Highlanders vs Blues: Super Rugby live scores, blog

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    Highlanders vs Blues

    Super Rugby, 23 February, 2018

    Forsyth Barr Stadium
    Fulltime - Highlanders 41, Blues 34
    Highlanders   Blues
    41 FINAL SCORE 34
    5 TRIES 4
    5 CONVERSION KICKS 4
    2 PENALTY GOALS 2
    0 DROP GOALS 0
     
     
    Referee: Jamie Nutbrown
    Touch judges: Nick Briant & James Doleman
    TMO: Aaron Paterson

    The Highlanders take on the Blues on Friday evening in the south of New Zealand as the 2018 Super Rugby season really gets started. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 5:35pm AEDT.

    While it might technically be Round 2 of this year’s Super Rugby competition, for most fans this is the first time they’ll see their team play in earnest with the actual Round 1 only involving teams from the new, single South African conference.

    The Blues will really fancy their chances of getting a result away from home in this match and it would be a great way to start their season – a season where many feel they’ve got what it takes to go all the way.

    Blues’ coach Umaga is in a curious position – he has 11 of his squad unavailable including some serious talent in the likes of Kaino, and yet he has named a very impressive team. This indication of the Blues depth is one of the reasons they are predicted to do well this year.

    Another reason is the quality in their backs as will hopefully be seen in this match with the likes of Ioane and Sonny Bill looking to impress.

    They could face some problems at No.9 and No.10 though. Pulu is definitely growing in experience and his 2017 season was pretty good. But there are questions about whether the captaincy is going to take his game to new levels or be a distraction that he could do without.

    Gatland at fly half will be targeted by the home side. The son of Wales coach Warren Gatland will play in his fifth game for the Blues, and his performance will be key.

    If he can unleash the talent outside him then the Blues should win this but if the critical half-back combination stutters than the Highlanders could capitalise.

    For the home side this match heralds the return of Ben Smith who will be starting at No.15 and it will be interesting to see how fresh he is from his sabbatical.

    The Highlanders are starting the season in good order in terms of player availability with barely any injuries restricting coach Mauger’s selection decisions.

    The Highlanders too have an exciting backline but it’s in the forwards where the outcome of the match will rely and it’s here that the home side have the advantage.

    Prediction
    This should be a great clash to get the competition going. After the Blues terrible season against other Kiwi sides last year, they have plenty of talent this year to get into the preseason their preseason performances were strong.

    The Highlanders however have a better mix of quality across the whole team and have themselves had a good pre season. With the home field advantage and the large number of players injured for The Blues this one feels like a home win ready for the taking.

    Highlanders to win by 12 points.

    Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 5:35pm AEDT on Friday.

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    The Crowd Says (115)

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    • Roar Guru

      8:27pm
      Oliver Matthews said | 8:27pm | ! Report

      Match Report
      The Highlanders have opened their 2018 Super Rugby story with a good win over the Blues in Dunedin, 41 points to 34.

      In pre match talk there was a lot spoken about the form of both sides coming into this match. The Blues had won the Brisbane Tens and the Highlanders had some success against local rivals, the Crusaders. Would this form mean anything when it came to the proper business of Super Rugby? Equally up for debate was how badly the Blues would be impacted by the injury list they are carrying at the moment with over 10 players out including the powerful Kaino.

      In the first half it seemed that the missing players weren’t being missed at all by the Blues. The relatively inexperienced Gatland at #10 was on fire and seemed to combine individual attacking skill with game control. His opening try was lovely and were the first points of his 19 point tally across the match.

      While the Highlanders came back quickly the Blues looked the more exciting and confident side in the first half. It became a game of scoreboard poing poing with each team exchanging tries and always taking the attacking option instead of considering 3 point penalty shots. Skill levels were high and matched the level of ambition which was surprising for the first game of the season when often there’s a few errors on display.

      At half time it was 24-17 to the Blues and there was a lot of talk about how the away side were looking good for a rare victory against Kiwi opposition.

      The fact that the game ended 41-34 to the Highlanders gives you a good indication of what happened in the second half. The Highlanders executed a wise game plan in the second half forcing the Blues deep into their own half through a combination of good kicking from Aaron Smith and general attacking play. The Blues tried their best to keep coming back at the home side but when they had to start so often from their own 22 it was always going to be difficult.

