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Highlanders

FULL-TIME
26     20

Blues

Super Rugby | Dunedin
07:35 (GMT) | 08-04-2017
  • 80
Full-time, Highlanders take this one ! Thank you for joining us at Rugby365.com for this match! Be sure to join us for the rest of the days rugby!
  • 79
Scrum resets a couple times frustrating the Blues
  • 78
Blues attack on the halfway line through Prattley , then Luatua, SBW gets smashed and Moulds cant find a break in the defense. Too much pressure in defence results in Moala throwing a loose pass and the Highlanders have the scrum put in.
  • 76
Massive break from Blake Gibson before Ben Smith rips the ball from him out of nowhere, Banks then clears the ball away and the Blues attack from deep.
  • 74
Highlanders back on the attack through Fekitoa, serious momentum with the home team now before the Blues hold up the runner in Halanukonuka and force the ref to give them a scrum put in
  • 73
Blues with ball in hand inside their own half as Collins has a run then Francis, Highlanders defense holds strong as Moulds loses the ball forward. Scrum Highlanders on the halfway line.
  • 71
Penalty to the Highlanders on the Blues try line. The option is to have a shot at goal. Banks lines up his kick , and smashes the ball through the middle of the sticks.
  • 69
Blues come within inches of the line through Duffie, Highlanders hack the ball away and Fekitoa makes a great run! Up to the Blues 22 the home team go.
  • 66
What a break from Sonny Bill Williams, he makes 20 meters and puts in a great offload , Prattley holds the ball gets smashed and the ref calls for a Blues scrum, great play by SBW and the Blues.
  • 65
Defence far too good from the home side as the Gibson is tackled into touch. Lineout Highlanders
  • 64
Blues attack from halfway but they are met with crunching tackles run after run.
  • 63
Blues were looking alright on attack before Pulu loses the ball forward at the base of the ruck, scrum down Highlanders ball
  • 62
Aaron Smith throws a loose pass into touch, Blues lineout . Duffie has a run at first receiver then Moulds has a bash but is crunched by Squire
  • 61
Big run again from Fekitoa as he puts in the fend and beats the first defender. Blues then turn the ball over and Pulu kicks for touch.
  • 60
Loose pass from Francis to Collins pins the visitors back as Fekitoa puts in a crunching tackle. Francis then clears the ball into touch to relieve pressure.
  • 59
Highlanders attack wide through Fekitoa who plays Buckman who loses the ball forward. Scrum Blues on their own 22.
  • 58
Buckman has a run midfield before the Highlanders are awarded a penalty for the Blues not rolling away. Banks kicks for touch to set up a lineout on the halfway line.
  • 56
Blues win the penalty at the lineout, Francis sets up the lineout deep inside the Highlanders half. Parsons finds his jumper and the maul is set before the ball is dropped by Gibson and the Highlanders have the scrum put-in
  • 54
Aaron Smith pumps the ball into touch, Lineout Blues on the halfway line.
  • 53
Highlanders inside the Blues 22, Squire has a bash, Banks attempts the chip kick which comes to nothing but the ref gives the Highlanders a penalty and Banks will have a shot at goal to give the home side the lead
  • 52
Parsons overthrows the ball at the lineout as the Highlanders get possession and pump the ball up field. Collins then gets into a pickle as he is tackled out. Lineout Highlanders just inside the Blues half .
  • 51
Li makes a run down the flank for the Highlanders but is taken well. Blues turn over the ball swing the ball out to Duffie who does well, buts in a grubber, Ben Smith cleans up and the Blues have a lineout throw inside the Highlanders 22.
  • 49
Luatua makes a run for the Blues then Parsons, then Ioane. Buckman rips the ball and the Highlanders regain possession .
  • 48
Francis puts in a kick that rolls into touch on the Highlanders 22. Lineout to the home side
  • 47
Blues on the attack near the halfway as they look to strike back from the Highlanders second half resurrection .
  • 45
Banks converts the try
  • 44
Osbourne has a run followed by Fekitoa who scores a great try! What a player!
  • 43
Fekitoa makes a massive crash run onto the line , TMO in action to see if the center grounded the ball , it is judged that the ball is short from the line so the judgement is that it will be a Highlanders scrum put in.
  • 42
Highlanders on the attack in the Blues 22 through Osbourne who makes a terrific run. Ben Smith, Whitelock and Dixon all have a run. Fekitoa then has a run on the crash ball but is wrapped up quickly. Blues hold on as the referee calls for a scrum to the Highlanders 5 meters from the Blues line.
  • 41
Second half underway as Banks kicks off

