The Highlanders and Blues have met 36 times in Super Rugby since 1996, the Landers have won 20 matches and lost 16 games.
The Highlanders have played 19 home Super Rugby games, winning 14 times, while losing six games against the Auckland franchise.
- The Blues have won all three of their games against the Highlanders in Super Rugby Aotearoa after having won only three of their previous 12 games against them in Super Rugby (L9).
- The Highlanders have lost seven of their last nine Super Rugby games on home turf (W2), including their last three on the bounce; the last time they lost more home games in succession was a six-game stretch across the 2012 and 2013 campaigns.
- Only one of the Blues’ last five away games in Super Rugby has seen the same team lead at both half-time and full-time on the day, with the Blues picking up two wins and three losses in that term.
- The Blues have scored five tries on possession begun with a turnover won, as many as the rest of the competition combined this season in Super Rugby Aotearoa.
- Blues’ Otere Black and Highlanders’ Josh Ioane have each made six break passes in the 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa campaign, the joint-most of any player in the competition alongside Crusaders’ David Havili.
We are waiting for the kick-off.
1.00: PEEEEP! We are underway under the roof at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin.
3.00: Kazuki Himeno gets over the ball and wins the Highlanders a reprieve on their try line. Tom Robinson leaves the field, Akira Ioane enters.
6.00: TRY! Jonathan Ruru intercepts Aaron Smith’s bullet pass inside the in-goal area to score the game’s opening points. The scrum half read the All Blacks No 9’s pass to perfection – you don’t see that every day. 0-5
7.00: CONVERSION! Otere Black can’t miss from there. 0-7
8.00: Hoskins Sotutu, over the ball, wins the relieving penalty for the Blues. Black boots the Blues to the halfway line.
11.00: Mitch Hunt sets up his team a penalty in front of the poles after some magical play at first receiver. TJ Faiane got to the isolated player and won the penalty at the breakdown.
12.00: PENALTY! Josh Ioane puts the Landers on the scoreboard. 3-7
14.00: Highlanders on the attack from deep inside their half. They win a penalty inside the opposition’s 22 in front of the posts.
15.00: TRY! Aaron Smith makes up for his mistake. The halfback takes a quick-tap penalty about 10 metres from the Blues’ try line, he is tackled short of the line. The Landers stay patient, wait for the reinforcements in the way of big No 8 Kazuki Himeno, who takes Hunt’s pass, and barges over the whitewash from close range. 8-7
16.00: CONVERSION! Ioane splits the poles from out wide. 10-7
19.00: The home team is back on charge, they move into the opposition’s 22, going through the phases.
20.00: Ruru is tackled out over the goal-line after collecting Hunt’s grubber kick – five-metre scrum to the hosts in the corner.
22.00: Oh, dear! Aaron Smith takes another quick-tap penalty from in front of the posts; however, this time the Highlanders cannot make the most of a reeling Blues’ defence, knocking on on the visitor’s goal line.
23.00: YELLOW CARD! Hoskins Sotutu is sent to the bin for foul play in the ‘red zone’ – Smith calls for a scrum. 10-7
25.00: TRY! Josh Ioane reaches out and puts the ball on the line. Hunt took Smith’s flat pass, drew in the defenders before playing the fullback – on the angle – who is tackled short, but scores. 15-7
26.00: MISS! Ioane pulls his kick wide of the poles, he should get that. 15-7
28.00: Another penalty goes against the visitors, the penalty count is seven to one against Leon MacDonald’s charges.
29.00: Great work by Ofa Tuungafasi in holding up the maul and winning the turnover. The big man is playing in the 100th Super Rugby game of his career.
31.00: An aimless kick by the Blues gifts possession to the hosts. An obstruction by Josh Ioane, however, gives the visitors a chance to set up an attacking lineout on the home side’s 22. It was a tough call against the Landers’ fullback.
33.00: TRY! Just like that, the Blues strike. Some good carrying by Akira Ioane and Karl Tu’inukuafe sets up Black to put Rieko inane through a gap to score. 15-12
34.00: CONVERSION! Black adds the extras. 15-14
35.00: Sotutu is back on the field. 15-14
36.00: Superb interplay from the Blues forwards see the visitors go close to scoring again. The locks and props were all involved in the attack before Billy Harmon saved the day for Tony Brown’s men.
