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Blues beat Highlanders in Auckland

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The Blues have won four of their last five Super Rugby games against the Highlanders (L1), as many as they had won in their 15 meetings prior (W4, L11).

The Blues picked up a 23-15 win in their last game against the Highlanders – the final of the 2021 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman campaign.

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Match detail

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1.00: PEEEP! We are underway at North Harbour Stadium, Auckland.

3.00: Both teams off to a slow start, not much but kicking.

6.00: Scrums to the hosts around midfield.

8.00: Aaron Smith saves the day as he knocks the ball out of Caleb Clarke’s hands as the winger with a last-gasp tackle on his try line.

9.00: PENALTY! Blues open the scoring. 3-0

12.00: The Blues can’t get it right at lineout time, but they have had a lot of the ball in the aerly stages. The Landers are kicking away possession allowing the hosts to keep the visitors pinned inside their half.

14.00: A penalty to the visitors – who could do with a breather – on the home team’s 10m.

16.00: PENALTY! Mitch Hunt levels. 3-3

19.00: No real pressure on the receivers when Smith and Hunt go to the air. Highlanders look a bit blunt with the ball in hand.

22.00: MacDonald’s side finally get a linebreak from a set-piece. Thomas Umaga-Jensen’s mini-break and offload sent Scott Gregory from midfield to the 22 to earn the Landers a kickable penalty.

24.00: PENALTY! Hunt knocks the kick over. 3-6

27.00: The Landers have grown into this contest, their kicking is still poor, but they are winning the battle at the breakdown as the Blues can’t contain the Highlanders’ forwards.

29.00: PENALTY TRY, YELLOW CARD! Smith went to the lineout, the maul was brought down illegally by Luke Romano, who was not bound and before engaging in the collapse. 3-13

31.00: Kurt Eklund wins a turnover, which allows the Blues to clear another dangerous situation after the Landers took a quick-tap penalty.

33.00: Thomas Umaga-Jensen is tackled into touch, the last play by the centre before being replaced by Ngatungane Punivai in midfield.

35.00: A knock-on by the Highlanders kills another attack. Aaron Smith would probably not go quickly again if he could choose. The Otago side missed an opportunity at an attacking lineout or three points. Romano back on in less than four minutes.

38.00: Marcel Renata is pinged for angling in during the scrum; Hunt, this time, goes to the corner. Better call from Smith.

40.00: Oh dear, the forwards try a sneaky blindside move but Liam Coltman drops a pass into touch. That is very poor. The Blues counter-attack to the opposition;s 10m, winning a penalty for a high shot by Hunt.

42.00: The Landers don’t take the points; instead, they lose possession from the penalty, and go into the shed emptyhanded.

The halftime score was Blues 3 Highlanders 13

41.00: PEEEP! We are back underway in New Zealand.

42.00: TRY! The kicking continues, but this time, however, another mistake at the linout from the visiotrs sees the hosts strike early. Taine Plumtree goes over into the corner after combining with captain Dalton Papalii, who sucked in the defenders to open the way to the line. 8-13

43.00: CONVERSION! The kick is wide. 10-13

46.00: It’s all Blues at the minute, they are camped inside the Highlanders’ 22.

49.00: TRY! The Blues decide to kick to the corner despite pointing to the posts, the ref should have made the hosts kick at goal. Instead, the visitors win a turnover before another aimless kick by Scott Gregory gives the hosts a chance to counter. And by did they make the Otago side pay. Mark Telea fended off Manaaki Selby-Rickit’s tackle, sucked in Marty Banks, and sent Plumtree away for his second try of the game. O’Keeffe’s advantage was non-existent, and Aaron Smith is livid. 15-13

51.00: CONVERSION! Another touchline conversion by Perofeta increases the lead. 17-13

55.00: PENALTY! Zarn Sullivan slots a massive 55-metre kick after a scrum penalty inside his side’s half. 20-13

60.00: It’s all Blues as the highlanders struggle.

65.00: TRY! A superb take from Telea, who gathered Perofeta’s high ball, offloaded to Heem, who fended off a defender, accelerated away before passing inside to Rieko Ioane to score. Wow! Hoskins sotutu won the trunover to set-up the try. 25-13

66.00: MISS! The kick is wide. 25-13

68.00: Time is running out for the visitors, who need to stay patient inisde the Blues’ half.

71.00: Three penalties in rown allows the Highlanders another attacking lineout.

74.00: TRY! Shannon Frizell barges through Papalii after Smith opted for the scrum instead of the lineout. 25-18

74.00: CONVERSION! Hunt adds the extras. 25-20

78.00: TRY! Perofeta goes over from close range to seal the deal, the flyhalf has been superb in the second half. 30-20

80.00: CONVERSION! The kick is good. 32-20

81.00: A mistake by Hunt, whose kick does not go 10, giving the Blues a final attack on halfway.

85.00: Nothing comes from the play; instead, both teams go end-to-end in four minutes after the hooter, looking for the bonus-point.

86.00: NO TRY! Clarke intercepts Hunt’s stray pass, and races away to score under the sticks; however, the try is chalked off for a penalty in the build up for a high tackle. 32-20

86.00: Hunt kicks to the 22… here we go!

90.00: Finally, after 10 minutes, the game is done.

FULL TIME

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The final score is Blues 32 (3) Highlanders 20 (13)

Scorers

Blues
Tries – Plumtree (2), R. Ioane, Perofeta
Pen – Perofeta, Z. Sullivan
Con – Perofeta (3)
Drop –
Cards – Romano (Yellow, 29′)

Highlanders
Tries – Penalty try, Frizell
Pen – Hunt (2)
Con – Hunt
Drop –
Cards –

Match Officials
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe
Assistant Ref 1: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 2: Stu Curran
TMO: Shane McDermott

Teams

Blues

15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 Bryce Heem, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii (captain), 6 Taine Plumtree, 5 Sam Darry, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Marcel Renata, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman

Replacements: 16 Soane Vikena, 17 Ofa Tuungafasi, 18 Jordan Lay, 19 James Tucker, 20 Adrian Choat, 21 Taufa Funaki, 22 Tanielu Tele’a, 23 Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens

Highlanders

15 Connor Garden-Bachop, 14 Liam Coombes-Fabling, 13 Scott Gregory, 12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 11 Mosese Dawai, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (captain), 8 Marino Miakele Tu’u, 7 Gareth Evans, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ethan De Groot

Replacements:
 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Bryn Evans, 20 Hugh Renton, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Ngatungane Punivai

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