Highlanders halfback Aaron Smith fires off a pass during
his team's Super 15 pre-season match against the Blues at
the Queenstown Recreation Ground yesterday. Photo by Getty
If there was a template for a pre-season match then this
Plenty of ball movement, a lot of errors and not much
In what was not a great game of rugby, the Blues managed to
pip the Highlanders 31-29 in Queenstown, kicking a penalty to
win the game in the final minute of the match.
The Highlanders came out half asleep in the opening 40
minutes and were somewhat fortunate to still be in the game
at the break, down 28-19.
Slowly in the second half, the home side warmed to its work
and went ahead when Hosea Gear scored his third try within 15
minutes and it looked as though the Highlanders would get
But Baden Kerr managed to knock over a penalty in the final
minute to give the Blues a victory.
The Highlanders were patchy throughout and failed to find
much space against a rugged Blues defence. They had little
ball in the first half and found it tough to get in behind
the Blues defence.
They lacked the ability to recycle the ball quickly and too
often the ball went across the field, rather than up the
Another worry was the lineout which, for the second week in a
row, was too inaccurate, costing the Highlanders some prime
The scrum was a mess from both sides, and the breakdown was a
mess, as teams took a loose interpretation of the offside
Gear, Highlanders skipper for the day, helped himself to
three tries, though only one of required him to show a clean
pair of heels.
With the other two he resembled a tight forward, barrelling
his way over in the tightest of spaces.
Flanker Joe Wheeler scored a nice try and got through some
work, while Nasi Manu resembled a runaway train at times.
For the Blues, centre Rene Ranger looked good in the half he
was on the field, while flanker Luke Braid got through some
Big prop Charlie Faumuina was solid, as was skipper Ali
The Blues came out with all pace and precision and were two
tries up in eight minutes and the Highlanders had barely
touched the ball.
Former Highlanders lock Culum Retallick immediately got one
over his old team with a try after just five minutes and the
Highlanders then had Manu rather harshly yellow-carded for a
In their first concentrated attack, the Highlanders held on
to the ball for a few phases, a long Aaron Smith pass found
Jarad Hoeata out wide and he went over in the corner.
More tries came in a free-flowing first half, when the Blues
found some gaps in the Highlanders defence, especially in the
The Melbourne Rebels beat the Western Force 30-23 in
Melbourne last night. The Force led 11-10 at halftime.
Blues ... 31
Culum Retallick, George Moala, Tom McCartney, Piri Weepu
tries, Weepu 4 cons; Baden Kerr pen
Highlanders ... 29
Hosea Gear 3, Jarrad Hoeata, Joe Wheeler tries; Hayden Parker