Super rugby Aotearoa

Finlay Christie stars as Blues beat Highlanders

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The Blues beat the Highlanders 21-32 in a pulsating Super Rugby Aotearoa Round Eight clash at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.

Finlay Christie grabbed a brace and had an assist as the Blues notched a comprehensive five tries to two, bonus-point win over the Highlanders.

The scrumhalf starred as the rejuvenated Blues ran out comfortable winners in the graveyard that is Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The Blues victory ends a run of seven losses to the Highlanders in Dunedin – their first under the roof and first since 2011.


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The win makes it four from five versus the Otago franchise and only the Auckland side’s fourth away win in 36 games in New Zealand Super Rugby derbies.

It keeps the Auckland team in contention for Super Rugby Aotearoa as they consolidate second place.

The Blues hit the ground running with two tries from Akira Ioane and Christie to open up a 12-point lead in as many minutes.

Josh Ioane kicked two penalties either side of Ash Dixon’s 21st-minute converted try to make it a two to put the home team 13-12 ahead on the half-hour.

TJ Faiane put the Blues ahead soon afterwards, but another Ioane penalty brought the scores back to within a point, five minutes before halftime.

Ofa Tu’ungafasi scored the Auckland team’s fourth first-half try – on the stroke of halftime – to give Leon MacDonald’s side an eight-point lead at the interval.

The visitors struck two minutes after the restart.

Super Rugby Aotearoa Round Eight Video Highlights: Highlanders versus Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin

Clark and Christie combined for the halfback’s second try of the evening to increase the visitors’ lead to 13.

The Blues’ pack was on top, winning a series of penalties, one of which Barrett kicked to extend his side’s advantage to three scores after 57 minutes.

Shannon Frizell found his way over in the dying minutes to make the final score respectable.

A blistering five-try first-half sees the teams trade the lead three times.

Kurt Eklund thought they had an early score from a well-worked driving maul by the Blues’ forwards; however, Aaron Smith’s boot got underneath the ball, and after TMO review, the try was chalked off.

It did not matter. Three minutes and four scrums later, the visitors had their try.

A big scrum by the Blues saw Akira Ioane pick up the ball from the base of the scrum, break blind and crash through the isolated Scott Gregory.

Three minutes later, the Blues doubled their lead.

Caleb Clarke gathered a cross-kick, bounced Josh Ioane and popped on his inside to the supporting Rieko Ioane, who put Finlay Christie away to score.

Barrett added the extras, but Josh Ioane put the Landers on the board with a 15th-minute penalty.

The Blues shipped four penalties in quick succession, which led to the Highlanders kicking to the corner for an attacking lineout.

On 21 minutes, Dixon crashed over the line after a solid driving maul. The Blues forwards lost their shape, which allowed the Otago forwards to shift the maul and power over.

Josh Ioane’s conversion made it 10-12.

It was end-to-end now as the game opened up.

The Highlanders had the Blues on the back foot. Dalton Papalii intercepted a loose pass by Jeff Thwaites and raced 75 metres to score under the posts.

However, Karl Tu’inukuafe was adjudged to have interfered with Aaron Smith in the build-up, and referee Mike Fraser and TMO Chris Hart chalked off the score.

The Blues did, however, get their third try a minute after the restart.

Clarke combined with Christie on the right-wing after the winger sucked in two defenders. The attack came from a turnover inside the Blues’ half.

Christie drew the last defender and sent Faiane away for the score.

Josh Ioane kicked his third penalty goal to reduce the deficit to one, but Tu’ungafasi barged through several defenders to increase the Blues’ lead on the stroke of halftime.

Christie nets a second after Blues strike early after halftime to take control of the contest.

The scrumhalf dotted down after again combining with Clarke on the left-wing. His try came from a turnover before some Barrett magic.

The first-five shaped to kick, but instead, he threw a long, skip three cut-out pass to Clarke, who then sent Christie away.

Barrett had another poor night from the tee, missing his third conversion of the night.

He did, however, he did knock over a penalty from in front after a series of dominant scrums to make it 16-32.

The Highlanders dominated the last 20 minutes but they could not breach the white wall despite the visitors conceding multiple penalties inside the red zone.

Aaron Mauger will be disappointed with his forwards. They made a has of several attacking lineout-drives near the Blues’ goal-line and his scrum disintegrated after halftime.

Jesse Parete went close after Sione Mafileo got yellow carded for multiple infringements by the Blues.

Finally, after camping on the opposition’s line, the hosts got their try when Frizell reached out to score, but it was too little, too late.

Final Score: Highlanders 21 (16) Blues 32 (24)

Scorers

Highlanders
Tries – Dixon, Frizell
Pen – J. Ioane (3)
Con – J. Ioane
Drop –
Cards –

Blues
Tries – A. Ioane, Christie (2), Faiane, Tu’ungafasi
Pen – B. Barrett
Con – B. Barrett (2)
Drop –
Cards – Mafileo (Yellow, 74′)

Match Officials
Referee: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 1: James Doleman
Assistant Ref 2: Brendon Pickerill
TMO: Chris Hart

Teams

Highlanders

15 Mitch Hunt, 14 Josh McKay, 13 Michael Collins, 12 Sio Tomkinson, 11 Scott Gregory, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Jack Whetton, 4 Pari Pari Parkinson, 3 Jeff Thwaites, 2 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 1 Ayden Johnstone

Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ethan de Groot, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Jesse Parete, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Jona Nareki

Blues

15 Matt Duffie, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Finlay Christie, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Tony Lamborn, 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 2 Kurt Eklund, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe

Replacements: 16 Luteru Tolai, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Jacob Pierce, 20 Aaron Carroll, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Otere Black, 23 Harry Plummer

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