Round 1 - Blues v Highlanders, 26 February, Eden Park, Auckland
- May 17, 2015
Super Rugby opened with a bang on Friday night in Auckland and the Highlanders were unable to complete a last ditch attempt to steal the win from a renewed Blues team.
The game opened with a hiss and a roar and posession see-sawed between the two teams, Ihaia West unable to captialise on an early penalty in front of the sticks. Ben Smith scores the opener, slamming the ball on the try line after a great run up the middle from new Highlander, Liam Squire. Lima Sopoaga adds the extra two points and Highlanders lead 7-0 after 10miniutes. The Blues found their reply on the 20th minute with a long distance try to Melani Nanai who was on the receiving end of a kick-pass from West, West converts and the score evens out at 7-all. Highlanders strike back through a Sopoaga penalty which is quickly followed by a try to the Blues with Blake Gibson crashing through the defensive line, West successfully converts.
The tries keep coming as Teihorangi Walden goes over for a 5-pointer on debut, following quick hands through the backline. Sopoaga converts and the score is all tied up again at 17-all. West adds three points after a Highlanders infringement at the breakdown, 20-17 to the Blues, but that doesn't last long as some Aaron Smith and Waisake Naholo magic result in a great try right on the halftime whistle. Sopaga successfully converts and the Highlanders lead the Blues 24-20 at the halftime break.
The second half descended into an arm wrestle as both sides crashed and bashed for little reward. Ihaia West slotted two penalty goals to nudge the Blues ahead at the three-quarter mark. The Highlanders were then called upon to defend for an extended period of time as the home side held the ball for multiple phases before Blue's lock Patrick Tuipulotu crashed over the line to score. The Highlanders swung back onto attack and scored a miracle try to Ben Smith in the 79th minute followed by an outstanding kick from the sideline by replacement first-five, Hayden Parker, but the clock ran out and the two point deficit proved two points too many. Plenty of positives to take from this match as we look to next week's home game against the Hurricanes.
HALFTIME: HIG 24 - BLU 20
FULLTIME: HIG 31 - BLU 33
Tries – M.Nanai, B. Gibson, P. Tuipulotu
Pen – I West 4
Con – I.West 3
Tries – B.Smith 2, T. Walden, W.Naholo
Pen – L.Sopoaga,
Con -L.Sopoaga 3, Parker
Cards – P.Osborne (70th min yellow)