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Highlanders blindside flanker Shannon Frizell announced his arrival on the national stage last night, starring in his side’s 34-16 win over the Blues at Eden Park.
The Highlanders led 20-11 at the break.
Frizell, the brother of Kangaroos and New South Wales forward Tyson Frizell, helped himself to three tries in the Highlanders victory.
He was quick round the field, bruising with the ball in hand and showed some pace when the chances came along. His potential looks huge and judging on this performance the Tongan will be one to watch in the future.
The good thing for the Highlanders is once Liam Squire gets fit, Frizell will probably have to slide back into the reserves.
Such is the depth of loose forwards in New Zealand, the talented Frizell will have to bide his time.
The game itself spluttered along and the Highlanders did enough to win the game and take a bonus point.
By and large, when the chances came along, the visiting team took them.However, there were too many sloppy pieces from the Highlanders. Their ball security was average and too many times the Highlanders probably went too far and coughed the ball up.
There were more than enough hoped-for miracle balls, but once the rain came down the passing became laboured.
Against a better team these mistakes would have been seized upon.
But the Blues were average in every degree. They made too many mistakes and lacked composure at key times. They had way more ball then the men from the South but just struggled to do much with it.
Best for the Highlanders, apart from Frizell, were fullback Ben Smith and winger Tevita Li, while No 8 Luke Whitelock worked hard all night and probably shaded his opposite Akira Ioane.
The Highlanders burst out of the blocks and scored their first points within 40 seconds. The Blues tried to clear the ball but first five-eighth Bryn Gatland’s kick was charged down by flanker Dillon Hunt. The ball bounced up for Hunt and he simply picked it up and scored the try.
Three minutes later, the Highlanders scored their second try.
Following nice work from the forwards from a lineout, Frizell barged over, though there was a suggestion of crawling over.
Then that was that from the Highlanders for half an hour.
The Blues had all the ball and charged it up with some vigour. Their big ball carriers found the advantage line and the Highlanders were sucked into a defensive slog.
The Blues scored one try through former Otago halfback Jono Ruru and another late one to Tumua Manu. They also added two penalties.
Eventually the Highlanders woke up and after a nice break from Rob Thompson, the ball went to the left and Frizell sprinted over in the corner.
The Highlanders should have added another try right on halftime but after a mazey run from winger Tevita Li, Hunt dropped the ball with the line open.
Shannon Frizell 3, Dillon Hunt, Kayne Hammington tries; Lima Sopoaga 3 con, 1 penalty
Jono Ruru, Tumua Manu tries; Bryn Gatland 2 pen
Halftime: 20-11 Highlanders