10 Andre Pretorius, 9 Chris Jonck, 8 Willem Alberts, 7 Ernst Joubert, 6 Todd Clever, 5 Gerhard Mostert, 4 Anton van Zyl, 3 Gert Muller, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Heinke van der Merwe

Replacements: 16 Hans van Dyk, 17 Lawrence Sephaka, 18 Franco van der Merwe, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Earl Rose, 22 Jannie Boshoff

Referee: James Leckie (Australia)

Touch judges: Chris Pollock (New Zealand), Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)

Assessor: Glen Wahlstrom (New Zealand)

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