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Bonus point Blues add to Highlanders pain

Piri Weepu scored two tries - both of which came off passes from Rene Ranger

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Article Published: Friday 5 April 2013|

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The Blues got back to winning ways when they beat the Highlanders 29-18 with a bonus point at Eden Park in Auckland.

The result ends a two match losing streak for the Blues against the Highlanders as they lost Super Rugby matches to the Dunedin franchise in 2012.

The result is the Highlanders sixth consecutive loss of the season and keeps them rooted to the bottom of the standings with matches against the Brumbies and Crusaders coming up.

The result moves the Blues provisionally into fifth place and takes them to a record of played six, won three lost three.

All Blacks scrumhalf Piri Weepu scored two tries as the Blues broke a three-match losing streak against all teams this season.

Weepu touched down twice in the second half to earn the Auckland-based Blues a four-try bonus point and to carry his team past the Highlanders who led 13-12 at halftime but failed to capitalize on set piece superiority.

Both of Weepu's tries came as he supported breaks by center Rene Ranger and both needed the retrospective approval of the video referee who played a major role in the match, becoming a court of appeal to both teams.

Referee Steve Walsh referred several decisions to the television official at the behest of players who challenged the legitimacy of tries.

He also used replays displayed on the big screen at Eden Park to decide his own response to incidents of foul play, sending a player from each team to the sin bin for dangerous tackles.

And the video referee himself, without prompting from Walsh, announced he wished to review two aspects of preliminary play leading up to Weepu's second and match-winning try in the 70th minute.

Walsh suspected a knock-on and forward pass but found neither and allowed the try to stand.

A forward pass was also suspected in Weepu's first try in the 58th minute but the television referee gave the replay only momentary consideration before allowing the try to stand. Closer scrutiny suggested the second-to-last pass in the tryscoring movement was forward.

The match was played at a high pace but both sides, desperate to break losing streaks, made errors that prevented either establishing consistent territorial advantages.

The Highlanders' best weapon was their scrum, strengthened by the return of prop Jamie Mackintosh, and they used that consistently in the second half but handling errors among the backs sapped that advantage.

The Blues also made numerous handling errors but finished more strongly than the Dunedin-based Highlanders, taking the match away from their rivals in the last 10 minutes.

The Highlanders led early with a penalty to flyhalf Colin Slade and a superb converted try to All Blacks fullback Ben Smith, from a break by Buxton Popoali'i and Jason Emery.

The Blues hit back with two tries, to Steven Luatua and Angus Ta'avao, when the Highlanders were reduced to 14 men by the sin-binning of center Ma'a Nonu.

A further penalty to Slade gave the Highlanders a one-point advantage at halftime.

Weepu's first try put the Blues ahead 19-13 but Phil Burleigh cut the lead to one point with a try from a short-side break by Japan scrumhalf Fumiaki Tanaka.

Weepu then clinched the match with his second try.

Final Score Blues 29 (12) Highlanders 18 (13)

Scorers

Blues
Tries - S.Luatua, A.Ta'avao, P.Weepu 2
Pen - C.Noakes
Con - C.Noakes 2, B.Kerr
Drop -
Cards -   G.Moala (44th minute)

Highlanders
Tries - B.Smith, P.Burleigh
Pen - C.Slade 2
Con - C.Slade
Drop -
Cards - M. Nonu (18th min yellow)

Match Officials
Referee:
Steve Walsh
Assistant Ref 1:Jonathon White
Assistant Ref 2:Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri
TMO : Ben Skeen

Teams

Blues

15. Charles Piutau,14. Frank Halai,13. Rene Ranger,12. Jackson Willison,11. George Moala,10. Chris Noakes,9. Piri Weepu,8. Peter Saili,7. Luke Braid,6. Steven Luatua,5. Ali Williams (C),4. Culum Retallick,3. Angus Ta'avao,2. James Parsons,1. Tim Perry

Replacements :16. Keven Mealamu,17. Ofa Tu'ungafasi,18. Anthony Boric,19. Brendon O'Connor,20. Jamison Gibson-Park,21. Baden Kerr,22. Francis Saili

Highlanders

1. Jamie Mackintosh ,2. Andrew Hore (Captain),3. Chris King ,4. Brad Thorn ,5. Josh Bekhuis ,6. Jarrad Hoeata 7. John Hardie,8. Mose Tuiali'i ,9. Aaron Smith,10. Colin Slade ,11. Hosea Gear (Vice-captain),12. Ma'a Nonu ,13. Jason Emery ,14. Buxton Popoalii ,15. Ben Smith

Reserves16. Liam Coltman ,17. Ma'afu Fia ,18. TJ Ioane ,19. Elliot Dixon ,20. Fumiaki Tanaka ,21. Lima Sopoaga ,22. Phil Burleigh.

 
 
 
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