The Blues have played the Highlanders 33 times in Super Rugby since 1996, the Blues have won 17 matches, lost 16 times and drawn none.
The Blues’ 17 wins give them a record of winning 52% of their matches against the Highlanders regardless of venue.
- The Highlanders have won 11 of their last 15 Super Rugby matches against the Blues (L4); although, just four of those wins have been by a double-digit margin.
- The last eight Super Rugby matches between the Blues and Highlanders at Eden Park have seen each team pick up four wins apiece, despite the Otago team leading at half-time in six of the games.
- The Blues have scored 30+ points in each of their last two Super Rugby home games (W2), the last time they scored 30+ points in more consecutive home games was a three-match span in 2014 (W3), which included a 30-12 win over the Landers.
- The Highlanders defeated the Chiefs (28-27) in their opening game of Super Rugby Aotearoa and will out to secure back-to-back wins against fellow New Zealand opposition for the first time since June 2018.
- The Blues have won their last three Super Rugby matches against fellow Kiwi teams, with each of those games seeing the teams separated by just a single point at half-time.
- Nine of the Highlanders’ last 11 completed Super Rugby away matches have been won by the team leading at half-time on the day, the Dunedin-based side picking up just two wins in that stretch (L9).
- The Blues (21 in first-quarter) are the only team to have scored 20+ points in any quarter of matches in this Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign so far.
- Aaron Mauger’s side won 11 turnovers last time out against the Chiefs, the last time they won 10+ in back-to-back games was Rounds 13 and 14 of the 2017 Super Rugby season.
- The Blues’ Caleb Clarke (10) is the only player in Super Rugby Aotearoa (min. 2 appearances) with an average-metres gained per carry in the double figures.
- The Highlanders’ Shannon Frizell (3) is the only player to have made more than two offloads in this Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign so far.
We are waiting for the kick-off.
In the meantime, why not have a look at the match preview.
1.00: PEEEEP! Otere Black gets us underway at a cold and damp Eden Park in Auckland, New Zealand.
2.00: Already, we have a knock-on caused by greasy conditions. Handling will be important tonight. The scrum is reset.
4.00: Superb kick from Black, who drops a kick in behind the back-three of the Highlanders, who get the lineout near their goal-line.
5.00: Once again, a lovely kick by Sam Nock, who grubbers to the same corner as Black did, moments ago. The Highlanders clear from their lineout, but only to their 22.
6.00: TRY! The interplay between the forwards and backs has been quality. The Blues go six phases, using pick-and-drives and short passing before Caleb Clarke slips Marino Mikaele Tu’u’s tackle and barges his way over Scott Gregory to open the scoring. 5-0
7.00: CONVERSION! Black slots the conversion. 7-0
9.00: The Highlanders win the first penalty of the game; they kick to the corner.
11.00: TRY! Sam Gilbert has two goes at the try-line, but the big winger is pushed back. Shannon Frizell is next to go close before the Landers’ skipper Ash Dixon crashes over next to the poles. 7-5
12.00: CONVERSION! Mitchell Hunt levels. 7-7
14.00: The Blues win a penalty for offsides by Siate Tokolahi. Black calls for the tee.
15.00: PENALTY! The Blues retake the early lead. 10-7
17.00: Mikaele Tu’u gets over the ball and wins the penalty. Hunt boots the ball to halfway. Superb work by the No 8. because the hosts looked dangerous.
19.00: Nock gets back to save the day, but he carries the ball into his in-goal area; 5m scrum to the visitors in the left-hand corner. Reset.
20.00: Rieko Ioane is caught offsides. The visitors have the advantage but are pushed backwards. Good defending by the home team.
21.00: The referee’s long advantage ends with Beauden Barrett clearing his lines. Mr Williams calls a halt to proceedings because Sam Gilbert is down after a big hit from TJ Faiane. It looks like a knee injury. Hunt calls for the tee.
21.00: PENALTY! Hunt levels from in front. 10-10
22.00: Blues attacking inside the opposition’s half.
23.00: TRY! The Blues hit back. Barrett’s grubber kick is secured by Gregory, but the fullback dawdles, allowing Hoskins Sotutu to charge down his clearance. The ball bounces straight into the arms of the supporting Dalton Papalii, who flops over the whitewash. 15-10
24.00: CONVERSION! The kick is good. 17-10
26.00: The Blues have another scrum inside their half.
