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Blues shock Gatland's limp Lions

NZN 7/06/2017 Angelo Risso

British and Irish Lions boss Warren Gatland insists the gulf in quality between New Zealand's Super Rugby squads and the All Blacks isn't all that large, despite his side going down to the conference's weakest outfit on Wednesday.

A stunning Ihaia West try with six minutes left on the clock handed the Blues a 22-16 victory over their esteemed opponents at Eden Park, and once again called into question the Lions' competitiveness against Kiwi sides in 2017.

Having limped to victory over the provincial Barbarians in Whangarei, the Lions looked better at the set-piece in Auckland but were still mostly listless in attack.

Like last week, the Test selection managed just a single try in 80 minutes - via CJ Stander from a driving maul - and then pushed their noses in front through the unerring boot of Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny with 10 minutes remaining.

But the Blues' chaos rugby - as described by the Lions camp this week - kicked in at the perfect time, as offloads from bustling duo Steven Luatua and Sonny Bill Williams handed reserve first-five eighth West the chance to scoot around Halfpenny and score.

The Blues are winless in NZ Super Rugby derbies in 2017 and are certain to finish last in the Kiwi conference, missing the finals for the sixth straight year.

Nevertheless, Gatland suggested post-game that the Tana Umaga-coached outfit wouldn't be all that different an opponent to the all-conquering All Blacks.

"I expect to see an improvement from tonight's performance again on Saturday (against the Crusaders); there's so much strength and depth in this country," Gatland said.

"I don't think there'll be a lot of difference between some of the Super Rugby sides and the All Blacks - these guys have been together seven months and the All Blacks are coming in cold, (and) there's a massive amount of strength and depth."

Despite their win, the Blues were also careless at times on home soil, with a nervous Stephen Perofeta making his starting debut at first-five.

But they played with more endeavour than their opponents from the get-go and crossed the line first, with Rieko Ioane planting down on the left edge.

True to form, the Lions used their brawn to get back in the hunt via Stander, before the bruising Williams scored a lucky try on the halftime hooter.

With the last play of the half, a Perofeta penalty goal struck the upright and bounced back for Test midfielder Williams to plant down via a Lions knock-on.

Having already kicked a first-half penalty goal, the metronomic Halfpenny appeared to guide his side home with two further second-half three-pointers.

But then West popped up to shock Gatland and his men.

"Let's take nothing away from the try Ihaia West scored and the offloading - that's only going to continue, and we've got to be a little bit better there," Gatland said.

"Generally we did that pretty well, our line speed defensively.

"You've just got to stay alive, and we've talked about (that) the whole time."

In a silver lining for Gatland, a calf injury to Kiwi-born centre Jared Payne isn't considered serious, while first-five Dan Biggar has suffered a minor concussion.

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