Patrick McKendry is a rugby and boxing writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Blues torn to shreds by hungry Lions

Lions 43 Blues 5
Tanerau Latimer of the Blues. Photo / Getty Images.
Tanerau Latimer of the Blues. Photo / Getty Images.

The Lions set the tone for their bonus point victory over the Blues in Johannesburg this morning with a try in the first minute and the points kept pouring in, along with the heavy rain, at Ellis Park.

Warren Whiteley's early score came after a Blues' lineout loss, several missed tackles, and a general lack of application. It summed up the match, really, the Blues leaving South Africa for Western Australia thoroughly humbled after their victory over an ordinary Kings team in Port Elizabeth last weekend.

That win at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium was the first for the Blues away from Auckland in two years, but this defeat will wash any of that feel-good factor down the drain because it was one of their worst in recent history, and there have been a few bad ones.

At the end the Blues trudged off having conceded seven tries, while scoring only one.

Bossed out of the game in the opening 10 minutes, they hardly fired a shot.

"We didn't adapt to the conditions and set the platform we needed," skipper James Parsons said. "We'll have to have a good look in the mirror... we let ourselves down tonight and we know that."

The conditions were difficult, but the home side didn't suffer anywhere near the handling problems that the Blues did. There were fumbles in open play, lineouts, and in contact.

The visitors' attack ran up cul de sacs, but there always seemed to be space for the Lions to run into. A big reason for that was the performance of their first-five Elton Jantjies, a little magician in the No10 jersey who kicked superbly in open play and who ignited what must be considered one of the best backlines in South African rugby.

His cross-kick on the run for Courtnall Skosan's try in the left corner - his team's second which came after only seven minutes - couldn't have been better if he had tried another 10 times.

The Lions had a point to prove after their 50-point meltdown against the Hurricanes before their bye last weekend and they did it emphatically in retaining their position of fourth overall on the points table and their lead of the South Africa Two conference.

The Blues' playoffs hopes, meanwhile, which were modestly lifted last weekend, could almost be seen drifting off into the thin air of the highveld. The Lions are a very good side, as they showed earlier this season when beating the Chiefs in Hamilton, but the Blues made them look spectacular at times due to their lack of attitude and basic skills under pressure.

Tana Umaga now has the job of lifting his men for a potentially difficult match against the Force in Perth next weekend and it wouldn't surprise if there were several high-profile casualties in terms of selections.

Skosan's try was one of three in the first half, and all in the first 10 minutes, with Lionel Mapoe scoring his first of three tries after the break to quickly snuff out any Blues' hopes of limiting the damage.

Replacement loose forward Kara Pryor's try for the Blues with seven minutes remaining, but the impassive expressions on the faces of skipper Parsons, on the bench at that stage, and Umaga in the coaches' box, told their own story.

Centre Mapoe, who, along with Jantjies and skipper Whiteley was superb for the Lions, replied with his third try.

Lions 43 (Lionel Mapoe 3, Warren Whiteley, Courtnall Skosan, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Warwick Tecklenburg tries; Elton Jantjies 3 cons)

Blues 5 (Kara Pryor try)

Halftime: 19-0

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