28.00: TRY! Clarke breaks through the defence, stepping defenders and slipping Aaron Smith’s tackle. He sends Rieko Ioane away to score in the right-hand corner. 22-10
29.00: MISS! The kick is wide. 22-10
31.00: Patrick Tuipulotu’s big tackle on his opposite number Pari Pari Parkinson wins the Blues a scrum inside their 22.
34.00: The penalties are starting to mount, but nothing like we’ve seen in the opening two rounds of Super Rugby Aotearoa.
35.00: Both teams are trading verbal barbs as the forwards wait to pack down.
37.00: the game has slowed in the last few minutes, both teams conceding penalties and making handling errors.
39.00: Scrum to the hosts.
41.00: The siren sounds and the ball is booted to touch.
The halftime score was Blues 22 Highlanders 10
41.00: PEEEP! We are back underway in the City of Sails.
43.00: The visitors have started the second half at speed.
44.00: TRY! Hunt slices through some sloppy defending to score next to the posts. Mikaele Tu’u shrugged off Sotutu to set-up the score. Hunt stepped Gerard Cowley-Tuioti after showing the replacement a sly dummy. Wonderful try. 22-15
46.00: CONVERSION! HUNT converts his score. 22-17
49.00: Superb work at the breakdown by No 8. Mikaele Tu’u, who wins the penalty and earns his side a reprieve.
51.00: NO TRY! Superb by the visitors, who have come out firing. Jeff Thwaites goes close after Hunt’s delayed pass. The ball is recycled. Smith was pushed back, but the Blues strayed offsides. Smith sends the ball wide to Ngane Punivai, who dives over in the corner; however, the try is chalked off because Hunt knocked on at the previous ruck. 22-17
51.00: YELLOW CARD! Ioane is sent to the bin for another infringement. Hunt kicks to the corner.
54.00: TRY! Shannon Frizell bulldozed his way over the chalk to level the scores. 22-22
55.00: CONVERSION! Hunt gives his team the lead. 22-24
57.00: A superb kick gives the hosts an attacking lineout near the opposition’s line.
58.00: TRY! Papalii at the double! The big flanker is helped over the line from close range following the lineout. 27-24
59.00: MISS! Black’s kick is no good. 27-24
63.00: The game is lit. both teams going hammer and tongs. The Blues look like they have found a second wind.
67.00: The Highlanders have a scrum after Finlay Christie looks to have lost a tooth.
70.00: The Blues kick to the corner, they want to end this now.
71.00: NO TRY! James Parsons dives over the ruck NFL-style but lost the ball over the line. The Highlanders counter-attacked and win a penalty in front of the Blues’ posts.
73.00: MISS! Oh, dear! Hunt cannot level, he’s pushed his kick wide from in front. 27-24
75.00: Another penalty goes the way of Mauger’s men. They boot the ball to the Blues’ 22 and will look for a lineout drive.
77.00: Hunt kicks to the corner again. Here we go!
78.00: HELD UP! Sotutu you biscuit. That was immense by the Blues No 8.
79.00: The Blues win the scrum, clear the ball up the field, releasing the pressure.
81.00: The hooter goes and the Blues handy on for the win. They are undefeated and top of the Super Rugby Aotearoa table.
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The final score is Blues 27 (22) Highlanders 24 (10)
Tries – Clarke, Papalii (2), R. Ioane,
Pen – Black
Con – Black (2)
Cards – R. Ioane (Yellow, 51′)
Tries – Dixon, Hunt, Frizell
Pen – Hunt (2)
Con – Hunt (3)
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 1: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 2: Ben O’Keeffe
TMO: Mike Fraser
15 Beauden Barrett, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Thomas Faiane, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Sam Nock, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman
Replacements: 16 Kurt Eklund, 17 Marcel Renata, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tony Lamborn, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Joe Marchant
15 Scott Gregory, 14 Sam Gilbert, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Sio Tomkinson, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (captain), 1 Ayden Johnstone
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Jeff Thwaites, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Teariki Ben-Nicholas, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Ngane Punivai