37.00: Blues win the scrum penalty in front of the posts, Black calls for the tee.
38.00: PENALTY! Black puts the Blues back in front. 15-17
40.00: Blues have a lineout inside the Highlanders’ half. They will look to set up one last attack before the break.
41.00: Himeno, who has been immense this half, wins the hosts a relieving penalty. Hunt boots the ball deep into the opposition’s territory for an attacking lineout of their own.
42.00: TRY! Ngatungane Punivai takes Aaron Smith’s no look, inside pass, and darts to the corner to score. It was a wonderful lineout move by the Landers. Ash Dixon and Smith both bounced out, allowing Ngatungane Punivai to roll around and take Smith’s pass at full steam, and ghost through the gap. 20-17
44.00: CONVERSION! Ioane slots the touchline conversion. 22-17
The halftime score was Highlanders 22 Blues 17
41.00: PEEEEP! We are back underway in New Zealand.
44.00: Oh, dear! Dalton Papalii cannot hang onto the pass, he would surely have run over Hunt to score.
48.00: It’s all Blues since halftime, they just cannot find a way over the line.
50.00: Try-saving takes from Josh Ioane. The Blues are all over the Highlanders, but their passing and catching leaves much to be desired.
53.00: The Highlanders need to weather this period, their scrambling defence is superb, although, they have missed 23 tackles to five at this moment in the game.
54.00: Scrum penalty to the hosts earns Brown’s men some respite.
56.00: Rieko Ioane cannot hang onto the intercept, but the hosts looked dangerous as soon as they are on the attack inside the opposition’s half.
58.00: TRY! Superb work by Smith and Harmon, who wins the turnover after Sotutu is isolated at the back of the scrum. Smith made the tackle, Harmon the steal before the ball is shifted wide to Jona Nareki, alone on the sideline, to waltz over and score. 27-17
60.00: MISS! Ioane cannot convert. 27-17
63.00: NO TRY! The Blues are held up over the line; goal-line drop-out.
66.00: The Blues lose their Captain’s Referral, which is crazy because they called for it, but had the TMO overturn the call in favour of the Highlanders. It gives Mitch Hunt a chance to extend his side’s lead.
68.00: PENALTY! The ball sails into the Zoo! 30-17
71.00: TRY! Nepo Laulala is over! After a Captain’s Referral by Smith for foul play, the try is awarded because Josh Goodhue had his head down, and could not be deemed to be intentional. 30-22
71.00: CONVERSION! The kick is good. 30-24
72.00: RED CARD! Alex Hodgman is off for foul play, he can have no excuses for that kind of hit. 30-24
75.00: TRY! Michael Collins wins the game at the death for the Landers, he took Hunt’s delayed pass and crusaded through the white wall. 35-24
77.00: MISS! The kick is wide. 35-24
79.00: The Blues have an attacking scrum inside the opposition’s 22.
80.00: TRY! Sotutu crashes over from close range. 35-29
81.00: MISS! The drop-kick conversion is missed, but we have a restart.
82.00: The Highlanders win the turnover, and Kayne Hammington boots the ball into touch. The Landers finally have a home win!
The final score is Highlanders 35 (22) Blues 29 (17)
Tries – Himeno, J. Ioane, Punivai, Nareki, Collins
Pen – J. Ioane, Hunt
Con – J. Ioane (2)
Tries – Ruru, R. Ioane, Laulala, Sotutu
Pen – Black
Con – Black (3)
Cards – Sotutu (Yellow, 23′), Hodgman (Red, 72′)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant Ref 1: Paul Williams
Assistant Ref 2: James Doleman
TMO: Ben O’Keeffe
15 Josh Ioane, 14 Ngatungane Punivai, 13 Patelesio Tomkinson, 12 Scott Gregory, 11 Jona Nareki, 10 Mitch Hunt, 9 Aaron Smith (co-captain), 8 Kazuki Himeno, 7 Billy Harmon, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Josh Dickson, 4 Bryn Evans, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 1 Ayden Johnstone
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Ethan De Groot, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20 Marino Mikaele-Tu’u, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Michael Collins, 23 James Lentjes
15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Mark Telea, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Caleb Clarke, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Hoskins Sotutu, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson (captain), 5 Sam Darry, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 Luteru Tolai, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Bryce Heem