The Blues scored five tries in a spectacular 25 minute spell but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Lions as they suffered a 39-36 defeat at Ellis Park.
Trailing 20-nil following two yellow cards either side of half time, the Blues showed incredible character to come screaming back into the game but once again they fell short of the mark.
An incredibly dubious refereeing decision to award the Lions a try at a crucial time killed the Blues as Sir John Kirwan’s men return from the Republic today with just two consolation bonus points for their troubles.
It’s becoming a worrying trend for the Blues – give the team an almost unassailable lead before finally clicking into gear to show what they’re capable of.
They have the ability, there’s no doubt about it – few teams in the Super Rugby competition would be able to light up the game and score five thrilling tries in under half an hour like the Blues did against the Lions.
However why it takes until they’re almost out of the game for them to find their form is a question the Blues coaching staff will be deeply pondering.
Against the Highlanders (0-24) Crusaders (3-17), Bulls (12-25) and now the Lions (0-20), the Blues have fought back on every occasion to almost clinch the game, but it was only against the Crusaders at home where they were able to come out on top.
Against the Lions the Blues should have claimed a victory but every time they scored points they gave the Lions a chance to get back into the game.
It wasn’t that the Blues started too slowly this time, the score remained nil-all for over half an hour and the visitors had plenty of chances to pry open the Lions’ defence.
However mistakes hampered their progress, and when Charlie Faumuina was sinbinned for coming in at the side of a rolling maul, the Lions capitalised on the one man advantage as sniping halfback Faf de Klerk dummied from the base of the ruck and scampered over for the try.
First five-eighths Marnitz Boshoff landed a booming long range drop goal attempt before a try after the halftime siren had sounded to livewire wing Coutnall Skosan gave the home side a handy 17-0 lead at the break.
Another Boshoff drop goal early in the second stanza extended his side’s lead, and when lock Tom Donnelly was sinbinned moments later, the Blues looked to be in trouble.
Chris Noakes finally got his side on the scoreboard with a penalty kick after 46 minutes before the first-five produced a lovely wide ball to wing Charles Piutau who barged his way over to score in the corner.
Piutau has been the most consistent performer for the Blues this season so it was no surprise when he set up the team’s second try, grubbering down the sideline and outpacing the Lions winger to regather the ball, before passing inside to Jordan Manihera whose quick hands put Bryn Hall away for the try.
Then came the killer blow for the Blues. Having narrowed the deficit to 23-15 with 20 minutes to play, Piutau looked to have pulled off a try saving tackle on Deon van Rensburg as the ball was knocked from his grasp on the line.
However after consulting with the television match official, referee Stuart Berry somehow came to the conclusion that the ball had not been knocked on and ruled a try to fullback Coenie van Wyk, who had dived on the loose ball.
Replacement halfback Bryn Hall really sparked things when he came on and his darting run led to the Blues’ third try as Frank Halai showed incredible power to run over the top of his opposite number and waltz in under the posts.
11 points down with 10 minutes to go, George Moala bashed his way over the line from close range to score the bonus point try before hot stepping fullback Benji Marshall went through a gap and dazzled two opposition defenders to crash over the line.
However that was as close as the Blues came as they ran out of time to score the match winning points.
The Blues fly home to Auckland today and play the Cheetahs at Eden Park on Saturday night.