Half Time

  • 40
Penalty right at the end of the first half, Banks has a shot at goal its over and the ref blows for halftime! See you all in a bit for the second half
  • 39
Ioane does some great work in holding Fekitoa up , Blues force the ref to award them a scrum put in. Good defence from the Blues
  • 38
Couple kicks back and forth by both teams before Ben Smith makes a run for the home side.
  • 37
Francis converts the try
  • 36
Cowley-Tuioti crashes over for the Blues! TMO in action , it is judged to be a try!!!
  • 35
Luatua makes a good run then Pulu. Highlanders hang on for dear life on their try line.
  • 34
Another penalty for the Blues at the lineout ,Francis sets up a 5 meter lineout for the Blues
  • 33
Penalty Blues,Francis kicks for touch to set up a lineout inside the Highlanders 22.
  • 32
Manu makes a run for the Blues and then Gibson makes a nice run down the wing. Blues looking good but Highlanders defense holds strong
  • 31
Aaron Smith puts in the grubber that rolls out on the Blues 22. Lineout to the Blues, Parsons finds his jumper and Kaino has a run midfield but is taken high, Blues win the penalty .
  • 30
Scrum Highlanders on the halfway line
  • 29
Banks converts the try
  • 28
Ben Smith runs a great line and scores under the posts for the Highlanders!!!
  • 27
Highlanders break put through Osbourne, what a run. Into the Blues 22 the home side go.
  • 26
Blues on the attack through Pulu who makes a good run, Faumuina makes a good run then Moala again, up to the 22 the visitors go.
  • 24
Banks kicks the ball out on the full from the kick off, scrum Blues on the halfway line.
  • 23
Francis's penalty is successful as the Blues extend their lead
  • 22
Blues on the attack inside the Highlanders 22 through Moala, the attack comes to nothing as the Blues win another penalty. Francis will have a shot at goal to extend the visitors lead .
  • 20
Blues lose the ball at the lineout, scrum Highlanders on the halfway, Smith feeds, plays Li , Coltman has a go, Franklin gets stuck in, Blues defense holds strong as Luatua forces the Highlander player to hold onto the ball and wins his team the penalty
  • 19
Blues win the penalty from the kick off, Francis clears the ball into touch
  • 18
Francis lands the penalty, good kick
  • 17
Massive scrum from the Blues demolishes the Highlanders scrum on their own put in along with win the penalty for their demolishion job. Francis will have a shot at goal from range.
  • 16
Moala has a run midfield , busts the first defender and attempts a offload to Nanai who coughs the ball up. Scrum Highlanders on the halfway line
  • 15
Highlanders attack wide through Ben Smith before Osbourne loses the ball forward from the attempted offload. Scrum Blues.
  • 14
Gibson has a run for the Blues before Francis clears the ball into touch near the halfway
  • 13
Francis converts the try
  • 12
Duffie makes a massive linebreak leaving the Highlanders defence in pieces, next wave of attack sees big Charlie Faumuina crash over!!! What a try for the Blues!
  • 10
Parsons finds his jumper in Luatua on the Highlanders 22. Blues then attack through Luatua and Faumuina , before Moala loses the ball forward and Ben Smith slams the ball up field.
  • 9
Buckman has a run from the kickoff before Smith clears the ball up field, Blues win the penalty and Francis kicks for touch to set up a attacking lineout.
  • 8
Banks lands the penalty as the Highlanders take the lead
  • 7
Highlanders attack through Fekitoa who bounces Ioane out the way, Ainley then has a run , Highlanders then win the penalty and they opt to have a shot at goal for the first points of the encounter. Great start to this match.
  • 6
Parsons finds his man at the lineout and the maul is set before the ball is ripped away and Aaron Smith makes a lovely run up field and puts in the grubber, Blues clean it up on their own 22.
  • 5
Penalty Blues, Francis kicks for touch to set up a lineout on the Highlanders 22.
  • 4
Banks clears the ball up field, Collins returns the favor and the Highlanders attack through Dixon before Hunt is tackled into touch. Lineout Blues
  • 3
Duffie makes a lovely catch in the air from the up and under, Blues on the attack midfield near the halfway before Pulu throws a loose pass into touch. Lineout Highlanders
  • 2
Buckman takes the kick off and Aaron Smith clears the ball up field, Blues then opt to swing it wide to Nanai who has a run. Moala then attempts to bust the line but the Landers defence holds strong in the early exchanges. Pulu attempts a sniping run but is tackled into touch . Lineout Highlanders outside their own 22.
  • 1
First half underway! Blues kick off
  • -5
Almost time for kick-off as the teams go through their last match preparations. This match should be a cracker of a game
  • -10
The Highlanders have won seven of their last 10 games against the Blues, after having lost six in a row against them prior to that run. The Highlanders have won each of their last four home games against the Blues, though they've come by an average margin of just seven points.
  • -15
The Blues have Sonny Bill Williams, back from an eight-month injury lay-off, in the reserves.
  • -20
Highlanders coach Tony Brown, despite his team's 39-point demolition of the winless Rebels last week, feels they will need to raise the bar considerably against the Blues
  • -25
The Blues have welcomed back All Black Steven Luatua from suspension and will be looking to his physicality to get the edge over the Highlanders an what will be a brutal contest.
  • -30
Welcome to this Super Rugby clash between the Highlanders and the Blues coming to you from Dunedin, New Zealand
Mc highlanders logo 80x50
Highlanders
Mc blues logo 80x50
Blues
START LINE UP
  • 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
  • 2 Liam Coltman
  • 3 Siosula Halanukonuka
  • 4 Alex Ainley
  • 5 Tom Franklin
  • 6 Elliot Dixon
  • 7 Dillon Hunt
  • 8 Luke Whitelock
  • 9 Aaron Smith
  • 10 Marty Banks
  • 11 Patrick Osborne
  • 12 Richard Buckman
  • 13 Malakai Fekitoa
  • 14 Tevita Li
  • 15 Ben Smith
RESERVES
  • 16 Greg Pleasents
  • 17 Aki Seiulu
  • 18 Siate Tokolahi
  • 19 Joe Wheeler
  • 20 Liam Squire
  • 21 Kayne Hammington
  • 22 Fletcher Smith
  • 23 Matt Faddes
START LINE UP
  • 1 Pauliasi Manu
  • 2 James Parsons
  • 3 Charlie Faumuina
  • 4 Gerald Cowley-Tuioti
  • 5 Scott Scrafton
  • 6 Jerome Kaino
  • 7 Blake Gibson
  • 8 Steven Luatua
  • 9 Augustine Pulu
  • 10 Piers Francis
  • 11 Melani Nanai Vai
  • 12 George Moala
  • 13 Rieko Ioane
  • 14 Matt Duffie
  • 15 Michael Collins
RESERVES
  • 16 Matt Moulds
  • 17 Ofa Tuungafasi
  • 18 Sione Mafileo
  • 19 Patrick Tuipulotu
  • 20 Akira Ioane
  • 21 Billy Guyton
  • 22 Bryn Gatland
  • 23 Sonny Bill Williams
Mc article sunwolves v bulls banner 800