      However a key factor in the result was the yellow card to Antonio Kiri Kiri. Both sides had exchanged tries early in the second half and the Blues still had their lead. But the high tackle from Kiri Kiri changed everything. It wasn’t malicious at all but it was high and under the new rules the referee had to send him to the bin.

      In the next 10 minutes things changed. The Highlanders scored twice, took the lead and really tightened the screw on the Blues who just couldn’t recover. Of the 24 points the Highlanders scored in the second half, 14 of them came during this sin bin and the Highlanders were ruthless when this opportunity came about.

      The Blues kept fighting to the end but in the last 15 minutes their game play became a bit loose and tried a few too many miracle moves, desperately hunting points.

      It was a tight finish in the end with the Blues having a chance with the final play of the game to score a try and draw the game but by this point they were out of ideas and energy and the Highlanders defence – which had been up quickly all game – kept working hard to keep the Blues out.

      Overall both teams showed signs that they were still coming to terms with the new rules at the breakdown but that’s not surprising. The Highlanders will be disappointed with the 27 missed tackles but happy to get the win on the board.

      One talking point from the game was the lack of impact from Sonny Bill. He really looked quite out of form today and you have to start questioning whether he is going to make the ABs squad at all.

      It was a very entertaining game of running rugby and in the end the experience of players like Aaron Smith and Sopoaga proved very valuable for the Highlanders but let’s not forget the impact that yellow card had. Would have been interesting to see what have happened if that ended up as just a stern talking to.

      It’ll be interesting to see how these sides perform across the rest of the season. If you had to forecast their futures based on this game you would expect a similar set of results to last year – Highlanders will go well but not challenge for the Grand Final meanwhile the Blues will win overseas but struggle at home.

    • Roar Guru

      7:40pm
      Machpants said | 7:40pm | ! Report

      Cracking game, yellow card can be costly!

      I wonder if the next game will be of similar quality……

    • 7:25pm
      Highlander said | 7:25pm | ! Report

      Yeah baby

      • 7:36pm
        moaman said | 7:36pm | ! Report

        Nice win for your boys mate.

        • 8:20pm
          Highlander said | 8:20pm | ! Report

          Was a bit sneaky – blues good for a long time

          • 8:23pm
            Old Bugger said | 8:23pm | ! Report

            Congrats HL. Dunno about sneaky – more like squeaky I reckon but, a win’s a win. The Blues will come back on that display.

      • 7:39pm
        riddler said | 7:39pm | ! Report

        congrats highlander.. only caught the last fifteen minutes.. but geez that was enjoyable..

        nz rugby looking great… yet again…

      • 11:27pm
        ethan said | 11:27pm | ! Report

        Cracking game from both sides! Way to turn it up in round one!

    • Roar Guru

      7:25pm
      Oliver Matthews said | 7:25pm | ! Report

      Full Time
      80‘ – Now that was an amazing game to watch. The Highlanders have beaten the Blues by 7 points in their first game and the opening game of Round 2 of the new Super Rugby competition.

      It was a story of two halves – the first was very fast with both sides running in tries and scoring plenty of points. In the second half though the Highlanders played a more experienced and clever game. They kept the Blues deep in their own half and took advantage of their opportunities when they came.

      A sin bin for the Blues was a key point – the Highlanders scored 14 points in that 10 minutes and really took control of the game.

      In the end the Blues didn’t have what it took to turn a fast start into a good win but there was a lot to be excited about especially when you consider that they had 11 players from their squad out through injury.

      Full match report to come but for now thanks for joining me here for this game – there’s plenty more rugby to come from The Roar this weekend so do get involved.

      Highlanders: 41
      Blues: 34

    • 7:25pm
      moaman said | 7:25pm | ! Report

      Congrats on your top notch commentary Oliver.

    • Roar Guru

      7:24pm
      Marius Ciliers said | 7:24pm | ! Report

      Great call Oliver.
      Be blessed mate.

    • Roar Guru

      7:23pm
      Marius Ciliers said | 7:23pm | ! Report

      Bloody well done.
      GG.
      Congrats Zoolanders.
      Comis Marauders,can keep ure heads held high,that was a very very nice surprise to watch and am a happy camper.
      Some brilliant rugger from both teams.

    • 7:22pm
      moaman said | 7:22pm | ! Report

      Wow! Really enjoyed that, thought a draw would have been fair result….excellent game.

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