Rugby: Blues lift gloom with win

Blues David Raikuna drags in the defence during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Lions at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images.
Blues David Raikuna drags in the defence during the round 12 Super Rugby match between the Blues and the Lions at Eden Park. Photo / Getty Images.

Blues 25
Lions 3

At last, long last, the Blues can look down on a team below them on the Super Rugby ladder.

It didn't come soon enough to save Pat Lam his job as coach - it was announced this week the position for 2013 will be advertised - but it lifts a little of the gloom around Eden Park.

Admittedly the win came against the Lions, the weakest of the South African sides and the franchise who now occupy the bottom rung on the ladder, but it was a win nonetheless and one of those hadn't come since the 29-23 defeat of the Bulls in Pretoria on March 11.

In truth, they should have won much more easily than they did. They dominated proceeding for long periods, especially in the opening half when they spent 11 of the first 25 minutes camped inside the Lions' 22, but weren't good enough to make it count.

The effort was there, but basic skills let them down and they often muddled their way through proceedings. It was a symptom of their season and they were only lucky there were up against a side worse than them.

The Lions still haven't won since the opening round of the competition and it will do little to convince SARU of their long-term future.

"You can't underestimate from where we have come from and what we have done, how hard it is to get a win,'' Lam said. "What the boys did tonight, we know it's not perfect rugby and it wasn't pretty, but for me I'm really proud the boys dug deep and came out with a win to end the sequence we have been on.''

The Blues provided the bright spot of the evening, when Michael Hobbs finished off a sweeping move in the 17th minute started after a good scoot up the middle from Piri Weepu, but it was a rare moment.

Even when they were hot on attack, they would push a pass forward when they had an overlap, spill the ball or concede a silly penalty.

They at least brought a degree of intensity often missing this season and that was no better exemplified than by the Braid brothers and skipper Luke scored at the final hooter. But they needed to, given the plight of their coach.

The most important thing was they won. They didn't care what it looked like or who it was against but their winning streak will come under considerable pressure next weekend when they head to Christchurch to face the Crusaders.

"It's massive for us,'' Lam said. "We are not saying we will now go on and win stuff but it takes so much pressure off us and we can finally enjoy a good weekend.

"There's a lot of belief in their ability but you could see the pressure on them. The mistakes they have been making, a lot of it has been tension. That's why I am proud of them.''

The Blues were handed a boost prior to kickoff when Tony Woodcock came into the starting lineup and their scrum in the opening hour was one of the best aspects of their game. They won the hit and regularly pushed the Lions pack backwards but that all changed when Woodcock went off after 55 minutes and he was followed two minutes later by Charlie Faumuina with a torn calf muscle.

It was a cruel blow for Faumuina, who was thought to have been in All Blacks contention, and the Blues now have yet another injury to contend with.

The visitors rarely threatened, scoring their only points in the sixth minute through the boot of Elton Jantjies, and they are now in their rightful place at the foot of the ladder.

The Blues will hope they don't return there any time soon.

Blues 25 (Michael Hobbs, Alby Mathewson, Luke Braid tries; Gareth Anscombe 2 cons, 2 pens) Lions 3 (Elton Jantjies pen). HT: 10-3.

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