SR Preview: Round Seven, Part One

Thu, 06 Apr 2017 09:57

IN THE SUPER RUGBY SPOTLIGHT: There are already some teams in the 'desperate' category, even with more than half of their league matches still to be completed.

The Waratahs, who face the defending champion Hurricanes first up, are right up there with teams desperate to get their campaign back on track - after just two wins in the first six rounds.

Next up is a team even more desperate - the hapless Bulls facing the Sunwolves in Tokyo. The Bulls, despite a litany of stars in their line-up, have just one win in the opening six weeks, having beaten the Sunwolves (34-21) in Pretoria last month.

The Highlanders and Blues, who face off in Dunedin, are both desperate to stay in the play-offs race after some inconsistent performances in the early weeks.

In Part One we look at the first three matches of the weekend!

Friday, April 7:

Hurricanes v Waratahs
(Westpac Stadium, Wellington - Kick-off: 19.35; 17.35 AEST; 07.45 GMT)

There is the over-used cliche: 'You must earn the right to go wide.'

The Hurricanes believe they have already earned that right on the training field and will not deviate from their expansive game, even if they play in monsoon-like conditions.

Their critics will claim they tend to get too cute.

However, they simply don't believe in spending 60 minutes of a game building a platform. They built that platform in training.

Up against them this week is a team determined to use their massive pack to bully the defending Super Rugby champions into submission.

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson is clear what his team needs to do in Wellington to overcome the New Zealand outfit.

