The shortcomings of the out-of-sorts Lions were painfully exposed again on Saturday after they were mauled 43-10 by the Blues in Auckland.
While it was a fourth straight win for the Blues, who now move top of the overall log, the Lions were once again hamstrung by poor game management and alarmingly weak defence.
The Lions showed decent initiative on attack for most of the first half, but the Blues ability to shred their defensive line from broken play proved decisive as they eventually scored seven tries.
It was the Lions’ fourth straight defeat and their fifth in six outings.
Who was the star in this match?
Despite the scoreboard, Lions lock Willem Alberts proved his worth in a losing cause, being instrumental for the visitors in the first half with his ability to get the team over the advantage line. If the Lions can sort out the rest of their problems, the 35-year-old veteran could prove a catalyst for some sort of revival.
Key moments and themes
- The Lions started off with great passion and intensity, but their intent didn’t match execution. A start is only as good as the scoreboard pressure it creates and the men from Ellis Park were guilty of questionable decision-making. Three goalable penalties weren’t taken, while – rather surprisingly – the Lions were one-dimensional on attack too, a dynamic not helped by poor handling. Centre Dan Kriel’s try was well worked after fine ball control, but it actually proved the exception to an otherwise wayward attack.
- With their 7-5 lead simply too small, the Lions poor defensive organisation saw them lose control when Blues fullback Stephen Perofeta and wing Mark Telea combined brilliantly to score a fine, but easy try. It was a sign of things to come.
- Barely holding on with half-time approaching, the Lions crucially conceded a penalty try after flank Ruan Vermaak prevented a possible Blues try with an attempted intercept. More importantly, the blindsider was yellow-carded. That gave the hosts a 22-10 lead, a buffer one immediately sensed would be too difficult to bridge.
- The Blues continued to exploit the Lions’ shocking tackling after the turnaround – they eventually missed 31 tackles – and twice made scrumhalf Andre Warner’s box kicks look inept by scoring from them. It was in stark contrast to the visitors, who applied some pressure again in the final quarter, only to be thwarted by some excellent home defence.
Blues – Tries: Rieko Ioane (2), Stephen Perofeta, penalty try, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Hoskins Sotutu. Conversions: Otere Black (3), Harry Plummer. Penalty: Black.
Lions – Try: Dan Kriel. Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalty: Jantjies.