Auckland – The Auckland Blues lifted themselves off the bottom of the Super 15 table when they beat the Lions 25-3 in the battle of the cellar dwellers at Eden Park Friday.
In a week when the Blues franchise advertised coach Pat Lam's job, the side chalked up their second win of the season to end a run of seven straight defeats.
The victory moved them two points clear of the Lions who have now suffered nine losses since they won their opening round match against the Cheetahs.
The Blues scored three tries to none but the game never reached great heights, although captain Luke Braid said the relief at not losing was satisfaction enough.
“We got the win and that's all that matters,” he said singling out his side's improved defensive effort.
“They made a few line breaks and were hard on attack. In previous games they'd have scored tries from that but our scramble was awesome, we got back and fought for it.”
The Lions started with a roar and their forwards dominated the Blues early, paving the way for an Elton Jantjies penalty to have them in front in the opening minutes.
But following the initial burst the Lions were unable to sustain the pressure and the Blues forwards led by Luke and Daniel Braid gradually assumed control.
The turning point came when the Lions turned down the chance of a second kickable penalty and went for an attacking lineout about 12 minutes into the first half.
Their planned forward drive to the line fell flat with the Blues winning possession and working their way up the length of the field where Michael Hobbs was able to cut through a weak defensive effort for the opening try.
Gareth Anscombe landed the conversion and a penalty to have the Blues ahead 10-3 with a second try eluding them on the stroke of halftime when David Raikuna was forced out in the corner.
Anscombe, who had an erratic night with the boot, kicked a second penalty soon after the resumption of play to give the Blues a 10-point lead before Alby Mathewson scored their second try.
The replacement scrum-half snapped up the ball from behind an untidy Lions scrum and scampered 40 metres to score in the corner.
The Blues struggled in the scrums late in the match after both starting props Tony Woodcock and Charlie Faumuina left the field with injuries.
But the Lions, who appear destined to be replaced by the Southern Kings next year, were unable to capitalise on the advantage they had up front and when they did win the ball their backs suffered from handling errors.
Luke Braid rounded off the scoring in the final play of the match when he broke off from the back of a scrum and forced his way over the line. – Sapa-AFP