"It's exciting to come up against another kiwi team, and to play against these teams who are the benchmark of the competition," Gibson said

"In terms of our directness, the idea is that we believe we need to take on the Hurricanes in terms of what they do with the ball in hand."

The Hurricanes have no such notions - about being 'direct' or 'physical' - as Waratahs captain Michael Hooper suggested.

The Hurricanes believe that Plan A is still to roll out the champagne game.

"I like attacking, I like getting the ball in hand and we've got players that like attacking as well and the more opportunities we give them, the more times it'll work for us," Perenara told stuff.co.nz.

"Yes, we might make errors every now and then, but I can live with that.

"I think we've got so much upside in some of our players and their ability to attack from anywhere on the field.

"Like I say, we might make an error that will hurt us every now and then, but that's a risk I'm prepared to take."

Recent results:
2016: Hurricanes won 28-17, Sydney
2015: Waratahs won 29-24, Wellington
2014: Waratahs won 39-30, Sydney
2013: Hurricanes won 41-29, Wellington
2012: Hurricanes won 33-12, Sydney

Prediction: The Hurricanes have won three of their last five games against the Waratahs, this after losing four games in a row against the Tahs prior to that. The Waratahs have won on three of their last four visits to Wellington after having not won there from 1997 to 2006. The Hurricanes have won their last eight games at home, their longest such streak, and have kept their opposition to single figures in four of their last five home fixtures. The Wellington club have won each of their last four home games against Australian opposition by an average margin of 34 points. The Waratahs have won on just two of their last 13 visits to New Zealand, their last such victory being a 29-24 win against the Hurricanes in Round 10, 2015. The conditions will give the Waratahs a chance, as their forwards will be able to slow the game down. However, the Hurricanes gave too much class and should win by 12 points.

Teams:

Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Wes Goosen, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 TJ Perenara (captain), 8 Reed Prinsep, 7  Callum Gibbins, 6 Brad Shields, 5 Michael Fatialofa, 4  Mark Abbott, 3 Jeffery To'omaga-Allen, 2 Ricky Riccitelli, 1 Ben May.
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17  Chris Eves, 18  Mike Kainga, 19 Vaea Fifita; 20 Toa Halafihi, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Otere Black,  23 Vince Aso

Waratahs: 15 Bryce Hegarty, 14 Taqele Naiyaravoro, 13 Israel Folau, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Cam Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (captain), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Paddy Ryan.
Replacement: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Sam Needs, 18 David Lolohea, 19 David McDuling, 20 Jed Holloway, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Irae Simone, 23 Andrew Kellaway

Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Shuhei Kubo (Japan), Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
TMO: Glen Newman (New Zealand)

Saturday, April 8:

Sunwolves v Bulls
(Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo - Kick-off: 14.15; 07.15 SA time; 05.15 GMT)

It is a sad indictment on the Bulls that - despite the quality of their players - that they have managed to beat just one team this season - the Sunwolves.

Bulls backline coach David Manuel said the coaching staff have identified a couple of 'weaknesses' that they have worked on.

However, there has been no indication of improvement in their first two tour matches - which saw them slump to 14-38 (against the Blues) and 12-28 (Chiefs) defeats in the wake of dramatic second-half slumps.

Not surprising the Sunwolves believe they have a good chance to exact revenge after the Bulls' 34-21 win at Loftus Versfeld last month, the men from Pretoria's only victory of the season.

"We love playing at home and to host a team like the Bulls in Tokyo is a special occasion for the organisation and our fans," Sunwolves coach Filo Tiatia said.

"Our fans will not only get an opportunity to watch their Sunwolves players but view some world class players like Adriaan Strauss and Handré Pollard at the same time."

Regular captain Edward Quirk, who has been ruled out through injury, spoke openly of "revenge" and there is no doubt the Sunwolves are going to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Bulls.

The Bulls believe this is an opportunity to finally get their game going, having struggled to make the conversion from a structured approach to an expansive game.

Manuel said in the Blues game they had a plan and "applied it most of the game".

"Our challenge is the last 20 minutes of the game when we lack discipline," the assistant coach said.

"The big lesson we've learnt from the Chiefs clash is that the game is about inches and the New Zealand teams are good especially when you make a mistake and don't have the discipline to play for 80 minutes.

"I think a bit of patience is needed from our side.

"We get over anxious and over-excited and that leads to bad decisions with the ball in hand."

He said the players are "professionals" and must take ownership for their performances.

