Blues rock Lions with last-minute win

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Lynn McConnell     11 Mar 2018     Getty Images

Down 3-21 at one stage, the Blues fought all the way, but it was their final quarter that was most impressive in reversing the 5-43 loss they suffered when last at the ground two years ago.


It was an impressive display of determination from the Blues and when replacement forward Jimmy Tupou scored, on the back of fine lead up work by locks Patrick Tuipulotu and Scott Scrafton in taking ball on, they were back within four points with four minutes to play.

Then more good work by second five-eighths Sonny Bill Williams and fullback Michael Collins carried play to the goal-line. Centre Rieko Ioane couldn't get through but when the ball was moved to the left it was flanker Murphy Taramai who went over with assistance from No.8 Akira Ioane to score the match winner.

Blues captain and hooker James Parson said it had been building for three weeks and it was nice to be on the end of a match-winning try.

"The boys worked hard and stuck to our game plan which was impressive, especially in the altitude I thought the boys fought hard when they were probably a bit tired and just a massive result for us to get our season started," he said.

Lions captain Warren Whiteley said the Blues had deserved the win after being unlucky in their two previous games.

"Tonight I felt we just switched off, we lost a lot of ball in contact, gave away a lot of possession and against a team like the Blues we know how they capitalise on those opportunities and they did so tonight," he said.

A knock-on by Williams, from the first phase of the game resulted in a scrum out from the Blues posts. They were penalised and Lions halfback Ross Cronje took a quick tap, ran right and flung a long pass for wing Sylvian Mahuza to score in the corner.

In the 14th minute a promising looking Blues attack broke down when wing Malani Nanai broke back inside from a turnover breakout however, his linking pass to Williams was too high and Jantjies was able to grasp the ball and feed centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg who raced 50m down the sideline to score.

The Lions lost their No.8 and captain Warren Whiteley with a knee injury midway through the first half but it did little to alter their momentum as the replacement was Kwagga Smith. They got back into the Blues 22m area and camped in front of the goalposts through a series of scrums.

Eventually the toll was taken from the visiting pack and it was first five-eighths Elton Jantjies who ran hard onto a short pass from Cronje to claim the try.

But from the restart it was the Lions' turn to feel the pressure and from a turnover created by lock Gerard Cowley-Tuioti the 22m line, No.8 Akira Ioane picked up the ball, brushed off prop (1) and was unstoppable on his run to the line.

Having come on as a substitute at halfback Jonathan Ruru conceded an intercept off a long pass during a good phase of build-up by the Blues and they felt the sting of wing Aphiwi Dyantyi's speed in a sizzling run in for the 54th minute try.

The Blues refused to yield and after gaining a penalty in front of the Lions' posts they built through phases on their left and Ruru's choice of a long pass over the home defenders found centre Rieko Ioane who only had to drop straight to ground to claim the try.

Ioane was in again in the 68th minute after the Lions coughed up ball. Substitute Tupou tidied the ball and while replacement first five-eighths Stephen Perofeta got the ball on the bounce he fed on and it was Williams who got the ball to Ioane who cut back on the angle to run in for his second.

However, the Blues conceded a penalty after the restart, the Lions kicked to the corner and mounted the inevitable lineout drive and it was replacement prop Dylan Smith who went over after the initial maul went to ground.

Scorers: Lions 35 (Sylvian Mahuza, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Elton Jantjies, Aphiwi Dyantyi, Dylan Smith tries; Jantjies 5 con ) Blues 38 (Akira Ioane, Rieko Ioane 2, Jimmy Tupou, Murphy Taramai tries; Bryn Gatland con, pen; Stephen Perofeta 4 con). HT: 21-10