AUCKLAND, New Zealand, June 7 – The British and Irish Lions suffered their first defeat on their tour of New Zealand at the hands of Super Rugby outfit the Blues.
Warren Gatland’s side stuttered to a 13-7 victory over the Provincial Barbarians in their series opener on Saturday, and they faced a sterner test in Auckland, albeit against supposedly the weakest of the New Zealand Super Rugby franchises.
It looked like the Lions were going in ahead at half-time, CJ Stander’s converted try and Leigh Halfpenny’s penalty cancelling out Rieko Ioane’s early score.
But the hosts snatched a try on the half-time whistle when All Black Sonny Bill Williams won the race to touch down after Stephen Perofeta’s penalty came off the post.
The Blues thought they had extended their lead early in the second half, but the television match official ruled Jack Nowell’s tackle on Rieko Ioane had taken the winger’s foot into touch.
Ihaia West did kick the hosts further ahead from the tee and the Lions’ task looked harder when Liam Williams was sent to the sin-bin for twice making contact with Matt Duffie in the air as they contested kicks.
But the tourists regathered and their driving play earned the chance for Halfpenny to slot another two penalties as the Lions regained the lead after 71 minutes.
However, the Blues always looked dangerous ball in hand, and the Lions were undone by a superb try from West, who raced clear under the posts from centre Williams’ offload.
The Lions now face Super Rugby’s Crusaders on Saturday (08:35 BST), with their first Test against New Zealand on 24 June.