The Lions romped to a 43-5 bonus point Super Rugby victory over Auckland’s Blues at a cold and wet Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
The Lions outscored the Blues by seven tries to one and they move to the top of the South African Group on 32 points – one more than the Stormers.
In their previous match the Lions were beaten 17-50 by the Hurricanes but against the Blues they were a different side.
The Lions have now played 10 matches and won seven. The Blues have also played 10 and have won five and a drawn one.
The loss is a blow for the Blues as they had started to gain ground on their New Zealand rivals but will take no points from the match and are now 11 points behind the Hurricanes who are fourth in the NZ Conference.
Centre Lionel Mapoe scored a hat trick of tries while Flyhalf Elton Jantjies enjoyed one of his best performances.
The Lions’ bye, following their crushing defeat against the Hurricanes two weeks ago, seemed to have had a refreshing effect on the team. And the South African side were quickly out of the blocks when they opened the scoring in the first minute of the match.
After a great burst forward by flank Jaco Kriel to get the Lions into the Blues’ 22, captain Warren Whiteley bashed over from short range to give the home side the perfect start to the match.
Flyhalf Jantjies was again in superb form, and showed his full array of skills in the first half. With the referee playing an advantage in the seventh minute, Jantjies found Courtnall Skosan with a perfect cross kick, and the wing slid in for the try.
Jantjies then created centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg’s try with a deft little chip for the Lions’ third try in 11 minutes.
The Blues made too many and mistakes missed too many tackles in the game. They also didn’t make use of their opportunities on attack. The New Zealand side had a lineout in the 35th minute, but turned the ball over to the Lions, who cleared the danger.
The Lions continued where they left off in the second half when the impressive Lions centre Mapoe scored the first of his three tries in the 47th minute. The former SA Sevens player ran a great line to latch on to a Skosan pass before crossing the line untouched.
Four minutes later Lions blindside flank Warrick Teckelenburg was the beneficiary of another Lions try after the home side’s powerful Lions maul destroyed the Blues’ defence.
Mapoe scored his second try in the 65th minute from a great set-piece play. Jantjies fed Mapoe, who straightened the line and beat a tackler before dragging three Blues defenders over the line to score.
The Blues got some consolation out of the match when replacement lock Joe Edwards slipped a tackle on the Lions’ and accelerated away to score.
However, Mapoe would have the final say when he finished off a great team move to give the Lions a bonus-point victory.
Next week the Lions host the Jaguares at home in Emirates Airline (Ellis) Park and the Blues play the Western Force in Perth on their way home to New Zealand.
Final Score Lions 43 (19) Blues 5 (0)
Tries – W.Whiteley, C.Skosan, R. Janse van Rensburg. L.Mapoe 3, W.Tecklenburg
Con – E.Jantjies 4
Tries – J.Edwards
Referee: Jaco van Heerden
Assistant Ref 1:Jaco Peyper
Assistant Ref 2:Pro Legoete
TMO :Shaun Veldsman
15 Jaco van der Walt, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12.Rohan Janse van Rensburg , 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Ruan Ackermann, 3. Julian Redelinghuys, 2. Malcolm Marx, 1 Dylan Smith
Replacements: 16. Armand van der Merwe , 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Jacques van Rooyen, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Cyle Brink, 21.Faf de Klerk , 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Sylvian Mahuza
Sam Prattley, James Parsons (c), Charlie Faumuina, Patrick Tuipulotu, Hoani Matenga, Jerome Kaino, Tanerau Latimer, Steven Luatua; Bryn Hall, Ihaia West, Tevita Li, Piers Francis, George Moala, Melani Nanai, Lolagi Visinia.
Replacements: Quentin MacDonald, Nic Mayhew, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Kara Pryor, Joe Edwards; Billy Guyton, Matt McGahan, Male Sau.