Hard-working Highlanders fall short

The Blues celebrate the final whistle in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final at Eden Park. Photo:...
The Blues celebrate the final whistle in the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman final at Eden Park. Photo: Getty Images
Courage can only go so far.

The Highlanders defended like men possessed and had one hand on the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman trophy when playing the Blues in the final in Auckland tonight.

But the Blues ended up the victors with a  23-15 victory and take their first title of any kind since 2003.

The visiting team had no ball, no territory and was outweighed up front.

But somehow the Highlanders hung tough.

The Blues sent wave after wave of attack on the Highlanders right through the game and laid siege to the Highlanders tryline for the first 20 minutes of the second half.

But the Highlanders hung tough in the trenches and did not give a try away while under the pump.

The side then slowly chipped away and came back into the game.

Further penalties from Mitch Hunt had the side just one point behind at 13-12 with 15 minutes left.

Liam Coltman then grabbed a ruck penalty and Josh Ioane slotted the penalty and the HIghlanders were up 15-13 with just over 10 minutes left.

But alas, it was not to be. The city slickers came home well.

Harry Plummer knocked over a difficult penalty to put the Blues back in front.

It then muscled up, Hoskins Sotutu made a good run and replacement loose forward Blake Gibson crashed over to score.

It was tough to take for the Highlanders but the side had given its all and there could be no shame.It tackled like demons and scrambled well. A slice of luck and it would have won.

Best for the Highlanders was halfback Aaron Smith and Hunt while up front veteran lock Bryn Evans and prop Ethan de Groot worked hard.

The first half was a real arm wrestle.

The Highlanders put the opening points on the board with a Hunt penalty after just four minutes. But the Highlanders slowly slipped out of the game as the Blues started to get more ball and the Highlanders were forced into defence.

The Blues scored the first try of the final when it won a penalty 5m out and decided to go for a scrum.

The home side destroyed the Highlanders scrum but moved the ball to Otere Black.

He cross-kicked for winger Mark Telea, who caught the ball then cut inside covering fullback Josh Ioane to score.

The sideline conversion was slotted from Black.

The Blues kept up the pressure and won a penalty when Highlanders hooker Ash Dixon was yellow carded for a high shot on Black.

He could have been given a red card but wrapping his arms in the tackle saved his bacon.

Plummer, on for Black, knocked over the easy penalty.

Hunt then got the Highlanders back to 10-6 with another penalty but the Blues got back to seven point advantage when Black knocked over an easy penalty right on halftime.

Blues 23 (Mark Telea, Blake Gibxon, Otere Black con, pen; Harry Plummer 2pen, con)

Highlanders 15 (Mitch Hunt 4 pen; Josh Ioane pen)

Half-time: 13-6 

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