Super rugby Aotearoa

Dalton Papalii brace helps Blues edge Highlanders in humdinger

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The Blues beat the Highlanders 27-24 in thrilling, see-sawing Super Rugby Aotearoa humdinger at Eden Park, Auckland.

The victory keeps the Blues top of the table with three wins from three after claiming their fourth New Zealand Super Rugby derby win in a row.

Dalton Papalii grabbed a brace for the Blues, who staved off a second-half fightback from a gutsy Highlanders side inspired by Mitch Hunt and the magnificent Marino Mikaele Tu’u.

Hunt netted 17 points including a try, two penalties and three conversions in a superb display at first receiver, but his efforts were in vain.

Caleb Clark, Papalii and Rieko Ioane’s tries gave the Blues a two-score lead at the break.

An emotional Clarke was superb, playing after his grandfather’s passing in the morning of the match, winning the game’s MVP award.

Highlanders captain Ash Dixon’s 11-minute try and Hunt’s boot kept the visitors in the contest.

Hunt and Shannon Frizell scored after the break to give Aaron Mauger’s men an unlikely lead.

Rieko Ioane’s 51st-minute yellow card proved did not prove costly as his team-mates stayed in the game as the teams traded tries.

Papalii scored his second before the hour to put Leon MacDonald’s men a slender lead.

The Highlanders kept coming, but a late missed penalty by the previously flawless Hunt.

Some iffy decision-making allowed the Blues to hang on for the win and go into their bye week top of Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Blues dominate the first stanza, outscoring the Highlanders three tries to one

It was the hosts who struck the first blow in the sixth-minute.

Good interplay between the forwards and backs gave the home team momentum.

The Blues went six phases, using pick-and-drives and short passing before Clarke slipped Mikaele Tu’u’s tackle and barged his way over Scott Gregory to open the scoring.

The Highlanders hit back immediately when

Sam Gilbert had two goes at the try-line, but the big winger is pushed back.

Super Rugby Aotearoa Round 3 Video Highlights: Blues versus Highlanders, Eden Park, Auckland

Frizell was next to go close before the Landers’ skipper Dixon crashed over next to the poles.

Hunt levelled with an easy conversion. Black and Hunt traded penalties as the two teams traded blows.

Offsides by Siate Tokolahi and Ioane respectively allowed the flyhalves easy points.

Gilbert’s night ended when he left the field with a knee injury after a clash with TJ Faiane during a Highlanders’ attack.

The Blues take control in the second quarter with Papalii and Ioane double strike.

Their inter-passing between backs and forwards kept the visitors on the backfoot.

They went through the phases, wearing down the opposition. On 23 minutes Beauden Barrett, once again, had a hand in the Blues scoring.

Barrett’s grubber kick, in behind the Highlanders’ backs, was secured by the cross-covering Gregory.

Gregory, however, dawdled in possession, allowing Hoskins Sotutu to charge down his clearance.

The ball bounced straight into the arms of the supporting Papalii, who flopped over the whitewash.

Black’s second conversion reopened the seven-point lead. Five minutes later, the Blues struck again.

Clarke broke through the Highlanders’ defensive line, stepping defenders and slipping Aaron Smith’s tackle before sending Ioane away to score in the right-hand corner.

Black missed from out wide, but MacDonald’s men had a 12-point lead going into the shed.

Highlanders come out the firing after the interval.

Hunt scored and converted, five minutes after the restart.

The first-five sliced through some sloppy defending to score next to the posts. Tu’u, who was immense, shrugged off Sotutu to set-up the score.

Hunt stepped Gerard Cowley-Tuioti after showing the replacement a sly dummy.

Ngane Punivai had a try chalked off a few minutes later after the TMO saw a knock-on by Hunt in the build-up.

It did not matter because Ioane was sin-binned for another offside in the ‘red zone’.

The Highlanders opted for the lineout and maul, and it worked a treat as Frizell crashed over the goal-line to level.

Somehow, the Blues, despite being a man down, hit back when Papalii scored before the hour mark.

Black’s kick went wide, but the home team had stayed in the game with a man less and still had a lead.

It was helter-skelter as the game wound down.

James Parson’s lost the ball trying an NFL-style dive over the line of scrimmage.

The Highlanders counter-attacked from their line and won a penalty in front of the Blues’ posts.

Hunt, who had been flawless from the tee kicking four from four, stepped up but pushed his kick wide.

A glut of penalties in the last 10 minutes allowed the visitors to level. Hunt missed a drop-kick, but his team had the advantage following a lineout drive.

It proved costly for Mauger’s men as another lineout drive stalled, this time they lost possession – and the game – after Sotutu’s good work holding up the maul and winning possession.

The hosts cleared and hung on for the win.

The Highlanders will feel they missed an opportunity, but the Blues march on.

Final Score: Blues 27 (22) Highlanders 24 (10)

Scorers

Blues
Tries – Clarke, Papalii (2), R. Ioane,
Pen – Black
Con – Black (2)
Drop –
Cards – R. Ioane (Yellow, 51′)

Highlanders
Tries – Dixon, Hunt, Frizell
Pen – Hunt (2)
Con – Hunt (3)
Drop –
Cards –

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

Teams

Blues

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

Highlanders

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

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  1. Pingback: Highlanders vs Blues live Super Rugby Aotearoa score update - Super Rugby | Super 15 Rugby and Rugby Championship News,Results and Fixtures from Super XV Rugby

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