Lions 32 - 41 Blues

 

The Lions lost their third straight game in the Super 15 against the Blues 32-41 at Coca-Cola Park.

All Blacks winger Rene Ranger stole the show, coming off the bench to score two tries in what was an action-packed game of rugby.

Both sides came into the game on the back of a loss and the first-half saw end-to-end action with both sides playing aggressive attacking rugby.

The game could have been won or lost by both teams with each side taking the lead in the second half, but a mistake from Elton Jantjies inside his own 22 cost the Lions seven points and ultimately any chance at a come back

The First Half

The Blues started brightly with former Sale Shark Luke McAllister dictating the pace early on and after a poor kick to clear their lines from Lions' full back Jako Taute, the Blues were given the chance to show off their embarrassment of riches in the backline.

The line-out inside the Lions 22 was comfortably won and after the maul turned static, the ball was spread left to right with All Black Isaia Toeava feeding the ball to Joe Rokocoko to apply the finishing touches in the corner on three minutes- his 37th try in Super Rugby. McAllister successfully converted from a narrow angle. Lions 0 Blues 7

The Lions responded almost immediately through a break away try from Scrum-half Jano Vermaak. Number 8 Warren Whiteley found acres of space in front of him after catching the line-out and broke free. The Blues looked like they had stopped the attack after getting a hand to Whiteley's offload but Vermaak reacted quickly, hacking the ball on to touch down in the far corner. Young fly-half Elton Jantjies  conversion levelled the scores. Lions 7 Blues 7

The team from Auckland retook the lead on 12 minutes after Rokocoko produced a moment of magic. A long clearance from the Lions forced the All Blacks winger to retrieve the ball deep in his half, but after effortlessly gliding through the chasing defence and collecting a neat chip over the top, the ball made its way across to outside centre Jared Payne who finished a wonderful counter attacking try for the Auckland side's second of the match. McAllister converted his second kick from a similar angle to his first. Lions 7 Blues 14

The Lions narrowed the deficit on 17 minutes through a penalty from Jantjies- the Blues penalised for going off their feet at the breakdown. Lions 10 Blues 14

But the four-point gap only lasted two minutes as McAllister's casual drop goal sailed between the posts to restore the seven point margin. Lions 10 Blues 17

The Lions, who have lost their opening two games of this campaign were not going to go down easily this week and began building the phases. Their patient work created an overlap and for Centre Waylon Murray and he passed to the supporting Whiteley who crossed over on 23 minutes. Jantjies converted and the scores were again level. Lions 17 Blues 17

The Lions then took the lead for the first time in the game on 27 minutes, Jantjies kicking his first penalty of the game from 37 metres out after the Blues were punished for side entry to the ruck. Lions 20 Blues 17

The momentum was building for the Lions and Blues lock Kurtis Haui was sent to the bin for a deliberate foul trying to stop it.

Centre Doppies la Grange scored on the stroke of half-time to finish what was a very entertaining first-half- Jantjies missed the following conversion. Lions 25 Blues 17

The Second Half

After the break, Lions fans were hoping for more of the same, but it was the Blues who replied through Rene Ranger on 50 minutes. McAllister opted to work the short side and good handling in a narrow channel gave space to Payne gave a clever ball inside for Ranger to collect his 10th try in Super Rugby. McAllister added two more points from the conversion. Lions 25 Blues 24

Then on 54 minutes the electric McAllister broke through the Lions defence in his own half and raced towards the try line. Support play from Payne linked the play and Ranger crossed again to put the Blues back in front and give them the four-try bonus point. McAllister converted for his 266th point in Super Rugby. Lions 25 Blues 31

McAllister added three more to that tally with a 61-metre penalty on 60 minutes. The Johannesburg altitude working in favour of the Fly-Half. Lions 25 Blues 34

On 65 minutes the Lions replied again, Josh Strauss crashing over on the 9th phase of play from a short distance to reduce the gap to four points and collect a vital bonus point. The under pressure Jantjies looked to have banished any bad memories from last week with the boot and successfully converted to make it two points. Lions 32 Blues 34

Unfortunately this week Jantjies problem was his concentration and from the resulting kicking off, he took his eye off the ball to knock-on. The resulting scrum saw Blues Scrum-Half Alby Mathewson score beside the posts and substitute Stephen Brett added two more to extend the gap. Lions 32 Blues 41

The Lions almost salvaged another bonus point in the last play of the game. Killian hacked the ball through after untidy handling and despite collecting, the covering Ranger managed to dislodge the ball for a knock on.

The Lions must be feeling the most unlucky team in the Super 15 have now lost their opening three games in this year's campaign in such close affairs.

The Blues now sit second in the table with nine points, one behind the leaders the Waratahs.

Super Rugby 2019 Points Table