Blues upset sloppy Lions
The Lions were uncharacteristically sloppy and perhaps complacent, as they suffered a rare home defeat to the Blues on Saturday.
It was only the Blues’ second win on South African soil since 2012 and the Lions will wonder how they let this one slip having been 28-10 up.
Just when it looked they had broken the Blues’ resolve the Aucklanders rallied in the final quarter to deny the hosts.
Of course the Blues were hell bent on dragging the game down blurry helter skelter paths and the task for the Lions was not dissimilar to the one they face against the Bulls seven days earlier.
The Lions had to seek more close quarter engagement and keep the ball under the protective blanker of their forwards for longer but failed to do so.
It didn’t help that the hosts were without the composed head of captain Warren Whiteley in the latter stages.
The visitors deserve kudos for their effort and their heroes weren’t that familiar.
No 8 Akira Ioane had been one of their stand out forwards and it came just reward when he broke a few tackles in midfield to gallop through virtually unchallenged.
The hands, feet and just about everything else of Sonny Bill Williams was always going to be closely watched but there was disappointment for his fan club first up.
His first touch was an uncharacteristic spill and it cost the Blues dearly.
From the ensuing scrum the Lions maximised a tap penalty when Sylvian Mahuza went over in the corner.
In the 16th minute Williams combined with left wing Melani Nanai near the Main Stand touchline but the latter’s speculative return pass was spilled by the former leaving Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Elton Jantjies to conspire for a converted try against the run of play.
Williams put Jantjies effortlessly on his back in 67th minute but with ball in hand he lacked his usual penetration.
In the first half the Blues were willing ball carriers but much of that occurred behind the gain line.
It afforded the Lions’ defence the opportunity to carefully man mark. When the Blues probed at close quarters lock Franco Mostert, flank Cyle Brink and hooker Malcolm Marx were hard to pass.
There were bouts of imprecision from the home side but that came when a pass was rushed or a recipient slightly overran the incoming pass. Against a side as committed to chaos, that is to be expected.
The Lions scored two second half tries but the Blues showed remarkable resilience by inching their way back into the contest. Ellis Park fell eerily silent when they scored the winner with less than a minute left on the clock.