This Blues side etched its name in the history books with a glorious, hard-fought 22-16 victory over the visiting British & Irish Lions, in front of a vocal Eden Park crowd of more than 40,000 people.
Following a rousing haka, the British & Irish Lions went more than 12 phases before the Blues finally got their hands on the ball, and when they did, a poor pass almost gave away a try. It looked like we were in for a long night.
But then Rieko Ioane sparked something special – as he has all year in Super Rugby – catching a superb long pass from Stephen Perofeta to his wing, before streaking clear.
Former Blues centre Jared Payne had a try disallowed by the TMO, Marius Jonker, before number-eight CJ Stander crashed over for the visitors’ first points of the match, scoring from a maul.
A constant threat throughout, Rieko came agonisingly close to scoring another try, but was denied when an on-field replay revealed Ofa Tu’ungafasi was offside in the build up to it.
That was our best chance until, on the stroke of halftime, a penalty attempt from Perofeta ricocheted off the crossbar and Sonny Bill Williams managed to ground the ball in the resulting chaos.
After a long deliberation with the TMO, it was finally approved, giving us a hard-fought two-point lead.
It was a busy night for the TMO, who denied Rieko his second try of the night for the second time, early in the second half. His foot brushed the touchline in the same corner where Payne was earlier denied his try.
Lions substitute Liam Williams was shown a yellow card after twice colliding with Matt Duffie dangerously in the air, sending the fearless winger crashing into the turf on both occasions.
But the Blues couldn’t make their supremacy in numbers count. Instead of pulling away, the Lions clawed into the lead thanks to two more penalties. Suddenly it was a one-point game with ten minutes on the clock.
That’s when Steven Luatua – playing in his final match for the Blues at Eden Park – made a stunning offload, putting Williams into space, before flicking it to Ihaia West, who zigged and zagged his way to the try line. The crowd was ecstatic.
They had to endure a nervous final few minutes – including a Lions lineout from just a few metres out – but our Blues held on to make history tonight.
Blues 22 (Tries – Rieko Ioane, Sonny Bill Williams, Ihaia West; Conversions – Stephen Perofeta, Ihaia West; Penalties – Ihaia West)
British & Irish Lions 16 (Tries – CJ Stander; Conversions – Halfpenny; Penalties – Leigh Halfpenny 2)