Lions beat Blues in thrillerComment on this story
Johannesburg – The Lions held off a strong second-half fightback by the Blues to secure a 39-36 win at at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
It was only their second Super Rugby win in eight matches.
The hosts scored all the first-half points with two tries in the first 40 minutes before the New Zealand franchise came back with a vengeance in the second.
The Lions showed true grit in the opening exchanges as they had to keep the Blues' colossal tight forwards and dangerous backline at bay.
It was tireless stuff as the Lions had to defend wave after wave of brutal attacks from the visiting team.
The Lions finally had a brief respite when one of the Blues players had to receive medical attention before the home side made a surprising tactical decision.
On the half-hour mark captain Warren Whiteley opted for a corner kick instead of an almost guaranteed three points from a penalty conversion.
The resultant driving maul from the lineout paid dividends when Blues prop Charlie Faumuina was shown a yellow card for an infringement.
Three scrums later the Lions' tenacity bore fruit as pint-sized scrumhalf Faf de Klerk sold a dummy to Blues prop Tony Woodcock from a ruck metres from the line to score in the 33rd minute.
Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff converted the try and six minutes later the sharpshooting kicker slotted over a drop just inside the Blues' half.
On the 40 minute mark the Blues conceded a penalty and instead of going for the points on offer the Lions took a quick tap and sent the ball to the other end where wing Courtnall Skosan ran a beautiful line to score in the left-hand corner, with Boshoff converting (17-0).
Two minutes after the restart Boshoff slotted his second drop goal with the greatest of ease to extend their lead to 20 points.
The visitors' ill-discipline again earned them a yellow card in the 45th minute with Tom Donnelly this time the guilty party for charging into the ruck on two occasions with his shoulder.
The Blues nevertheless went on to score their first points of the match with flyhalf Chris Noakes succeeding with a penalty conversion a minute later before Boshoff kicked his first penalty of the match in the 52nd minute.
The tourists then demonstrated why they are regarded as a dangerous attacking side when they crossed the whitewash within two minutes.
Fleet-footed Blues wing Charles Piutau first got over the tryline after some quick hands to score in the corner, with Noakes missing the conversion.
The Blues went on attack from the restart out of their 22 with Bryn Hall the last receiver after an initial Piutau break and grubber kick.
Noakes converted to bring his side within eight points of the hosts before match referee Stuart Berry awarded a somewhat controversial try in the 60th minute.
On route to the tryline it looked as if a Blues player knocked the ball out of Deon van Rensburg's hands. The ball spilled over the goal area with Coenie van Wyk falling on the loose ball for the five-pointer, and Boshoff converting (30-15).
The Blues responded five minutes later when Frank Halai dotted down after the initial break by Hall.
Noakes converted the try before Boshoff pulled back three points with a penalty conversion in the 68th minute (33-22).
The last 10 minutes of the match turned into an intense tussle with the Blues scoring through George Moala with nine minutes left in the match.
Replacement flyhalf Simon Hickey converted to put his side within four points of the Lions and to ensure a dramatic last minutes of the match.
Boshoff then came to the party for his side as he converted two consecutive penalties in the last five minutes, with his last in the 78th minute almost guaranteeing his side a famous victory.
The Blues, however, would not be easily defeated and a minute from time Benji Marshall danced his way past the Lions defence to score, with Hickey taking a quick drop for the conversion.
The home side managed to pin the Blues in their 22 to hold on for the victory.
Scorers: Lions 39 (17): Tries: Faf de Klerk, Courtnall Skosan, Coenie van Wyk. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (3). Penalties:
Boshoff (4). Drop goals: Boshoff (2).
Blues 36 (0): Tries: Frank Halai, Bryn Hall, George Moala, Charles Piutau.
Conversions: Chris Noakes (2), Simon Hickey (2). Penalty: Noakes. – Sapa