Blues brush off Highlanders

The Blues scored three tries to beat the Highlanders 30-12 in Auckland.

It was a deserved win for the hosts but their start was a little fortuitous. Bryn Hall's clever kick deflected off Richard Buckman into the hands of George Moala, who raced away for the opening try.

Liam Sopoaga continued his fine kicking form with a long-range strike to put the visitors on the board, before two further strikes had the Highlanders ahead for the first and last time. Simon Hickey's goal-kicking was also on song as he landed his first penalty to restore the lead for the Blues.

The Blues scored their second try when Hall's burst took him inches short of the tryline and Ma'a Nonu drove over. Hickey's conversion was on target to make it 17-9 at half-time.

Hickey and Sopoaga traded penalties after the break, the next score proving pivotal to the outcome of the match. It fell the way of the Blues; Charles Piutau getting past Ben Smith and sliding his way over in the corner for the hosts' third try.

With half an hour remaining it became a matter of whether the Blues could score the try bonus point, after Hickey's penalty had increased the lead to 30-12, but that try never came.

Hounded at the breakdown, clawing back the big deficit was always going to be too much of an ask for the Highlanders, who were denied a try for Buckman after a knock-on a few phases beforehand. It just wasn't their night.

Blues – Tries: George Moala, Ma'a Nonu, Charles Piutau. Conversions: Simon Hickey (3). Penalties: Hickey (3).
Highlanders – Penalties: Lima Sopoaga (4).

Blues – 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 George Moala, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Steven Luatua, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Hayden Triggs, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Subs: 16 James Parsons, 17 Ofa Tu'ungafasi, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Tom Donnelly, 20 Peter Saili, 21 Sonatane Takulua, 22 Pita Ahki, 23 Benji Marshall.

Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Shane Christie, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Chris King, 2 Ged Robinson, 1 Kane Hames.
Subs: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Craig Millar, 18 Ma'afu Fia, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Shaun Treeby.

Photo: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

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