The Highlanders snapped a five-match losing streak as they claimed a 24-12 victory over the Blues in Dunedin on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
When these two teams met earlier in the competition, the Blues came away with a 33-26 victory, which served as another hammer blow to a Highlanders campaign that has derailed in recent weeks.
However, this time around the Landers produced a far more well-rounded performance to come away with a much-needed win, while condemning the Blues to back-to-back defeats after a recent run of good form.
The Highlanders went into the break with just a narrow 7-5 lead, but it was the Blues who had made much of the running in the opening stanza.
As the statistics indicated, it was the visitors who had carried 279m to 126, beaten 11 defenders to four, and enjoyed the majority of possession and territory.
Despite each side scoring just a solitary try in the opening half, it was a thoroughly entertaining and competitive first 40 minutes. Yet it would be the hosts who finally took control of proceedings when a dominant scrum earned them a penalty try soon after the restart.
Then came a piece of Matt Faddes magic as he superbly picked off a loose pass before darting 50m to score and send the Highlanders into a commanding 21-5 lead.
From there, the hosts simply cruised to victory, with Melani Nanai registering only a late consolation try for a disappointed Blues team.
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Highlanders – Tries: Shannon Frizell, penalty try, Matt Faddes. Conversions: Josh Ioane (2). Penalty: Ioane.
Blues – Try: Tom Robinson, Melani Nanai. Conversion: Harry Plummer.
Highlanders – 15 Ben Smith (co-c), 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Sio Tomkinson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown.
Subs: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Luke Whitelock (co-c), 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Thomas Umaga-Jensen.
Blues – 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe.
Subs: 16 Leni Apisa, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Jed Brown, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Matt Duffie.
Photo: Rob Jefferies/Getty Images