Blues centre Luke McAlister kicked five penalties to help set up a 15-10 Super Rugby win over the Highlanders in Dunedin.
Blues centre Luke McAlister kicked five penalties to help set up a 15-10 Super Rugby win over the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday.
With the visitors up 9-0 at half-time, the Highlanders hit back with a try to Robbie Robinson early in the second half that gave themselves a sniff at securing a come-from-behind victory.
However, the hosts proved to be their own worst enemy as ill-discipline not only cost them two players in the sin-bin during the course of the match but also allowed McAlister to work his magic with the boot.
McAlister's 100 per cent kicking record means the Blues have now gone eight games unbeaten, and leapfrog the Reds to top spot on the overall Super Rugby standings with 43 points.
Thanks to Robinson's second-half heroics, the Highlanders scored the only try of the match in a rather dour spectacle that never quite reached the dizzy heights as expected.
The first half will be remembered more for the exit of Tony Brown, who was forced from the field with an injury and a back-line reshuffle ensued that saw Robinson move from full-back to fly-half.
McAlister slotted over his first three-pointer in the ninth minute of the match, and followed that up with two more in the 32nd and 40th minute after Highlanders lock Jarrad Hoeata was given his marching orders for repeated infringements in the ruck.
The home side entered the second half nine points down and one man short, but got off to the perfect start after Robinson exploited a gap from close range and dived over for a try beside the posts.
Robinson converted and at 9-7, the Highlanders were back in it.
However, McAlister stretched his team's lead – albeit only slightly – shortly afterwards with his fourth successful penalty of the evening before Robinson reduced the gap once more with his first three-pointer (12-10).
The Highlanders threatened the Blues' line more often than not, but couldn't convert pressure into points with Robinson pushing his second penalty attempt wide.
McAlister showed his opposite number how it was done with his fifth and final penalty goal in the 65th minute, and any Highlanders' comeback was once again thwarted when replacement half-back Aaron Smith was yellow carded for a tip tackle five minutes from full-time.
Pens: McAlister 5
Yellow cards: Jarrad Hoeata, 40 mins (Highlanders, repeated infringements), Aaron Smith, 76 mins (Highlanders, spear tackle)
Highlanders: 15 Robbie Robinson, 14 Kade Poki, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Ben Smith, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Tony Brown, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Josh Bekhuis, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh (c).
Replacements: 16 Mo Schwalger, 17 David Te Moana, 18 Tom Donnelly, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Matt Saunders, 22 James Paterson.
Blues: 15 Isaia Toeava, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Jared Payne, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Rene Ranger, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Tevita Mailau.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 James King, 19 Chris Lowrey, 20 Toby Morland, 21 Benson Stanley, 22 Lachie Munro.
Date: Friday, April 29
Venue: Carisbrook, Dunedin
Kick-off: 19.35 (07.35 GMT)
Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)