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Bonus point Highlanders stun the Blues

Ben Smith goes in to score a try for the Highlanders against the Blues

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Article Published: Saturday 22 February 2014|

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The Highlanders pulled off the first big surprise in the New Zealand Super Rugby conference when they beat the Blues 29-21 with a bonus point in Dunedin.

The star studded Blues were the favourites to win the match against a Highlanders team with six players making their Super Rugby debuts.

The Highlanders did the damage in the first half with tries from both All Black Smith's Aaron and Ben which helped the home side to a 24-0 lead.

The Highlanders scored the bonus point try in the second half but the Blues were the improved side after the break and won the second half 5-21.

Last year's whipping boys of the New Zealand conference the Highlanders made a mockery of pre-season predictions after being expected to be at the bottom of the pile again, after losing a host of All Blacks in the off-season.

Instead, they scored four tries in a stunning opening encounter against the highly fancied Blues and with the bonus point find themselves heading the 2014 conference after the first round.

The Highlanders held a commanding 24-0 lead by half-time, and unaccustomed superior position hurt them in the second half.

"We just need to learn how to control ourselves when we get a few points ahead," captain Ben Smith said, explaining why they went off the boil as the game wore on.

Aaron Smith, one of the few All Blacks remaining in the Highlanders colours after their off-season clean out, opened the scoring when he charged down a Chris Noakes clearing kick, regathered the ball and scampered to the line.

Malakai Fekitoa, who was in the Blues squad last year without getting a start, celebrated his move south with a try on debut when he snapped up loose ball and ran 50 metres to the line.

Lima Sopoaga landed both conversions and a penalty to have the Highlanders ahead 17-0 after 17 minutes.

On the stroke of half-time Ben Smith took a close-range pass from Aaron Smith to dive over for the Highlanders' third try.

The Blues opened their scoring immediately after the restart when Francis Saili took it on himself to have a crack with a deft chip and chase in which he regathered the ball and rammed his way across the line.

As gaps began to open up in the Highlanders' defence, the Blues did not help themselves with handling lapses and it was turnover that allowed the Highlanders to launch a counter-attack that produced Patrick Osborne's bonus-point try.

Down 7-29, the Blues put their trump buy on the field, but even though Benji Marshall was able to engineer one try, with a back-flick pass leading to Patrick Tuipulotu's try not even the rugby league convert could save the Aucklanders.

Angus Ta'avao also scored in their late rush with Noakes converting both tries, although the fly-half who missed an early penalty in the game also missed one at the end which denied the Blues a bonus point.

Final Score Highlanders 29 (24) Blues 21 (0) 

Scorers

Highlanders
Tries - A. Smith, M. Fekitoa, B.Smith, P. Osborne
Pen - L.Sopoaga
Con - L.Sopoaga 3
Drop -
Cards -

Blues
Tries - F.Saili, A.Ta 'avao, P. Tuipulotu
Pen -
Con - C.Noakes 3
Drop -
Cards -

Match Officials
Referee:
Garratt Williamson (New Zealand)
Assistant Ref 1:Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 2:Kane McBride
TMO:Vinny Munro

Teams

Highlanders

1 . Kane Hames , 2 . Liam Coltman , 3 . Chris King , 4 . Brad Thorn , 5 . Jarrad Hoeata , 6 . Gareth Evans , 7 . Shane Christie , 8 . Nasi Manu (co.captain) , 9 . Aaron Smith , 10 . Lima Sopoaga , 11 . Patrick Osborne , 12 . Shaun Treeby , 13 . Malakai Fekitoa , 14 . Richard Buckman , 15 . Ben Smith (co.captain)

Replacements : 16 . Ged Robinson, 17 . Matias Diaz, 18 . Craig Millar, 19 . Josh Bekhuis, 20 . TJ Ioane, 21 . Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 . Hayden Parker, 23 . Phil Burleigh

Blues

15. Charles Piutau,14. Frank Halai,13. Jackson Willison,12. Francis Saili,11. George Moala,10. Chris Noakes,9. Piri Weepu,8. Peter Saili,7. Luke Braid,6. Steven Luatua,5. Tom Donnelly,4. Liaki Moli,3. Charlie Faumuina,2. James Parsons,1. Ofa Tu 'ungafasi,

Replacements : 16. Tom McCartney,17. Sam Prattley,18. Angus Ta 'avao,19. Patrick Tuipulotu,20. Brendon O 'Connor,21. Bryn Hall,22. Benji Marshall,23. Tevita Li

 
 
 
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