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The Blues came to Forsyth Barr Stadium yesterday and broke their duck, winning 32-21 over the Highlanders and taking the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy for the first time in eight years.
The visiting side won the physical battle and had the Highlanders on their heels the whole game.
Some wise heads reckon white jerseys make players look bigger. At times, the Blues in white looked like men from the land of giants.
They were big, strong and hit hard.
The Blues scored five tries to two and had the game won when they scored a try straight after halftime. They never gave the Highlanders a sniff, being strong on defence and attack.
The Highlanders struggled to get much going on attack as the Blues defended stoutly and won the battle at the advantage line.
The Blues were adept at slowing down any Highlanders ball and were allowed to the get in the Highlanders’ side of the breakdown too often.
The set piece was a struggle for the home team and its scrum was in trouble all afternoon.
The Blues came flying out of the blocks and showed they meant business. They had their first of four tries in the opening period when No8 Akira Ioane went over as the Blues piled on the pressure at scrum time.
No-one would want to meet the Blues front eight down a dark alley as they are big and mean.
The Highlanders spilt the ball when about 40m out and, within a minute, were under their own goalposts.
The Blues moved the ball wide though a Beauden Barrett cross-kick and the Highlanders ran out of defenders, allowing halfback Fin Christie to score.
Down 12-0 in as many minutes, the Highlanders needed desperately to get back into the game and the side finally got some ball.
Josh Ioane kicked a penalty and then, halfway through the first half, Ash Dixon scored the only try for the Highlanders in the first half.
New Zealand teams have never been any good at driving mauls from lineouts but all of a sudden it has become a work of art. Dixon went over on the back of a concentrated drive and the Highlanders were back within a couple of points.
The Blues, though, could not be kept out.
They had a try ruled out to Dalton Papali’i after he intercepted a pass and ran 60m, only for it be scrubbed out because of an earlier offside.
But midfield back TJ Faiane got on the end of a back move after the Blues had stolen the ball. At the end of the first half, big prop Ofa Tuungafasi went over from a Blues maul as the side used the power of its scrum to win dominance.
Best for the Highlanders were Dixon and lock Pari Pari Parkinson while Ioane looked sharp in his first game back from injury.
- The Crusaders bounced back from their first loss of the competition and put one hand on the Super Rugby Aotearoa trophy on Saturday with a 32-19 victory over the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday night, Reuters reports.
The Super Rugby champion moved to 24 points on the table, three ahead of the second-placed Blues.
The Crusaders host the Highlanders next Sunday before they travel to Eden Park to face the Blues in the final match of the competition on August 16.
The Chiefs have now lost eight successive games, including all seven in the domestic competition.