'Landers edge Blues in scrappy affair

Sat, 11 Mar 2017 05:31
Large blues v highlanders 2017 800

SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Highlanders bagged their first win of the season after they beat the Blues 16-12 in a scrappy affair in Auckland on Saturday.

The Highlanders scored the only try of the match and extended the Blues' run of losses in the competitive New Zealand conference to seven. 

After being beaten by the Chiefs and Crusaders at home in the opening two rounds, the Highlanders beefed up their defence and polished their trade mark kick-and-chase game for the trip north. 

While the game was no champagned rugby, the improvement in the Highlanders was evident early as the Blues struggled to cope with the high-ball pressure and committed multiple errors which kept them on the defensive for the first 60 minutes. 

All Blacks centre George Moala mounted a fightback with a 30-metre solo effort that took the Blues deep into Highlanders territory where they pounded the Highlanders line for most of the final quarter.

But it was the handling problems which ultimately ruined their finishing burst when a forward drive on the stroke of full-time ended with the ball lost on the try line. 

As the Highlanders celebrated, captain Elliot Dixon noted the extra effort that that had gone into their preparation. 

"It was an awesome effort," he said. "We went to the drawing board and thought we needed to step up our game on defence. It was a good improvement for us, but it was a nail-biter." 

The Highlanders shocked the Blues with their pressure start and were up 10-0 with a Malakai Fekitoa try and a conversion and penalty by Lima Sopoaga before the Blues were able to get on the board with two Ihaia West penalties.

The second half was restricted to penalties with the Blues closing to one point at 12-13 before another Highlanders penalty eight minutes from time forced the Aucklanders to go searching for a try.

"We put ourselves in a position to win it," Blues skipper James Parsons said. 

"But it starts at the start of the game. We needed to set a platform to get the result and unfortunately we took about 20 minutes to do that and we were chasing the game from there on." 

The Highlanders next week head to Wellington to play the Hurricanes in a repeat of the 2015 Final while the Blues play the Crusaders in Christchurch.

Man of the match: There were a few contenders on the Highlanders side. Gareth Evans was a nuisance in the line-outs and did some good dirty work around the park. However, the award goes to Highlanders centre Rob Thompson for his sterling work in the midfield, especially on defence.

The scorers:

For Blues:
Pens: West 3, Francis

For Highlanders:
Try: Fekitoa
Con: Sopoaga
Pens: Sopoaga 2, Banks

Yellow card: Gareth Evans (Highlanders, 80 - cynical play, playing the ball on the ground)

Teams:

Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 George Moala, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Ihaia West, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Murphy Taramai, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Jimmy Tupou, 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Piers Francis, 23 Melani Nanai.

Highlanders: 15 Richard Buckman, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Rob Thompson, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Elliot Dixon (captain), 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Sekonia Pole, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Dillon Hunt, 22 Kayne Hammington, 22  Marty Banks.

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
TMO: Shane McDermott (New Zealand)

AFP & @rugby365com

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Fri, 27 April 2018
Hurricanes v Sunwolves 07h35 Wellington
Stormers v Rebels 13h00 Newlands
Leicester Tigers v Newcastle Falcons 18h45 Welford Road
Sat, 28 April 2018
Reds v Lions 05h05 Suncorp Stadium
Blues v Jaguares 07h35 Eden Park
Brumbies v Crusaders 09h45 Canberra
Kings v Cheetahs 13h00 Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Exeter Chiefs v Sale Sharks 14h00 Sandy Park
Worcester Warriors v Harlequins 14h00 Sixways
Gloucester v Bath 14h00 Kingsholm
Connacht v Leinster 14h05 Sportsground
Dragons v Scarlets 14h05 Rodney Parade
Bulls v Highlanders 15h15 Loftus Versfeld
Treviso v Zebre 16h00 Stadio Monigo
Cardiff Blues v Ospreys 16h35 Cardiff Arms Park
Munster v Ulster 16h35 Thomond Park
Edinburgh v Glasgow Warriors 18h35 Myreside
Sun, 29 April 2018
London Irish v Saracens 14h00 Madejski Stadium
Wasps v Northampton Saints 14h00 Ricoh Arena
RESULT SCORE
Sun, 22 April 2018
Racing Metro v Munster 27 | 22
Brumbies v Jaguares 20 | 25
Sat, 21 April 2018
Ulster v Glasgow Warriors 36 | 15
Zebre v Ospreys 37 | 14
Sharks v Stormers 24 | 17
Leinster v Scarlets 38 | 16
Bulls v Rebels 28 | 10
Reds v Chiefs 12 | 36
Crusaders v Sunwolves 33 | 11
Fri, 20 April 2018
Waratahs v Lions 0 | 29
Blues v Highlanders 16 | 34
Sun, 15 April 2018
Saracens v Bath 41 | 6
London Irish v Exeter Chiefs 5 | 45
Sat, 14 April 2018
Leinster v Treviso 15 | 17
Kings v Cardiff Blues 12 | 45
SUPER RUGBY
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Pool AU
Team P W D L Pts
Waratahs 8 5 1 2 24
Rebels 87 4 0 4 21
Brumbies 8 3 0 5 15
Reds 8 3 0 5 13
Sunwolves 8 0 0 8 2
Pool NZ
Team P W D L Pts
Crusaders 8 6 0 2 29
Hurricanes 7 6 0 1 27
Chiefs 8 6 0 2 26
Highlanders 7 5 0 2 24
Blues 8 2 0 6 12
Pool SA
Team P W D L Pts
Lions 9 6 0 3 30
Bulls 8 4 0 4 19
Sharks 9 3 1 5 18
Jaguares 9 4 0 5 16
Stormers 9 3 0 6 14