Blues too strong for Highlanders
Sat, 29 Mar 2014 08:17
An efficient display from the Auckland side who kept the visitors tryless
The Blues scored three tries on their way to a convincing 30-12 victory over the Highlanders at Eden Park on Saturday.
It was an efficient display from the Auckland side who kept the visitors tryless to move to the top of the New Zealand conference.
The Highlanders made a strong start to the game, spending the opening exchanges camped in the Blues' 22, but the home team's defence held up well as they managed to keep the visitors out.
Instead it would be the Blues who opened the scoring when left wing George Moala made the most of a good bounce to score in the corner and put his team 7-0 up.
The Highlanders regrouped well and showed good patience as three penalties from Lima Sopoaga saw them take a 9-7 lead after the opening half-hour.
The Blues were back in front soon afterwards when flyhalf Simon Hickey slotted an easy penalty, and they stretched that advantage to 17-9 when Ma'a Nonu forced his way over the tryline after a good break from scrumhalf Bryn Hall.
The Highlanders had an opportunity to hit back just before half-time, but the Blues managed to turn them over to take their eight-point lead into the break.
The home side made a determined start to the second half, driving the Highlanders back into their 22 where Hickey was able kick another penalty, but the Highlanders struck back immediately as Sopoaga landed a long-range kick.
However, it was not long before the Blues crossed the tryline again, with fullback Charles Piutau taking a gap out wide to put his side in firm control with a 27-12 advantage.
They stretched that lead even further with another Hickey penalty, and the only question remaining in the last 20 minutes was whether the Blues would score the bonus-point try.
It was not to be, as the Highlanders held out under some serious pressure at the end, although they did not really threaten to cross the tryline themselves.
Man of the match: Blues No.8 Steven Luatua had a storming game, smashing into the opposition in both defence and attack.
For the Blues:
Tries: Moala, Nonu, Piutau
Cons: Hickey 3
Pens: Hickey 3
For the Highlanders:
Pens: Sopoaga 4
Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 George Moala, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Luke Braid (captain), 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Tom Donnelly, 20 Peter Saili, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Pita Ahki, 23 Benji Marshall.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (co-captain), 7 Shane Christie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Chris King, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Ma'afu Fia, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Shaun Treeby.
Referee: Steve Walsh (Australia)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
TMO: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)
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