Super Rugby

Blistering Blues blow away lacklustre Highlanders

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Super rugby AU : Standings | Fixtures | Super Rugby Aotearoa: Standings | Fixtures |


 

The Blues beat the Highlanders 39-17 after a commanding Super Rugby Aotearoa Round Three display at Eden Park, Auckland.

The Blues leap-frog the Highlanders into second place of the Super Rugby Aotearoa standings. This was a comfortable five tries to two bonus-point victory in the City of Sails.

The Blues welcomed fans back to the stadium for the first game at home in the 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign; they were entertained from the outset as the they set the tone.

The hosts dominated every facet of play, including the scoreboard as they took a commanding, although slender, 14-point lead at halftime.

They were too hot for the Highlanders and probably should have scored more.

Josh Ioane opened the scoring with an early penalty, but Otere Black and Caleb Clarke both crossed for the home team in the first quarter, asserting their authority on the visitors.

Black added a penalty and two conversions as the Blues led 17-3 at the break. Black, who was superb at first receiver, also kicked four conversions and two penalties for a match-haul of 19 points.

Rieko Ioane had a 34th-minute try chalked off for a forward pass, but it made no difference because the Landers were already teetering on the edge.

Josh Dickson got sent to the sin-bin –– on the stroke of halftime –– for taking Clarke out in the air. The yellow card compounded matters, although it only cost the Otago men an unconverted Emoni Narawa try.

Two quick-fire Blues tries kill the game soon after interval despite Highlanders’ late consolation scores

Leon McDonald’s men continued where they left off –– scoring twice inside the first 10 minutes of the second half to go 29-3 ahead.

Narawa produced a wonderful cameo off the bench, scoring three minutes after the restart, while also having a hand in Akira Ioane’s 64th-minute try.

Kurt Eklund came off the bench and scored from a powerful driving maul to end the game as a contest.

Black converted both before the visitors got their first five-pointer.

Dixon came off the bench and pulled one back for his side, four minutes later. However, it was a false dawn, a false hope, because Black’s second penalty on the hour put the home team more than four converted tries ahead.

Ioane’s dagger, 16 minutes before time, piled on the pain for Tony Brown’s lackluster charges.

There was enough time for Folau Fakatava to charge over from close range to give the scoreboard a more respectable look, but it was no consolation as the Dunedin side slip to third on the table.

Blues dominate opening 20 minutes as Highlanders ill-discipline proves costly

Josh Ioane put his side in front with a fourth-minute penalty, but the slim lead did not last long.

Turnover ball led to the hosts mounting a counter-attack from the halfway line. Stephen Perofeta started the attack, slipping two tackles before playing Rieko Ioane in support.

Ioane was tackled but not held by Jona Nareki; instead, he got up and offloaded to Black on his inside, and the first-five scored the game’s first try.

Eight minutes later, the Blues had another. Black’s long cut-out pass to Rieko Ioane took out the defenders, leaving Ioane and Clarke two-on-one with Connor Garden-Bachop, who had no price.

Ioane drew Garden-Bachop before putting the 21-year-old winger away in the corner. The visitors were creaking now as the home side increased the tempo.

Dalton Papali’i went close after Hoskins Sotutu’s touchline run, but Black extended with a 28th-minute penalty.

Papali’i was at it again, this time he winning a turnover near his try line following some Highlanders pressure.

Harry Plummer started the counter-attack, sending Akira Ioane away down the touchline.

The flanker fends off a cover-defender before sending his brother Rieko away for a 40-metre dash to the try line; however, the TMO chalked off the try for a slight forward pass.

Nareki injured himself in the build-up to the turnover, left the field, and did not return. Things got worse for Brown’s side when Dickson took out Clarke and spent time on the naughty step.

McDonald’s men continue to lay siege in the third quarter, aided by their extra man

Mark Telea did not come out of the shed, Narawa replaced the winger and was soon in on the action.

Three minutes into the second stanza, Perofeta sent the 21-year-old away for the Blues’ third. The try came from another powerful driving maul, which pinned the Highlanders near their try line before the Blues went wide.

Plummer’s well-timed pass put the Perofeta in the clear to send the wing away. Black missed the conversion, his only blemish from the tee.

Eklund flopped over the whitewash after another driving maul to extend the advantage, although Dixon matched his opposite number, a few minutes later.

Josh Ioane added the extras, but Black’s penalty gave the Blues a 22-point lead with 20 to play.

Narawa’s midfield break almost saw Plummer cross. Sam Nock combined with Narawa to put 22-year-old away; however, he was tackled short. Somehow, Plummer still managed to get a pop-pass to the supporting Akira Ioane to claim the fifth try of the afternoon.

Fakatava’s blindside break from a maul, nine minutes from time, saw the Landers threaten a late fightback to take away their opponent’s bonus-point.

But the Blues managed to keep them out, and there was no drama before the end.

Final Score: Blues 39 (17) Highlanders 17 (3)

Scorers

Blues
Tries – Black, Clarke, Narawa, Eklund, A. Ioane
Pen – Black (2)
Con – Black (4)
Drop –
Cards –

Highlanders
Tries – Dixon, Fakatava
Pen – J. Ioane
Con – J. Ioane (2)
Drop –
Cards – Dickson (Yellow, 40′)

Match Officials
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 1: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 2: Ben O’Keeffe
TMO: Paul Williams

Blues

15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Harry Plummer, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru; 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papali’i, 6 Akira Ioane, 5. Sam Darry, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Luteru Tolai, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe

Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 James Lay, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tom Robinson, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Tanielu Tele’a, 23 Emoni Narawa

Highlanders

15 Connor Garden-Bachop, 14 Ngatugnane Punivai, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Patelesio Tomkinson, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Hugh Renton, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ethan De Groot

Replacements:
16 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 17 Josh Hohneck, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Mitch Hunt, 23 Billy Harmon

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