Highlanders seem to have lost their way

Highlanders co-captain Ben Smith looks to tear up the field as hooker Liam Coltman (right) comes...
Highlanders co-captain Ben Smith looks to tear up the field as hooker Liam Coltman (right) comes up in support while Blues lock Josh Goodhue watches on. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Enjoy that week off lads - it is going to be a long one.

The Highlanders' season sits at the crossroads after a disappointing 33-26 loss to the Blues in Auckland last night.

The side now has two wins and three straight losses - there is a draw in there for not playing last week - but the team heads into a bye this week with memories of a poor performance fresh in the mind.

The Highlanders lacked accuracy with the ball in hand last night and there was a real lack of X-factor from a side which seems to have lost its way.

The team is making too many errors, there is simply not enough continuity and it all looks a tad robotic.

What was even worse was that the Highlanders suffered the shame of becoming the first New Zealand team to lose to the Blues in more than three years.

The Highlanders were ahead 23-18 10 minutes into the second half after Tevita Li caught a poor kick from the Blues and scampered 35m to score.

But the visiting side conceded a try almost straight afterwards and could not put the Blues away as the Highlanders defence went missing when it was needed to be at its best.

Blues replacement lock Patrick Tuipulotu scored the winning try with five minutes left.

The Highlanders could not get anything going with the ball and failed to get across the advantage line often enough.

The tactic of kicking the ball away is clearly not working and the side lacks confidence - not helped by constant selection changes. Perhaps a week away will do some good.

There was plenty of dash, plenty of effort but not much quality.

Best for the Highlanders were front rowers Liam Coltman and Tyrel Lomax while Li took his try well.

The less said about winger Waisake Naholo the better. He dropped balls, missed tackles and then got yellow carded when he tipped Blues flanker Tom Robinson in a tackle in a crunch time in the second half.

The first half was another one in which neither side could get any momentum into its game.

Too many errors and too little space on the field were the order of the day.

The Highlanders had periods of dominance in the first 40 minutes, enjoying a pushover try from a 5m scrum after 17 minutes.

But they made too many sloppy errors to get away from the home team.

There was some sloppy ball handling from the visiting team and discipline was also missing at times.

Blues winger Rieko Ioane was all power and ;pace on the wing and he scored an outstanding try after 10 minutes.

He received the ball off a lineout 40m out from the tryline and proceeded to speed through a gap, put on a sidestep and go over untouched. His second try came just past the half hour mark when the older Ioane, Akira, snaffled a turnover and the Blues switched the ball to the left.

The Blues broke through the Highlanders defence and, after a couple of nice passes, the ball went to Ioane 5m out and he went over.

It was his sixth try in just over 100 minutes of rugby and he is in encouraging form in a most important year for the national side.

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