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Blues cruise past Highlanders and into play offs

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Article Published: Friday 17 June 2011|

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The Blues booked a place in the Super Rugby play offs next week when they beat the Highlanders 33-16 in Auckland.

The Blues scored three tries and 24 points in a 23-minute spell either side of halftime to end a four-match losing streak.

The result moves the Blues into second place and above the Crusaders as they now lead the New Zealand Conference.

The Crusaders will now have to beat the Hurricanes to take back control of the conference and could even be knocked out altogether if they don't win.

The play off race is so tight that the Blues will have to wait until the end of the weekend's rugby to find out who they will be playing. They could potentially finish in second and get next weekend off although that is unlikely.

The Highlanders took an early lead with a try by Matt Saunders but the Blues soon took control of the match and led 17-11 at half time.

Aside from the early Highlanders brief lead the Blues led the match thoughout but also failed to score the bonus point try which could be costly.

Remaining matches this weekend involving the first placed Reds, third placed Stormers and fourth placed Crusaders will determine whether the Blues cling to their faint hope of a home semifinal.

The Blues now lead the Crusaders by three points at the top of the New Zealand conference, ahead of the Crusaders' clash with the Hurricanes on Saturday.

With 10 wins and 60 competition points, the Blues are now seven points clear of the fifth-place Bulls and sixth-place Sharks and eight points clear of the seventh-place Waratahs.

The Blues can no longer be displaced from the top six but matches involving the Crusaders and Durban-based Stormers will determine whether they join the Reds among the top-two teams which have home semifinals.

The Blues trailed 8-3 after 20 minutes but rallied strongly with tries to flyhalf Stephen Brett, inside center Luke McAlister and fullback Jared Payne to put the match beyond the Highlanders' reach.

Stand-in goalkicker Lachie Munro kicked 18 points - seven goals from nine attempts - to clinch an important win.

Conditions were both wet and windy on Friday and the Blues - masters of improvisation - eventually coped with those conditions better than the Highlanders, who ended a promising season out of the playoff picture and with their third straight loss.

The Highlanders spent almost two thirds of the season inside the top six, making its strongest bid in several years for a playoff spot, but faded in the last weeks of the season, losing to the lower-placed Lions and Western Force.

The Highlanders made a strong start in the match by scoring a try after only seven minutes to winger Matt Saunders.

Saunders book-ended the match, scoring the last try as well, but the Blues carved out an insurmountable advantage in between.

Veteran flyhalf Tony Brown converted Saunders' first try and added a dropgoal after 20 minutes, into the teeth of a strong wind, to give the Highlanders an 8-3 advantage.

The Blues then hit back with tries to Brett and McAlister before halftime and Payne immediately after to establish a 24-11 lead which took the game beyond the Highlanders.

Munro's reliable goalkicking in difficult conditions also helped to clinch Auckland's win.

Final Score Blues 33 Highlanders 16

Scorers

Blues
Tries - S Brett, L McAlister, J Payne
Pen - L Munro 4
Con - L Munro 3
Drop -
Cards -

Highlanders
Tries - M Saunders 2
Pen - T Brown
Con -
Drop - T Brown
Cards -

Match Officials
Referee: Bryce Lawrence
Assistant referees: Vinny Munro, Nick Briant
Television match official: Glen Jackson

Teams

Blues :1. Charlie Faumuina , 2. Keven Mealamu (c) , 3. John Afoa , 4. Anthony Boric , 5 Ali Williams , 6 Jerome Kaino , 7 Luke Braid , 8 Peter Saili , 9 Chris Smylie , 10 Stephen Brett , 11 Lachie Munro , 12 Luke McAlister , 13 Benson Stanley , 14 Joe Rokocoko , 15 Jared Payne ,

Replacements 16 , Tom McCartney , 17 , Tevita Mailau , 18 , Chris Lowrey , 19 , Sean Polwart , 20 , Alby Mathewson , 21 , Winston Stanley , 22 , Sherwin Stowers

Highlanders: Jamie Mackintosh (C), Jason Rutledge, Chris King, Jarrad Hoeata, Tom Donnelly, Adam Thomson, Alando Soakai, Nasi Manu, Jimmy Cowan, Tony Brown, Siale Piutau, Shaun Treeby , Kendrick Lynn, Matt Saunders, Ben Smith.

Reserves: Mo Schwalger, Bronson Murray, Josh Bekhuis, Nick Croswell, Aaron Smith, Robbie Robinson, Telusa Veainu

 
 
 
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