Four first half tries got the Highlanders their second win of the season.
The Highlanders played their best half of rugby to beat the Blues in Dunedin. After leading 29 – 7 at half time, the Blues made a slight comeback but still lost 38 – 28.
Ben Smith was the star for the Highlanders, his name being mentioned in almost every phase, scoring two tries and being involved in the other. He was an ever present in a Highlanders backline that ran everything and forced the Blues to make more than 100 tackles in the first half alone. Smith opened the scoring before Tamati Ellison doubled the lead. Smith scored his third and the bonus point try was wrapped up by Hosea Gear. The attacking prowess shown was what everybody expected at the start of the season.
The Blues scored their first try on the half time hooter, to at least show something for being on the field for the first forty. Rene Ranger and Steven Luatua gave the Blues hope early in the second half, reducing the deficit. Colin Slade had other ideas though, kicking a few more penalties, along with a kick from Hayden Parker, to keep the Blues at bay.
A late defensive effort from the Highlanders ensure that the Blues were only playing for a bonus point and not a victory. That bonus point for the fourth try was achieved a few minutes after the hooter, Luke Braid awarded for his efforts. The bonus point kept the Blues’ hopes of reaching the play-offs alive, but with a tour to South Africa still to happen, this might be the end of the road.
The Highlanders are sure to take the confidence from this match to win a few more and prevent themselves from finishing as wooden spoonists on the overall log.
Highlanders: 38 (29)
Tries: Ben Smith (2), Tamati Ellison, Hosea Gear
Conversions: Colin Slade (3)
Penalties: Colin Slade (3), Hayden Parker (1)
Blues: 28 (7)
Tries: Waisake Naholo, Rene Ranger, Steven Luatua, Luke Braid
Conversions: Baden Kerr (4)
By Richard Ferguson