Highlanders

Highlanders hold on to end Blues losing streak

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The Highlanders ended a six match losing streak in Super Rugby against the Blues with a 30-27 victory at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin


Prior to this match the Highlanders had not beaten the Blues since February 2006 in the Super 14 when the Dunedin men last held the Gordon Hunter Memorial trophy.


Both teams scored two tries each and the difference came down to new Highlanders pivot Mike Delany’s six penalties to Gareth Anscombe’s five penalties.


The Blues have now lost five matches in a row and have a record for the season to date of played eight and lost seven while the Highlanders have played eight and won six.


The Blues secured a losing bonus point for the loss within seven points but as the Lions have a bye they picked up four points and moved above the Blues who have effectively dropped to last place.


Former All Blacks flyhalf Mike Delany marked his return to Super 15 rugby by kicking 20 points in a match which saw eight lead changes.


Delany rejoined the Highlanders from a Japanese club as a midseason replacement for another All Blacks flyhalf, Colin Slade, who was ruled out for the season with a broken ankle.


The one-test All Black made an indelible mark on the match, giving up an early try from a handling error but immediately atoning by creating the Highlanders’ first try and went on to kick a conversion and six penalties.


The Blues produced one of their best performances, motivated by desperation but twice had penalty opportunities in the dying moments of the match from which they could have safely kicked for goal and taken a draw.


Instead, they showed a determination to grab a win which might restart their season and they attacked the Highlanders line from a lineout, then a scrum.


On each occasion the Highlanders’ defence defused the threat and the match ended with the Highlanders clinging to the three-point lead they had gained from a 68th-minute try to replacement Kurt Baker, which forced the eighth lead change.


The Blues took a 27-22 lead with their second try by center Rene Ranger in the 53rd minute.


Delany’s last penalty cut the lead to 27-25 and with Baker’s unconverted try the Highlanders wrested back the lead for the final time.


The Blues also held the first lead of the match when Hadleigh Parkes, playing his first match at fullback after earlier starting on the wing, scored a try from Delany’s handling error.


The flyhalf’s first touch of the match and season went to ground, and All Blacks center Ma’a Nonu gathered the turnover and moved the ball wide to Parkes who scored near the corner flag.


The Highlanders hit back quickly with a try to center Shaun Treeby, brilliantly constructed by Delany.


The flyhalf took the ball from a scrum near halfway and turned a no-look, inside pass to All Blacks winger Hosea Gear who ran onto the ball at pace.


Gear drew the last defender and timed his pass perfectly to Treeby who ran the last 20 meters to score.


Delany’s first conversion gave the Highlanders their first lead at 7-5 but his exchange of penalties with Anscombe saw the lead change three times before halftime.


The barrage of penalties continued through the early part of the second half and there were four changes of the lead before Ranger’s try gave the Blues their largest lead.


The Highlanders resolutely pegged back that advantage and Baker forced the final lead change of a thrilling match when he doggedly pursued Gear’s kick which Ranger had knocked back over the Blues tryline.



Final Score Highlanders 30 (16) Blues 27 (14).


Scorers


Highlanders
Tries – S. Treeby, K. Baker
Pen – M. Delany 6
Con – M. Delany 2
Drop –
Cards –


Blues
Tries – H. Parkes, R. Ranger
Pen – G. Anscombe 5
Con – G. Anscombe
Drop –
Cards –


Match Officials


Referee: Bryce Lawrence
Assistant Ref 1: Mike Fraser
Assistant Ref 2: Kane McBride
TMO:Vinny Munro


Teams


Highlanders:


1. Jamie Mackintosh (c), 2. Andrew Hore, 3. Chris King, 4. Josh Bekhuis, 5. Jarrad Hoeata, 6. Adam Thomson, 7. James Haskell, 8. Nasi Manu, 9. Aaron Smith, 10. Mike Delany, 11. Hosea Gear, 12. Shaun Treeby, 13. Phil Burleigh, 14. Kade Poki, 15. Tamati Ellison.


Reserves: 16. Jason Rutledge, 17. Ma’afu Fia, 18. Doug Tietjens, 19. Culum Retallick, 20. Jimmy Cowan, 21. Chris Noakes, 22. Kurt Baker.


Blues


1. Tony Woodcock, 2. Tom McCartney, 3. Charlie Faumuina, 4. Ali Williams, 5. Filo Paulo, 6. Chris Lowrey, 7. Luke Braid (c), 8. Peter Saili, 9. Alby Mathewson, 10. Gareth Anscombe, 11. Benson Stanley, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 13. Rene Ranger, 14. George Moala, 15. Hadleigh Parkes.


Replacements: 16 James Parsons, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Liaki Moli, 19 Dan Braid, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Michael Hobbs, 22 David Raikuna.

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