Super rugby Trans Tasman

Champions: Blues win Super Rugby Trans-Tasman 2021

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The Blues beat the Highlanders 23-15 to claim the 2021 Super Rugby Trans-Tasman title in front of their supporters at Eden Park, Auckland.

The well-deserved victory earns the Blues a fourth Super Rugby title (1996 and 1997) and their first since 2003 as the former three-time champions delivered the goods in the City of Sails.

The Blues‘ fans had waited 18 years to see their team play a home Super Rugby final and Leon MacDonald’s men did not disappoint.

This victory will be sweet, especially after the disappointment of missing out on the Super Rugby Aotearoa final by a point.


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The Blues were perfect in the Trans-Tasman tournament winning all six matches as they finish undefeated.

Finals are generally tight, won by the best defence

The Blues conceded the fewest points in the tournament rounds (15.8), their stubborn defending ultimately won them this long-awaited silverware.

Mark Telea and Blake Gibson scored for the Blues, who kept the Highlanders tryless with a dogged defensive effort despite a late Landers’ fightback in the final quarter.

Otere Black (five points) and Harry Plummer (eight points) shared kicking duties as the hosts strangled the visitors.

Mitch Hunt kept his side in the contest with four penalties, while Josh Ioane’s late goal put the Highlanders ahead for a short time.

But it was not to be for the Otago men, whose resistance broke at the end with Gibson’s late dagger.

The Blues took a 13-6 lead into the break following Telea’s first-quarter try and a penalty apiece from Plummer and Black, who converted Telea’s score.

The Highlanders stayed in touch with two Mitch Hunt penalties.

The Dunedin side only trailed by seven at the half despite playing 10 minutes with 14 players after co-captain Ash Dixon’s 24th-minute yellow card.

Hunt added his third penalty on the hour mark to reduce the deficit to four.

The momentum had shifted in favour of the Highlanders.

Hunt kicked another penalty before Josh Ioane’s 67th-minute long-range penalty put the visitors ahead.

Plummer’s penalty, three minutes later, saw the hosts regain the lead with less than 10 minutes remaining.

Gibson’s converted try sealed the deal at the death as the Blues brought home the bacon.

The first half saw the dominant Blues take control of the game, but only take a 13-6 lead at the break

The Highlanders began strongly, but the Blues’ pack took over, winning two scrum penalties, which led to their first try of the final.

MacDonald’s charges enjoyed two-thirds possession and territory, and they upset the visitor’s set-piece, winning a scrum and lineout off the Otago side.

Mitch Hunt opened the scoring for the Dunedin men from in front in the sixth minute after Alex Hodgman transgressed at the ruck.

The holes soon began to open up as the Blues beat 15 defenders to five from five clean breaks; the Highlanders also had to make more than double the amount of tackles in the first half.

But the Blues found their rhythm soon after when Telea put the Auckland side ahead on 17 minutes.

Telea collected Black’s crossfield kick, stepped inside a weak tackle by Josh Ioane, and dived in for the game’s first try.

The attack came off the back of another dominant scrum, the Blues had an advantage so Black went to the air knowing he had a free hit, and Telea did the rest.

The Highlanders found themselves under more pressure as the Blues found space in the wide areas.

Dixon’s high tackle on Black saw the hooker sent to the sin-bin and the first five left the field for an HIA.

Plummer, on for Black, extended the home team’s lead with a penalty goal after the yellow card.

Despite the hosts dominating the stats sheet, the visitors managed to keep them out although they were a man down.

Hunt ran down the clock and doubled his side’s score with a penalty five minutes before halftime as Dixon returned.

The 32-year-old’s yellow card did not cost his side anything, but the Highlanders trailed at the interval after Black’s penalty after the hooter.

The Blues were fortunate to get the three points because the officials missed a Rieko Ioane forward pass in the build-up to the penalty.

Nevertheless, MacDonald’s men were good value for their seven-point lead.

Blues continue to enforce their will, but the Highlanders manage to hang in the contest

The hosts had the visitors under the cosh, going close twice after halftime yet the Otago men managed to keep the home team out.

The Highlanders’ desperate defence continued to frustrate their hosts.

Akira Ioane bashed his way through several defenders soon after halftime, but he was held up over the line.

The Blues managed to win a kickable penalty a few minutes later; however, Black pulled his kick wide of the posts.

MacDonald’s men kept knocking on the door, they had the Landers under pressure for most of the third quarter as they looked to build a big lead.

Momentum shifted before the hour mark when the Highlanders survived a couple of scares to turn the game around.

The Landers’ pack began to shift the pressure onto their opponents as they won several penalties at the set-piece and breakdown.

Highlanders fight back to lead, but Blues land killer blow at the death

Despite not having any possession or territory, having to make two tackles to one of the Blues, the Highlanders fought back.

Hunt kicked two penalties in four minutes as the South Islanders fought back to make it a one-point ball game with a quarter of an hour to play.

Liam Coltman won a penalty from the restart after Hunt’s fourth goal, which saw Josh Ioane hit a long-range kick that dropped over the crossbar: 13-15.

But Plummer put his side back in front with his second penalty goal on 70 minutes.

The Blues lost a lineout inside the highlanders’ 22, but they won the turnover after the visitors tried to run the ball out.

Hoskins Sotutu beat several defenders before being stopped short of the try line.

Jonathan Ruru got the quick ball and played Gibson, who crashed over to win the game for the home team.

Cue bedlam.

Final Score: Blues 23 (13) Highlanders 15 (6)

Scorers

Blues
Tries – Telea, Gibson
Pen – Plummer (2), Black
Con – Black, Plummer
Drop –
Cards –

Highlanders
Tries –
Pen – Hunt (4), J. Ioane
Con –
Drop –
Cards – Dixon (Yellow, 24′)

Final Score: Blues 23 (13) Highlanders 15 (6)

Scorers

Blues
Tries – Telea, Gibson
Pen – Plummer (2), Black
Con – Black, Plummer
Drop –
Cards –

Highlanders
Tries –
Pen – Hunt (4), J. Ioane
Con –
Drop –
Cards – Dixon (Yellow, 24′)

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

Teams

Blues

15 Zarn Sullivan, 14 Bryce Heem, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Mark Telea, 10 Otere Black, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Akira Ioane, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Alex Hodgman

Replacements:
16 Ray Niuia, 17 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 18 Marcel Renata, 19 Joshua Goodhue, 20 Blake Gibson, 21 Jonathan Ruru, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 AJ Lam

Highlanders

15 Josh Ioane, 14 Patelesio Tomkinson, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Hugh Renton, 5 Bryn Evans, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Ethan de Groot

Replacements:
16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 James Lentjes, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Sam Gilbert, 23 Teariki Ben-Nicholas

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