'Landers add to the Blues' woes
The Highlanders produced a great performance as they outscored the Blues five tries to two.
The win sees the Highlanders keep their dreams of reaching the playoffs alive, while the injury clouded Blues' suffered their sixth Super Rugby defeat of the season.
The Blues, once a powerhouse Super Rugby side, had a horrendous start – after just five minutes of play the hosts were 12-0 down.
First, flyhalf Warren Gatland's clearance kick on his own try-line was charged down by Dillon Hunt for the first try after just 38 seconds of play.
Four minutes later, the Highlanders flank Shannon Frizell powered over the line for the second score. This time, Lima Sopaga stepped up and made sure to add the extras for a 12-0 lead.
Finally, the Blues got their hands on the ball. The side showed some great patience to work their way in the Highlanders' 22 before scrumhalf Jonathan Ruru burst over the line for a timely score.
Unfortunately for the Eden Park faithful, Gatland failed to add the extras.
The flyhalf redeemed himself with two successful pentalties for the Blues to trail with just one point at 11-12
The try-count of the match subdued, however, both sides determination to score did not deteriorate as Blues' lone soldier Rieko Ioane kept the intesity up and made sure to put the Highlanders' defeance under pressure, which almost resulted in a try.
But, the visitors survived the onslaught and produced a dangerous counter-attack, which was neatly rounded off by Frizell for the visitors' third try, and the flank's second try of the match.
The Highlanders ended the first half on a high note as a Sopoaga penalty kick handed them a comfortable 20-11 lead the break.
As the second half commenced the Blues built some valuable phases inside the Highlanders' half. However, the Highlanders were the first to score after scrumhalf Kanua Hammington crossed the line thanks to a marvellous interchange by Tevita Li and Frizell out wide.
Sopoaga added the extras for the comfortable 27-11 lead.
All Black scrumhalf Aaron Smith was introduced in the 50th minute, and just minutes later the scrumhalf's presence was felt as a quick tap-and-go inside the Blues' 22 set up Frizell's third try of the match.
Teh match ended on a rather unpredicatbale note as the Blues had the final say of the match.
From a five-metre attacking line-out, Umaga's troops won the ball and a long pass was collected by Tumua Manu for the replacement wing's try.
However, the try occurred a little too late as the Highlanders done enough for the win.
Man of the match: Highlanders wing Tevita Li deserves a mention, while Lima Sopaga's ability to dictate play proved to be vital for the side. However, for his overall good performance, our nod goes to hat-trick hero Shannon Frizell.
For the Blues:
Tries: Ruru, T. Manu
Pens: Gatland 2
Tries: Dillon Hunt, Frizell 3, Hammighton
Cons: Sopoaga 2
Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Jordan Hyland, 13 Orbyn Leger, 12 Tinoai Faiane, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Kara Pryor, 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Jimmy Tupou, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Mike Tamoaieta, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu.
Replacements: 16 Matt Mouldsi, 17 Ross Wright, 18 Mike Tamoaieta, 19 Ben Neenee, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Tumua Manu, 23 Matt Duffie.
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Replacements: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Alex Ainley, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Matt Faddes.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant referees: Angus Mabey, Mike Lash
TMO: Ben Skeen