The Highlanders beat the Blues 24-12 in a hard-fought New Zealand derby at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.
The Highlanders scored three tries to two after falling behind to end a five-game losing streak, the loss, however, extends the Blues’ winless run in Dunedin to seven since 2011.
Shannon Frizell cancelled out Tom Robinson’s try before halftime to give Aaron Mauger’s men a slender lead at the break.
The Highlanders‘ pack bulldozed their opponent’s, winning a penalty try 10 minutes after the interval.
It was as a return to form for the home team, who were under the pump in the opening stanza but dominated the second half.
Matt Faddes’ 55-metre intercept, soon afterwards, was the dagger to the Blues’ hearts as Leon MacDonald’s charges wilted under the roof of Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Josh Ioane put the game to bed with a late penalty before a consolation score distorted the scoreboard.
Melani Nanai scored at the death, but the score cannot paper of the disappointing defeat for the North Island franchise.
The Auckland franchise continues their wretched run in derbies and is still without a win on the road against Kiwi opposition since 2013.
Blues dominate the first half
The Blues dominated the first 40 minutes in every department except on the scoreboard.
They went into the changing rooms down by two despite having the majority of possession and territory while spending more than five minutes inside the Highlanders’ 22.
Auckland had enjoyed 77% possession and 84% territory, but they have not scored while making the Highlanders make double the amount of tackles.
The evergreen Ma’a Nonu set up the games opening score with a vintage break in midfield before sending Tom Robinson away in the corner.
But the visitors could not make their territorial advantage count, shipping penalties inside the Otago 22 to relieve the pressure on the home side.
Frizell crashed over from close range for his sixth Super Rugby try of the season in the 27th minute.
It was the Highlanders’ first real sustained attack. Ioane added the extras to put his team in front.
Sio Tomkinson’s intercept on his 5m almost led to another score for the hosts, but the Blues held on, just.
Mauger’s men take control after the break with dominant forward display
The last two minutes of the first half was an ominous omen for the visitors.
They barely survived the last-ditch Highlanders attack before going into the shed.
However, the second half left off where the first finished. It didn’t take too long for the hosts to extend their lead.
A 10-phase attack on the visitors’ line, was repelled after the TMO ruled that James Lentjes was held up.
The resulting scrum was immense by the home team; the powerful drive ended with seven after the Auckland set-piece disintegrated.
Faddes intercepted Sam Nock’s pass and raced 55 metres to put the game out of reach for MacDonald’s side.
Ioane added a 65th-minute penalty before Nanai gathered Harry Plummer’s kick-pass just before the hooter, but it was too little too late, and the wait for the Blues goes on.
Final Score: Highlanders 24 (7) Blues 12 (5)
Tries – Frizell, Penalty try, Faddes
Pen – J. Ioane
Con – J. Ioane (2)
Tries – Robinson, Nanai
Con – Plummer
Referee: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 1: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 2: James Doleman
TMO: Shane McDermott
15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Sio Tomkinson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Luke Whitelock (co-captain), 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Jordan Hyland.
15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 Thomas Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1. Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Jed Brown, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Matt Duffie.