Highlanders edge Blues in frenetic Super Rugby opener
The Highlanders claimed an entertaining 41-34 victory over the Blues in the first of the New Zealand Super Rugby derbies at the Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday morning.
JOHANNESBURG - The Highlanders claimed an entertaining 41-34 victory over the Blues in the first of the New Zealand Super Rugby derbies at the Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday morning.
The game produced 75 points where tries were the order of the day as defence coaches from either side would have been pulling their hair out.
Playing in his first game for the Blues, Bryn Gatland struck first when he stepped his way through the Highlanders defence for the first try of the game.
Gatland converted his own try to give the Highlanders an early lead.
The Blues then went on the offensive straight from the restart and Lima Sopoanga dropped a nice pass off to Rob Thompson who crashed over from close range. The Blues then hit back almost immediately through some brilliant passing from the backs.
Rieko Ioane showed a beautiful piece of skill to put Matt Duffie away for the try and the Blues had regained the lead. The lead changed hands six times in a frenetic match in Dunedin.
Akira Ioane went over the line to give the Blues a 24-17 halftime lead.
The second half produced another try-fest. Prop Siate Tokolahi drew the Highlanders level, from close quarters, but the Blues hit back again through Akira who got his double. The Blues were then dealt a blow when replacement loose forward Antonio Kiri Kiri was sent off to the sin bin for a high tackle on Sopoanga. The Highlanders took full advantage of the one-man advantage.
Tei Walden crossed over the line from a beautiful pass from the base of the ruck from Allblack scrumhalf, Aaron Smith.
Walden scored again, when his centre partner Thompson put in a neat chip kick and Walden collected to score the try. The Highlanders were now 38-31 in front.
Gatland slotted a penalty for the Blues to narrow the gap to just four points, but Fletcher Smith slotted a penalty of his own to close out the win for the Highlanders at 41-24.