JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The Lions extended their unexpectedly bright start to Super Rugby when they beat the Blues 39-36 for the first time since 2006 in a see-saw battle at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Although the hosts were outscored five tries to three by the team from Auckland, Marnitz Boshoff landed four penalties and two dropped goals to give them their third win in five games since returning to the competition.
The Lions missed out on Super Rugby in 2013 when they lost their place to the Southern Kings, and were expected to struggle after earning their way back into the tournament through a playoff victory.
However Saturday's win put them fourth in the standings, while the Blues were 13th after a third loss in four games.
The first half belonged entirely to the Lions, as they bounced into the break with a 17-0 lead.
After the game had gone scoreless for the first 30 minutes, Blues prop Charlie Faumuina was yellow carded for collapsing a maul close to his own tryline, and two minutes later scrum-half Francois de Klerk capitalized on the numerical advantage to score the game's first try.
Boshoff added the conversion and a dropped goal, before Courtnall Skosan went over on the stroke of half-time gave the Lions a significant advantage.
Boshoff added a penalty after the break to push the gap to 20 points, and the Blues earned a second yellow card when Tom Donnelly failed to use his arms whilst clearing out a ruck.
However when the lock returned, the Blues came roaring back into the match with two tries in three minutes to narrow the deficit to eight points.
Coenie van Wyk's try with 20 minutes remaining gave the Lions some breathing room, but the Blues kept coming and Frank Halai held off a defender to score under the posts moments later.
Boshoff's penalty made it 33-22 with 10 minutes to play, only for centre George Moala's converted try to put the Blues within four points.
However a couple of penalties from Boshoff made the game safe, ensuring that Benji Marshall's 80th minute try gave the Blues no more than a losing bonus point.
Lions 39 (Francois de Klerk, Courtnall Skosan, Coenie van Wyk tries; Marnitz Boshoff 3 conversions, 4 penalties, 2 dropped goals), Blues 36 (Charles Piutau, Bryn Hall, Frank Halai, George Moala, Benji Marshall tries; Chris Noakes 2 conversions, penalty, Simon Hickey 2 conversions). HT: 17-0