The New Zealand teams join Super Rugby today when the Highlanders host the Blues at the Forsyth Barr stadium in Dunedin.
The Highlanders and the Blues have played each other 29 times in Super Rugby; the Highlanders have won 13 matches, the Blues 16.
- The Highlanders have won eight of their last 11 games against the Blues and will be looking for a third consecutive win against them for the first time since 2003.
- The Blues have been defeated in each of their last five away games against the Highlanders; however, they’ve picked up three losing bonus points in that span.
- The last time the Highlanders opened a Super Rugby campaign with a victory was in 2014 when they picked up a 29-21 win at home against the Blues.
- The Blues have now gone 11 games without a win against New Zealand opposition (D1, L10), their longest ever drought against their countrymen.
- Ben Smith has scored eight tries in his last eight games against the Blues, including four in his last three games against them.
We are waiting for the kick-off.
1.00: PEEEEP! We are underway, under the roof in Dunedin in Round Two of Super Rugby and the first game of the New Zealand conference.
2.00: Matt Duffie chases his raking touchline kick and tackles Lima Sopoaga into touch. The visitors have the lineout inside the Highlanders’ 22.
5.00: It is a frenetic start to the game; the second stop in play comes after multiple phases, turnovers and counter-attacks from both sides.
6.00: The Highlanders go to the driving maul from the game’s second lineout.
8.00: Aaron Smith goes to the air from the short lineout. Waisake Naholo wins the ball in the air and the home team go wide.
9.00: The Highlanders are awarded the penalty.
10.00: PENALTY! Sopoaga opens the scoring with an easy three points. 3-0
12.00: It’s the game’s first scrum. The Blues get a short-arm penalty and decide on another scrum.
15.00: TRY! Bryn Gatland scores his maiden Super Rugby five-pointer. The standoff steps Teihorangi Walden and finishes off a wonderful move after Sonny Bill Williams is stopped short. 3-5
16.00: CONVERSION! Gatland can’t miss from there. 3-7
20.00: TRY Rob Thompson! The centre breaks the tackle after Sopoaga’s delayed pass. 8-7
22.00: CONVERSION! Sopoaga adds the extras and the Highlanders regain the lead. 10-7
23.00: Aaron Smith is bossing the game. His distribution is superb and his kicking game, first-class.
25.00: TRY! Matt Duffie ends a great move. Sonny Bill gives a no-look, out the backdoor pass to Rieko Ioane, who sends Duffie away. 10-12
26.00: CONVERSION! Gatland extends the Blues’ lead. 10-14
30.00: Excellent work at the breakdown by the Blues.
31.00: TRY! Thompson at the double. Tom Franklin puts Thompson away after switching play from Aaron Smith’s pass at the base of the scrum. That is the fifth lead change of the match. 15-14
33.00: CONVERSION! Sopoaga passes 700 points in Super Rugby. 17-14
35.00: The new laws at the ruck have caused both teams some issues. The Blues win the penalty and skipper Augustine Pulu calls for a kick to the corner.
36.00: The Blues drive, Ofa Tu’ungafasi charges towards the line, but is held up by Aaron Smith. Scrum, Blues.
38.00: The Highlanders are caught offsides. Pulu calls for another scrum.
39.00: TRY Akira Ioane! The Blues get the right-shoulder, Akira Ioane picks up at the back and powers over, just before half-time. 17-19
40.00: CONVERSION, Gatland. 17-21
42.00: Duffie intercepts and the Blues are attacking inside the Highlanders’ 22. Aaron Smith is penalised for not rolling away. Chance for Gatland to extend his side’s lead.
43.00: PENALTY! Gatland slots his first penalty-goal. 17-24
The half-time score was Highlanders 17 Blues 24
41.00: PEEEEP! We are back underway at Forsyth Barr Stadium. The Blues lead a game with very few stoppages. There have only been four scrums, none for a knock-on or forward pass, and six lead changes.
42.00: The Highlanders get a penalty for a deliberate knock-down by Sonny Bill. A rare mistake from Sopoaga, who misses touch.
44.00: TRY! Siate Tokolahi crashes over. 22-24
45.00: Conversion, Sopoaga. 24-24
47.00: TRY! Akira Ioane is in for his second of the game. 24-29
47.00: CONVERSION, Gatland. 24-31.
50.00: The Highlanders have a defensive scrum, five metres from their goal-line. Aaron Smith clears.
52.00: Liam Coltman wins the penalty as the first man at the breakdown.
54.00: Stoppage in play for injuries. The referee is checking for a high-tackle on Sopoaga
54.00: YELLOW CARD! Antonio Kiri-Kiri. Sopoaga kicks to the corner.
55.00: BIG DEFENCE! Patrick Tuipulotu uses his strength and holds up the attacker in the maul.
57.00: TRY Teihorangi Warden! It came from a tighthead. 29-31
58.00: CONVERSION! Sopoaga. 31-all
60.00: A forwards pass by Sonny Bill, gives the home team a scrum on the visitors’ 10-metres line.
61.00: TRY! It’s Warden, again. Thompson puts a chip-kick over the top and Warden beats the defenders, gathers and scores under the posts. 36-31
63.00: CONVERSION! Sopoaga slots the kick. 38-31
64.00: The yellow card has been costly for the blues, who led by seven points, but now trail by the same margin after a 14-point swing.
67.00: PENALTY! Gatland reduces the deficit to four. 38-34
69.00: PENALTY! Fletcher Smith extends the Highlanders lead to seven. 41-34
74.00: Rieko Ioane chases a long grubber-kick, but the ball beats him into touch.
78.00: The Blues have a scrum deep inside their 22. Time is running out.
80.00: One last shot to get a draw. The Blues have the line-out, inside the home team’s 22, but they Highlanders hold on for the win.
The final score is Highlanders 41 (17) Blues 34 (24)
Tries – Thompson (2), Tokolahi, Warden (2)
Pen – Sopoaga, F. Smith
Con – Sopoaga (5)
Tries – Gatland, Duffie, A. Ioane (2)
Pen – Gatland (2)
Con – Gatland (4)
Cards – Kiri-Kiri (Yellow, 54′)
Referee: Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand)
Assistant Ref 1: Nick Briant (New Zealand),
Assistant Ref 2: James Doleman (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)
15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Liam Squire, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Dan Pryor, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Matt Faddes.
15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 George Moala, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Augustine Pulu (captain), 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Murphy Taramai, 6 Glenn Preston, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman.
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Michael Tamoaieta, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Antonio Kiri Kiri, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 23 Melani Nanai.