Blues stun Lions to send tourists into disarray

International
by Sam Phillips

A piece of Sonny Bill Williams magic has sent the Lions into disarray, as the Blues pulled off an unthinkable 22-16 upset at Eden Park.

It was a trademark Williams offload which put an airborne Ihaia West away for the match winner with five minutes to play - a fitting end to a match in which the Lions were exposed.

If the claws were out after their clash with the Barbarians, the condemnation will kick into overdrive tomorrow.

Some pundits described Saturday's performance as one that reached "unimaginable levels of mediocrity" and that would be a kind way to describe tonight's output from the tourists.Sonny Bill Williams scored a try and set one up tonight. Photo: Getty ImagesTheir defensive work - led by their locks and backrow - was solid and their set piece was similarly impressive but their attack lacks any imagination and they are subsequently forced to work very hard for points.

That simply won't cut it against the other New Zealand teams.

If Warren Gatland take this attack with these players into a three Test series with the All Blacks, it will be akin to taking a butter knife to a gun fight.

The Blues started the better of the two teams, defending a 16 phase passage from the Lions before taking the ball up the other end to create the first points of the match.Rieko Ioane opened the scoring. Photo: Getty ImagesCharlie Faumuina popped the ball out the back to Stephen Perofeta to create an overlap which he took full advantage of - sending a bullet pass Rieko Ioane's way that left Jack Nowell no chance of catching his opposite number.

The tourists then started to control the game through some great defensive work, particularly from locks Maro Itoje and Courtney Lawes.

Some strong carries from James Haskell and CJ Stander provided go forward they were deprived of against the Barbarians and eventually the territory gains gave the Lions their first points - a rolling maul try after 17 minutes in which Stander fell over the line.

Leigh Halfpenny added another penalty eight minutes later and his side remained in control for the remainder of the half but a sharp burst in the last two minutes put the Blues in front.Lions fans weren't smiling for long. Photo: Getty ImagesAfter earning a penalty from 30 out, a Perofeta shot hit the post.

The loose ball hit the post and was parried back into the Lions in goal area, Williams winning the race to the loose ball to give the Blues a 12-10 lead at the break.

Tonight's match was billed as an All Black audition for the previously injured Williams and he would have passed with flying colours.

His attacking prowess was never going anywhere but it was his defence which turned heads tonight.

In the first ten minutes he forced two turnovers and was always leading the line speed, putting hits on anyone brave enough to run his way.Rhys Webb celebrates the Lions' only try. Photo: Getty ImagesThe Blues spent the first 10 minutes of the second term inside the Lions' half and turned pressure into points through an Ihaia West penalty, opening up a 15-10 gap.

Liam Williams came onto the left wing and within 10 minutes he was back on the sidelines in the sin bin after taking Matt Duffie out in the air twice in as many minutes.

The Blues threatened but with 20 minutes remaining, a big Lions scrum triggered a turning point.

The Lions won a penalty, went up the other end and after 15 phases, Halfpenny added three more.

Repeat that same recipe 10 minutes later and the Lions had their noses back in front.

But with five minutes left on the clock, Williams' offload to West sent the reserve flyhalf streaking away for a memorable match winner.

Whether that will be remembered as a dream or nightmare depends on which side of the world you're from.

RESULT

Blues 22

Tries: R Ioane, Williams, West

Cons: Perofeta, West

Pens: West

Lions 16

Tries: Stander

Cons: Halfpenny

Pens: Halfpenny 3

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