Posted on March 08, 2015
Blues fail again as Lions get historic away win
Blues 10 v Lions 13
The Lions came back from a half-time deficit to edge the Blues 13-10 in their Super Rugby Round Four match at the North Harbour Stadium, in Albany, on Saturday.
It was the Lions' first win of the season, after going close last week against the Stormers - only to be denied by a knock-on over the line.
There were no such fumbles this week, as the men from Johannesburg moved off the bottom of the table, past the Blues - who remain winless and now occupy last place.
The come-from-behind win also spoiled the party of Blues and All Black veteran Keven Mealamu, who played in a world record 163rd Super Rugby match.
The Lions' only previous win on New Zealand soil was when they beat the Highlanders 26-22 in Dunedin in 2011. Their predecessors, the Cats, also won twice.
However, this was their second win only in New Zealand, since they split from the Cheetahs in the unhappy Cats marriage.
The statistics heavily weighted in favour of the home team in the first hour.
The Blues had more than 80 percent of the territory, with as much as 10 minutes spent inside the Lions 22 in the first half alone, while they also dominated the possession stakes by a similar margin.
It was not till the final quarter that the Lions saw any kind of quality possession and they showed exactly how dangerous they can be with ball in hand.
The enormous number of scrums - 20-odd in the game - did not contribute to a free-flowing affair. However, the entertainment came in the intrigue of the effectiveness of the Lions' defence - which ultimately won them the game.
The early exchanges were marked by several turnovers, partly due to the greasy conditions as a result of rain before the game.
Just short of the 10-minute mark Elton Jantjies had a chance to put the visitors in the lead, but the Lions flyhalf - from the Blues'10-metre line - hooked his attempt past the left upright.
During these exchanges the Blues constantly pushed the offside envelope and were penalised on a number of occasions for offside.
Just past the 20-minute mark Lions hooker Robbie Coetzee was penalised for offside at a ruck on his 22 and Ihaia West put the first points on the board - the home team leading 3-0.
Minutes later the Blues were penalised, the fourth time in quick succession, for offside and it prompted the referee to have a chat with the home team. Jantjies, again from the home team's 10-metre line, levelled the scores at 3-all after 24 minutes.
On the half-hour mark Jerome Kaino - with the Blues forwards pounding at the line - sneaked over inside a ruck and the first try of the match was awarded, although there is plenty to debate about the Blues' blockers on the Lions' side of the pile of bodies. West added the conversion for a 10-3 lead.
The Blues held that advantage to the half-time break, even though they had a couple of opportunities to extend their lead.
The Lions had the first real scoring opportunity in the second half, with Elton Jantjies closing the gap to 6-10 after 50 minutes.
Despite the Blues having a succession of opportunities inside the Lions 22 - mostly with scrums and the odd penalty 0- the Lions took the lead in the 64th minute - Ruan Combrink getting the try, but a brilliant play sparked by a sublime break from replacement scrumhalf Francois de Klerk and the scoring pass coming from flyhalf Elton Jantjies, who also kicked the conversion - 13-10.
With just under five minutes to go Ihaia West pushed a penalty attempt past the upright and the Lions managed to hang on for a rare and famous win.
Man of the match: You can mention the entire Blues pack for their hard work in the tight exchanges and contact areas, while Jerome Kaino brought his most brutal best form to the game . Kevin Mealamu showed that, despite his relatively small frame and 35 years of age, he can still mix it with the best - not to mention his world record 163rd Super Rugby outing ... even though he was replaced five minutes into the second half. Warwick Tecklenburg produced an enormous workrate and ably assisted by his captain warren Whiteley, especially on defence, while Franco Mostert brought the physicality that was expected of him. Lionel Mapoe also did enormous work on defence against the dangerous Blues' backs. However, our award goes to the entire Lions team - mostly for their enthusiasm and effectiveness on defence, the aspect that won them the game - although a shout-out must go to their scrum as well.
For the Blues:
For the Lions:
Pens: 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 (captain), 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 Francois de Klerk, 22 Jaco van der Walt, 23 Howard Mnisi.
Referee: Matt O'Brien (Australia)
Assistant referees: Ben O'Keeffe (New Zealand), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Glen Newman (New Zealand)