"There has been a huge chat about that [ownership] and if everybody can do that and bring it to the game, we will be better off,' Manuel said from the team's base in Tokyo.

Previous results:
2017: Bulls won 34-21, Pretoria
2016: Bulls won 50-3, Pretoria
2016: Bulls won 30-27, Singapore

Prediction: The Bulls have won each of their three previous meetings between these teams, though the last and only previous time the Sunwolves hosted this fixture it was decided by a margin of just three points. The Sunwolves have taken the lead into the half-time break in three of their last six games at home, though they've yet to convert a half-time lead into a win on home turf. The Bulls have lost their last five games outside South Africa; their last such win came against the Western Force in Round 10, 2016. The Sunwolves are one of just three teams in the competition (Highlanders, Stormers) yet to lose a scrum on their own feed this season. Jannes Kirsten made 14 tackles after coming off the bench in the Bulls' Round Six loss to the Chiefs, the most by a Bulls' replacement player since Jacques Du Plessis made 16 tackles against the Hurricanes in Round Eight, 2014. You have to think the Sunwolves will have a realistic chance of toppling a Bulls team that lacks confidence in their own game. However, there is this nagging feeling the Bulls will finally get their act together and win again - by 15 points.

Teams:

Sunwolves: 15 Kotaro Matsushima, 14 Takaaki Nakazuru, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Hayden Cripps, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Rahboni Warren, 7 Shuhei Matsuhashi, 6 Yoshitaka Tokunaga, 5 Uwe Helu, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Yasuo Yamaji, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Koki Yamamoto.
Replacements: 16 Takeshi, 17 Keita Inagaki, 18 Heiichiro Ito, 19 Sam Wykes, 20 Shunsuke Nunomaki, 21 Yuki Yatomi, 22 Yu Tamura, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka.

Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Jannes Kirsten, 6 Nic de Jager, 5 Rudolph Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Martin Dreyer, 19 Jaco Visagie/HendréStassen,  20 Jacques Potgieter, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Francois Brummer, 23 Franco Naude.

Referee: Will Houston
Assistant referees: Rohan Hoffmann, Akihisa Aso
TMO: Minoru Fuji

Highlanders v Blues
(Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin - Kick-off: 19.35; 07.35 GMT)

The Gordon Hunter Memorial trophy - which has been played for between the two teams since 2002 - is again up for grabs.

Hunter coached Otago from 1992 to1995 and the Highlanders in the inaugural year of Super Rugby in 1996.

He then went on to be a selector and assistant coach of the All Blacks from 1996 to 1999, before becoming the head coach of the Blues in 2000.

However, there are other reasons why these two sides will be charged up for Saturday's crucial encounter.

Both teams are just outside the play-off zone - mainly because of the convoluted conference system - both with three wins from six starts.

Both have won their last two matches and are beginning to show their play-off potential.

The Blues have welcomed back All Black Steven Luatua from suspension and will be looking to his physicality to get the edge over the Highlanders an what will be a brutal contest.

They also have Sonny Bill Williams, back from an eight-month injury lay-off, in the reserves.

Luatua, who announced he would be leaving the Blues for Bristol after this season, will need to make amends for his foul play misstep in Round Two.

"Without looking too far ahead, we're two games away from the bye and it's been a long block for us,'' Blues coach Tana Umaga told the Otago Daily Times.

Umaga said they will be looking for the "energy and his experience" Luatua showed prior to his indiscretion against the Highlanders.

"He's been training for four weeks now and it's been pretty good actually."

The Blues coach felt his team was not too far away from being at their best.

"We want a little bit more energy and they want to do the same thing - they're in the same predicament as us," Umaga said.

"Hopefully we get a good game out of that, two sides desperate for a result.''

Highlanders coach Tony Brown, despite his team's 39-point demolition of the winless Rebels last week, feels they will need to raise the bar considerably against the Blues.

"We've got a massive challenge against the Blues," Brown said.

"I'd say they're going to be at least three times as good as the Rebels."

