Wynne Gray

Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Rugby: Finally a team the Blues can beat

Blues player David Raikuna. Photo / Getty Images
Blues player David Raikuna. Photo / Getty Images

Players punched the air and the coaches whacked each other's backs in exuberance as the Blues grabbed a victory - a feat which for them had been like nailing mercury for the last two months.

Style was irrelevant and the method secondary as the Blues beat the Lions at Eden Park last night.

Much of the work was ragged but the Blues glow of finally getting back into the winning column after seven successive failures could have boosted the national electricity grid.

It had been a long time - a very long time - since they won their only match in early March on the high velt in Pertoria.

Last night was the clash of the cellar-dwellers who confirmed that status with a modest impersonation of professional rugby.

The Blues will not mind. At last they have a victory, a rare glow in a soiled season.

There was one downside with tighthead prop Charlie Faumuina helped off with a left calf muscle injury which may impinge on his All Black squad prospects.

For much of the match, the Blues and Lions piled up the mistakes.

Bedevilled by injury and a lack of confidence, both sides crabbed across field and ended up being easy tackling practice for one another..

Their work had the crispness of fortnight-old lettuce and the same soggy appeal.

A modest 10,127 crowd attended the match, hoping to see a rare result or at least some improvement from the miserable offering they witnessed in the last home game with the Reds.

In the first half, the Blues secured a 10-3 lead after a rare try from Michael Hobbs when teammates held the ball and their composure for more than a few phases.

The Blues played for territory and worked on the theory that it was better to make mistakes down the Lions' end of the field. And make mistakes they did.

They were hammered in the penalty count at the breakdowns and struggled in the lineouts while senior man Daniel Braid had to be admonished by referee Angus Gardner for repeated objections to one decision.

The one bright point was the Blues' scrum.

Test loosehead Tony Woodcock was a surprise starter, cleared from a calf injury just hours before kickoff and starting with a team tighthead from the Lions' first scrum.

But around that promise, there was the stream of mistakes which have blighted the Blues year.

Woeful decisions and rough execution were there in abundance as further signs of a side struggling with repeated poor performances.

But they were in front. They had led just twice this season at the interval, against the Bulls and Hurricanes.

They kicked on to beat the Bulls but lost at the death against the Hurricanes.

Last night's answer - mercifully for the hosts - was the same as in Pretoria.

A second-half try to replacement halfback Alby Mathewson, when the Lions botched a scrum, was the telling moment. Liaki Moli caused further disruption and offloaded to his halfback who juggled the ball and then scampered 35m to the line.

But there was no let up in the late anxiety when Woodcock was wisely substituted after a strong game.

Minutes later his buddy Faumuina was gone and the Lions were able to apply some heat in the scrum.

But, once the scrums had settled down, Luke Braid got a late try to add some gloss to the win.

So the Blues escaped and finally could celebrate a rare commodity.


Blues 25

Try: M Hobbs, A Mathewson, L Braid
Con: G Anscombe 2
Pen: G Anscombe

Lions 3

Pen: E Jantjies
Halftime: 10-3 David Raikuna, of the Blues, makes a break during last night's match against the Lions.

- NZ Herald

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