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Home comforts for Blues

17th June 2011 08:09

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Peter Saili and Jamie Mackintosh Blues v Highlanders

Blues: Cement play-off place

The Blues booked themselves a home play-off after sweeping past the Highlanders 33-16 at a wet Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.

It wasn't pretty, but the Aucklanders did what was required to secure a place in the top four of the overall log, which means they will host either one of the Bulls, Sharks or Waratahs next weekend.

The three tries to two victory also breaks a four-match losing streak for the Blues, whilst the Highlanders end their season on a low having lost three on the bounce.

With the rain pouring down and the ground heavy underfoot, it was initially thought that the wet conditions would favour the visiting pack.

And when Highlanders wing Matt Saunders went over for his first of two tries in the seventh minute, alarm bells would have been ringing around Eden Park.

However, any thoughts of an upset were quickly quelled after two quickfire tries to Stephen Brett and Luke McAlister in the space of three minutes put the Blues in a handy lead that they didn't relinquish for the rest of the game.

The hosts were helped along by wing Lachie Munro, who contributed 18 points with the boot in a near flawless kicking display - missing only two shots at goal.

Leading 17-11 at half-time, Blues centre Jared Payne added to the advantage immediately after the break with an opportune score, and the trusty kicking of Munro did the rest to render Saunders' late second try irrelevant.

The Auckland side moves into second on the ladder and top of the New Zealand Conference for the time being but the Stormers and Crusaders can overtake them with wins this weekend.

The scorers:

For Blues:
Tries: Brett, McAlister, Payne
Cons: Munro 3
Pens: Munro 4

For Highlanders:
Tries: Saunders 2
Pen: Brown
Drop: Brown

Blues: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Joe Rokocoko, 13 Benson Stanley, 12 Luke McAlister, 11 Lachie Munro, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Ali Williams, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 John Afoa, 2 Keven Mealamu (c), 1 Charlie Faumuina.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Tevita Mailau, 18 Chris Lowrey, 19 Sean Polwart, 20 Alby Mathewson, 21 Winston Stanley, 22 Sherwin Stowers.

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Matt Saunders, 13 Kendrick Lynn, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Siale Piutau, 10 Tony Brown, 9 Jimmy Cowan, 8 Nasi Manu, 7 Alando Soakai, 6 Adam Thomson, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Chris King, 2 Jason Rutledge, 1 Jamie Mackintosh. (c).
Replacements: 16 Mo Schwalger, 17 Bronson Murray, 18 Josh Bekhuis, 19 Nick Croswell, 20 Aaron Smith, 21 Robbie Robinson, 22 Telusa Veainu.

Referee: Bryce Lawrence

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