The Blues’ torrid run of defeats finally came to an end as they tamed the Lions 25-3 at Eden Park tonight.
It was by no means pretty or clinical, nor was it overly convincing against the Super Rugby cellar dwellers, but it was a crucial win nonetheless after seven long weeks of agony.
A meagre crowd of 10,127 true blue fans descended on Eden Park determined to cheer on their side despite the disappointing run of form, and their collective sigh of relief as the full time siren sounded was palpable.
“I’m very, very proud of the boys,” Blues head coach Pat Lam said following his side’s first win on home turf this season.
“You can’t underestimate where we’ve come from and what’s been going on in the team, how hard it is to get a win.
“We know it’s not perfect rugby and we know it wasn’t pretty but for me I’m really proud of the boys digging deep to come away with a win to end the sequence we’ve been on.”
The Blues disarmed the vaunted rolling maul of the Lions early on and showed plenty of sting in defence spearheaded by a fired up Ma’a Nonu, but they found themselves trailing 3-0 following an Elton Jantjies penalty kick five minutes in.
Tony Woodcock was a late inclusion in the side after overcoming a calf injury and he made himself known with a superb scrummaging display. The Blues earned a tighthead and heaped plenty of pressure onto the backpedalling Lions scrum but were unable to capitalise on their dominance.
After bombing a couple of opportunities to cross the whitewash, Michael Hobbs opened the Blues’ account with a brilliant try after 16 minutes.
It was Piri Weepu who sparked his side into action, side stepping from the base of a ruck and charging downfield. A couple of phases later, Gareth Anscombe wrapped around a player and hit Hobbs who managed to get on the outside of his man to crash over for the try.
Bruising prop Charlie Faumuina bashed his way over the line but the TMO denied him a try and a number of other opportunities also went begging as all the Blues had to show for their heavy weight of possession and territory was a solitary penalty goal.
The Lions finally found their roar early in the second stanza and strung enough phases together to trouble the Blues, but after withstanding the onslaught the home side struck back with their own attack.
Anscombe atoned for an early missed penalty kick to land a three pointer and extend his side’s lead to 13-3 after 46 minutes before Alby Mathewson scored the Blues’ second try seven minutes later.
Lock Liaki Moli, who produced a man of the match performance tonight, latched onto the ball from the back of a Lions scrum and fed it to Mathewson who scampered 40 metres to dive over in the corner.
With Woodcock heading to the sidelines and Faumuina carried off with a serious calf tear, the Blues’ scrum disintegrated somewhat as the Lions clawed their way back into the game.
However they couldn’t quite get over the line as Luke Braid, who toiled extremely hard all game, was rewarded with a pushover try on fulltime to give the home side a well deserved 25-3 victory.
The Blues now face the Crusaders at AMI Stadium in Christchurch on Saturday night.