Blues win basement battle

JON CARDINELLI reports on a scrappy 25-3 victory for the Blues, a result that could eventually see the Lions finishing the season with the wooden spoon.

It wasn’t pretty or polished by any stretch of the imagination, but the Blues did enough to snap a seven-game losing streak.

Conversely, the rudderless Lions sunk to new lows in this battle between the two worst-placed teams in the competition.

John Mitchell’s side has now lost nine games on the trot, and the poor quality of their recent performances suggests they could struggle to reverse what is a horrendous albeit familiar trend.

Both teams were under intense pressure coming into this clash, and the desperation was patent from the outset. The first quarter was truly painful to watch, as neither team managed to control the ball, and the Lions were particularly guilty of losing too much ball in contact.

The Blues seized the initiative as the game moved into the second quarter, a patient build-up eventually forcing a defensive error from a determined yet inferior Lions outfit. Michael Hobbs flew through for the try, and Gareth Anscombe added two points to his personal tally after nailing an earlier penalty.

The seven-point lead was significant, and the Blues began to take control in other areas of the game.

Their scrum mauled that of the Lions, the late inclusion of Tony Woodcock clearly having an impact. While the hosts’ lineout wobbled, their work at the collisions and breakdowns forced many a turnover. They conceded numerous penalties in this area, but they still managed to prevent the Lions from getting any sort of continuity.

The hosts also played a territorial game, and the Lions did well to finish the half without conceding further points. They were helped by the Blues’ lack of synergy on attack, as well as the fact that Anscombe missed a penalty attempt, and two more after the break.

But Anscombe eventually earned the Blues some reward for their dominance in the 46th minute, and from that point the Lions’ discipline went south. Their repeated infringements at the breakdown led to the sin-binning of Deon van Rensburg, and as the winger departed so too did the visitors’ chances of a fightback.

Reserve scrumhalf Alby Mathewson scored a try against the run of play to take the score to 18-3, and it proved to be the knock-out blow. Another five-pointer was added on the hooter, but this only served to further inflate the scoreline. The Lions were a beaten side long before this point.

The result sees the Lions dropping to the foot of the Super Rugby table. Considering their injury situation, they would do well to win a game on tour, and in the greater scheme of things they would do very well to avoid the overall wooden spoon.

There are six games remaining in their campaign and while they are within striking distance of the Blues and Force, there’s been nothing in their recent performances to suggest they can win the next two games in Australia, or indeed the majority of the games when they return to South Africa.

The fact that they weren’t able to register one try against this Blues side said it all. They’re struggling to score, their set-piece is a mess and their defence is woefully inconsistent. It’s hard to say exactly where their next win is going to come from.