Recent results:
2017: Highlanders won 16-12, Auckland
2016: Blues won 33-31, Auckland
2015: Highlanders won 44-7, Auckland
2015: Highlanders won 30-24, Dunedin
2014: Blues won 30-12, Auckland
2014: Highlanders won 29-21, Dunedin

Prediction: The Highlanders have won seven of their last 10 games against the Blues, after having lost six in a row against them prior to that run. The Highlanders have won each of their last four home games against the Blues, though they've come by an average margin of just seven points. Four of the last five New Zealand derbies have been decided by a margin of fewer than 10 points. The Blues have won just one of their last 22 away games in New Zealand; that win came back in Round 2, 2013 against the Hurricanes. Matt Duffie has scored six tries in his last eight games for the Blues, including three tries in his last two games. This will go down to the wire and the lead may change hands several times. To call a winner is perilous, but we will say the Highlanders by five - only because they are at home.

Teams:

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Tevita Li, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Matt Faddes.

Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 George Moala, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Sonny Bill Williams.

Referee: Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser, James Doleman
TMO: Shane McDermott

Compiled by Jan de Koning
@king365ed
@rugby365com

* Statistics provided by Opta Sports

Mc article highlanders v blues 2017 800

Highlanders edge Blues in arm-wrestle

Sat, 08 Apr 2017 07:14

SUPER RUGBY REPORT: The Highlanders continued their resurgence in this year's Super Rugby tournament with a narrow 26-20 win over the Blues in Dunedin on Saturday.

The Highlanders shut out the Blues in a 13-point second half as they overturned a 13-20 half-time deficit. 

Code-hopping star Sonny Bill Williams, out of action since an Achilles injury picked up playing sevens at the Rio Olympics eight months ago, and not having played XVs rugby since the 2015 World Cup Final, went from hero to villain as he tried to rescue the Blues. 

He came off the bench with 18 minutes to play and twice used his trademark offloads to split the Highlanders defence and put the Blues into a position to regain the lead. 

Both times the moves fell down but it put the Blues deep inside the Highlanders' 22 until a Williams pass went along the ground allowing the Highlanders to pounce on the ball. 

It started a 90-metre move which ended with the Blues penalised when scrambling to defend on their own line. 

Marty Banks, who did not miss a kick, landed the penalty to push the margin out to six points, leaving the Blues spending the final eight minutes trying unsuccessfully for a converted try to save the match.

The Blues, who have not won an away game in New Zealand since they beat the Hurricanes in Wellington in 2013, now slip to the bottom of the New Zealand conference behind the Highlanders.

Captain James Parsons said his side let themselves down by letting the Highlanders score 16 unanswered points after the Blues had led 20-10 late in the first half. 

"We probably went away from being as direct as we were in that first half and they got a good roll on. We had enough opportunities to bounce back but just didn't quite get the execution," he said.

Highlanders skipper Luke Whitelock said that despite his side coming out on top they never felt totally in charge, particularly after trailing for most of the first half. 

"We had our backs against the wall and it's a credit to the guys fronting up and getting back into the game," he said. 

"Look across their whole team, they have some x-factor and you saw glimpses of that, they could break the line or cut us open at any time." 

Ben Smith and Malakai Fekitoa scored tries for the Highlanders with Banks landing two conversions and four penalties.

The Blues points came from tries to Charlie Faumuina and Gerard Cowley, both converted by Piers Francis, who also landed two penalties.

Man of the match: Matt Duffie was fantastic with ball in hand at times, while Liam Squire made a huge impact off the bench for the Highlanders. However, the award goes to centre Malakai Fekitoa for giving the Blues' defence all kinds of problems out wide.

The scorers: 

For Highlanders:
Tries: B Smith, Fekitoa
Cons: Banks 2
Pens: Banks 4

For Blues:
Tries: Faumuina, Cowley-Tuioti
Cons: Francis 2
Pens: Francis 2

Teams:

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (captain), 14 Tevita Li, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Liam Squire, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Matt Faddes.

Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 George Moala, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Akira Ioane, 21 Billy Guyton, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Sonny Bill Williams.

Referee: Jamie Nutbrown
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser, James Doleman
TMO: Shane McDermott

AFP

Ben Smith (28min) and Malakai Fekitoa (44min)
TRIES
Charlie Faumuina (12min) and Gerald Cowley-Tuioti (36min)
Marty Banks (29min) and Marty Banks (45min)
CONVERSIONS
Piers Francis (13min) and Piers Francis (37min)
Marty Banks (8min), Marty Banks (40min), Marty Banks (53min), and Marty Banks (71min)
PENALTIES
Piers Francis (18min) and Piers Francis (23min)
 
PENALTY TRIES
 
DROP GOALS
 
 
 
VENUE Dunedin
REFEREE Jamie Nutbrown (New Zealand)