The British and Irish Lions made the journey from Whangarei (where they faced the Provincial Barbarians) to face the Auckland Blues at Eden Park. It was to be their first Super Rugby opposition of tour and with the Blues allowed to play their All Blacks, there was no doubt that it would be a tremendous challenge; they would need a drastic improvements from Saturdays performance.
The Blues got off to the dream start courtesy of a magical wide pass from Stephen Perofeta to Rieko Ioane. The winger has been in fine form and gas to skin Jack Nowell and beat Leigh Halfpenny to score! It was the perfect start for the New Zealanders and the worst for the tourists.
The Lions set piece was always going to be dominant and they used that edge to put themselves into a try scoring position. Captain Ken Owens threw into the lineout then joined the maul which began to roll with danger. The Blues couldn’t do anything and CJ Stander was the beneficiary plus, after Halfpenny’s conversion the Lions lead by 5-7.
Leigh Halfpenny banged over a penalty until the clock turned red for halftime. Perofeta launched a conversion towards the uprights but it hit the post. The ball rebounded and there was a massive scramble for the ball in which Nowell tapped back behind the line. Sonny Bill Williams was alert and pounced onto the ball! There were some doubts over whether a Blue’s player had knock the ball on but with closer inspection, there was no knock on and Williams had grounded the ball so the try stood!
HALF TIME BLUES 12 – 10 BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS
The Blues lead at halftime and kicked things off with a Perofeta penalty until the game took a massive twist. Augustine Pulu box kicked away for Matt Duffie to chase. The winger pursued the ball and jumped at the same time as Liam Williams. The Welshman caught the Kiwi into mid air and Duffie went down in a heap. The referee stopped time and called for TMO who then decided that Williams had cynically taken Duffie out and showed him a yellow card; the Lions were down to 14 men.
Despite the man advantage it was the Lions who got the next point in fact, they got the next two scores through the boot of Halfpenny who notched two penalties and handed the lead back in the Lions favour. The screw had been turned and suddenly it was all red. The Blues couldn’t get any sustainable possession until they began to chuck the ball around…
Bristol bound back row Steven Luatua made a powerful carry and freed up his arms, managing to get the ball of to Sonny Bill Williams. Sonny Bill carried on the move until he was caught in the clutches of Liam Williams but his relentless speed and skills allowed him to yet again offload out the back to Ihaia West. The little speedster beat Johnny Sexton for pace then changed his angles to step past Halfpenny and dash away!!! It was perhaps one of the best tries I have ever seen! West converted his own try and the game seemed up.
The tourists hammered away and were presented with a golden opportunity to score. Rory Best was presented with a lineout throw on the five metre line but it wasn’t meant to be. He took the lineout too
quickly and nobody was alert so Blues plucked the ball out of the air and punted it into touch to secure the victory! They had beaten the tourists in a tight match that could have swung either way. Bottom of the New Zealand Super Rugby conference but on top of the world at the moment. However, the Lions must not dwell as they have only played two games, lost one, won one. The loss coming against against a full strength Blues side with multiple All Blacks.
FULL TIME BLUES 22 – 16 BRITISH AND IRISH LIONS