Late score sees Lions defeated

Ihaia West's late try gave the Blues a dramatic 22-16 victory over The British & Irish Lions in the second game of the 2017 Tour.

The boot of Leigh Halfpenny allied to CJ Stander's first-half try had looked like being enough to secure the tourists a hard-fought victory at Eden Park.

But the Blues - who bookended an otherwise impressive first half from the Lions with two tries - struck late with the impressive Sonny Bill Williams to the fore.

Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb were heavily involved as they staked their claims for a Test spot but, on his Lions debut, Dan Biggar was forced off for a head injury assessment shortly before half-time and never returned to the field.

Rieko Ioane had galloped clear early on for the first score but Stander was the beneficiary at the back of a rolling maul and the boot of Halfpenny pushed the Lions to a 10-5 lead in an energetic first-half display.

But on the stroke of the interval Williams dived on a loose ball after a penalty had hit the posts to give the Blues a somewhat fortuitous half-time advantage.

West's penalty then stretched the Blues' lead soon after the break but Halfpenny replied with two of his own and the Lions were back in front.

However Williams broke clear late on and offloaded to the rampaging West to go under the posts and hand the Blues a famous win.

In contrast to Saturday, the Lions came roaring out of the blocks at Eden Park, building the phases in the Blues 22 with a much-improved tempo.

All Black Williams however proved a thorn throughout the first period, first showcasing his defensive skills with a turnover on the deck and a rip off Stander.

And having weathered the early Lions storm, it was the Blues who struck first.

Ioane burst clear down the left after Stephen Perofeta - making his first start for the hosts - released him with a fine long pass.

The young fly half could not add the extras however and the Lions almost mustered an immediate response - Jared Payne ruled to be in touch over in the left corner after the Lions had again stretched the defence right and then left.

The tourists were clearly in the mood now, superb interplay between Maro Itoje and Justin Tipuric in midfield then released James Haskell through the middle and when a kickable penalty was sent to the corner, the pack got to work.

Twice they forced the Blues to concede penalties on their own line, and after going to the corner again the dam finally broke and Stander barged over at the back of the maul.

Halfpenny added the extras and the Lions high tempo showed no sign of abating, Itoje and Courtney Lawes leading the defensive line and when Dan Cole won a scrum penalty from bang in front Halfpenny deservedly stretched the Lions lead out to five points.

The Lions looked comfortable, if a tad ill-disciplined, in defence as Ioane had a second score ruled out for offside.

But on the stroke of half-time the heavens opened in Auckland and the gods did not smile on the Lions.

Perofeta's penalty from in front came back off the post and in the ensuing melee Williams reacted quickest to dot down the loose ball, the TMO ruling that the last touch came off Jack Nowell after lengthy deliberation.

Perofeta could not miss with the extras this time and the home side went in 12-10 to the good.


The first score of the second period was always going to be important and it looked like the Blues had found it when that man Ioane went over in the left corner but a superb cover tackle from Nowell forced him into touch.

With Payne then going off, Elliot Daly was shuffled into midfield and Liam Williams came onto the wing.

Jonathan Sexton had stayed on for Dan Biggar as well, but it was the Blues replacement fly half West who struck next, slotting a penalty to make it 15-10 to the hosts.

Gatland continued to call on his replacements, Peter O'Mahony on for his debut in the back row but the Lions hopes were hit when Williams was shown a yellow card for taking out opposite man Matt Duffie in the air twice in quick succession.

But despite the numerical disadvantage, the Lions rolled up their sleeves and after building the phases - Lawes and Itoje again tireless in attack - won a penalty that Halfpenny slotted.

The Lions now only trailed by two and with their driving maul a constant threat and Williams back in the fray they continued to turn the screw up front.

With an all-new front row they won a penalty and Halfpenny - man of the series four years ago - was nerveless again to put the Lions back in front at 16-15.

However, that man Sonny Bill Williams had the final say with a break and offload and West cut back to go under the posts.

The fly-half added the extras himself and while the Lions had their chances in the closing stages it was the Blues who held on for an impressive victory.