Planet Rugby

Highlanders shock the Blues

22nd February 2014 08:25

Share:

ben smith highlanders blues

All class: Ben Smith

Wing Patrick Osborne wrapped up the try bonus point just after half-time as the Highlanders stunned the Blues 29-21 in Dunedin.

Benji Marshall made his Super Rugby debut at full-back as a replacement with 21 minutes left, but he could do little to change what was a comprehensive win for the previously written-off Highlanders.

Jamie Joseph's team of "no-names" burst out of the blocks and just never looked back, sharper in attack but also ferocious at the contact area and breakdown.

The Highlanders' prospects for this season had been scratched off before the game even started, but they bagged 14 points in the opening 14 minutes.

All Black scrum-half Aaron Smith charged down Chris Noakes and had enough speed to veer his way into the corner for the opening try, before good work from Liam Coltman at the breakdown created the turnover for the Highlanders to attack - Auckland centre Malakai Fekitoa finishing off a sensational score.

Solid defence from the hosts kept the Blues scoreless through the first quarter until Charles Piutau's up-and-under brought the visitors up to the five-metre line, only for the execution of the lineout to fail.

John Kirwan's side had been touted as Conference challengers for the Chiefs and Crusaders but the big men for the Highlanders - Jarrad Hoeata and Brad Thorn especially - were ferocious in defence.

Thorn, still rumbling on at 39, departed before half an hour was up due to a rib injury.

Line-out problems hindered the Blues' best efforts with James Parsons starting in the absence of Keven Mealamu, meaning that for all of their firepower out wide the Blues just couldn't establish a solid platform.

Aaron Smith nearly created a third try with a fine burst as the Highlanders went for the jugular before the break - Nasi Manu going off his feet two metres from the try line giving the Blues a much-needed reprieve.

There was still time though. An overthrown line-out from the Blues gave the hosts turnover ball and Ben Smith's run had the Highlanders surging forward again.

Five metres out a few phases later, he was there to take the pass from his namesake scrum-half and dive through a gap for the Highlanders' third try. 24-0 up at the break. The Blues faced a mountain.

They did grab a try back through Saili immediately after the interval but the Highlanders were on a mission, with Osborne crossing for the bonus-point try before 50 minutes were up on the clock.

Marshall entered the fray ahead of the final quarter as Angus Taavao-Matau crashed over to narrow the scoreboard to 29-14, giving the Blues the faintest of sniffs.

They lapped it up, a third try from another replacement in Patrick Tuipulotu starting to crank the pressure up on the hosts as Marshall's offload released Saili to start the attack.

That left the Highlanders with only an eight-point lead into the final ten minutes to keep them honest, as the Blues were left to worry over captain Luke Braid after he was helped from the field.

The Highlanders made twice as many tackles as the Blues and had pinned the visitors back in their 22 with time running out, until a scrum penalty handed them a chance as the siren sounded.

The Blues could have settled for a losing bonus point but Noakes missed the penalty despite a brighter finish for the Blues. But what a great start to the season for the Highlanders.

The scorers:

For Highlanders:
Tries: A.Smith, Fekitoa, B.Smith, Osborne
Cons: Sopoaga 3
Pen: Sopoaga

For Blues:
Tries: Saili, Taavao-Matau, Tuipulotu
Cons: Noakes 3

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith, 14 Richard Buckman, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Shaun Treeby, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Liam Sopoaga, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Nasi Manu (c), 7 Shane Christie, 6 Gareth Evans, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 Brad Thorn, 3 Chris King, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 Matias Diáz, 18 Craig Millar, 19 Josh Bekhuis, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Fumiaki Tanaka, 22 Hayden Parker, 23 Phil Burleigh

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 Jackson Willison, 12 Francis Saili, 11 George Moala, 10 Chris Noakes, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Ofa Tu'ungafasi
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Sam Prattley, 18 Angus Ta'avao, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Brendon O'Connor, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Benji Marshall, 23 Tevita Li

Referee: Chris Pollock (New Zealand)
Assistant Referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Mike Lash (New Zealand)
TMO: Chris Watt (New Zealand)

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand vs AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Preview
Argentina vs South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Preview
More Rugby Championship fixtures
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse vs CastresToulouse vs Castres Preview
Saturday , August 23
Brive vs Clermont Auvergne14:45
Toulon vs La Rochelle18:30
Bayonne vs Oyonnax18:30
Bordeaux-Begles vs Racing Metro Paris18:30
Montpellier vs GrenobleMontpellier vs Grenoble Preview
Stade Francais vs Lyon20:45
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne vs Montpellier20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 23
Blue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings15:00
Western Province vs Lions17:05
Sharks vs Cheetahs19:10
Friday , August 29
Pumas vs Sharks19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Saturday , August 23
Northland vs WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Preview
Counties Manukau vs OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Preview
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu vs AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Preview
Bay Of Plenty vs TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Preview
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato vs Taranaki19:35
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury vs Northland19:35
Friday , August 29
Wellington vs Manawatu09:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Currie Cup
Friday , August 22
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
Sunday , August 17
Tasman 35 - 15 Hawkes BayTasman vs Hawkes Bay Report
Northland 23 - 28 Manawatu
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 16
Australia 12 - 12 New ZealandAustralia vs New Zealand Report
South Africa 13 - 6 ArgentinaSouth Africa vs Argentina Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Clermont Auvergne 30 - 26 GrenobleClermont Auvergne vs Grenoble Report
Montpellier 16 - 19 Racing Metro ParisMontpellier vs Racing Metro Paris Report
Brive 37 - 15 La Rochelle
Castres 22 - 25 Stade Francais
Bordeaux-Begles 18 - 9 Lyon
Toulouse 20 - 19 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Lions 60 - 19 Eastern Province KingsLions vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 41 - 17 Blue BullsWestern Province vs Blue Bulls Report
Cheetahs 34 - 27 GriquasCheetahs vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Otago 28 - 14 North Harbour
Wellington 25 - 37 WaikatoWellington vs Waikato Report
Canterbury 48 - 9 AucklandCanterbury vs Auckland Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 15
Bayonne 15 - 29 ToulonBayonne vs Toulon Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Sharks 34 - 17 PumasSharks vs Pumas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Southland 34 - 23 Bay Of Plenty
Thursday , August 14
Taranaki 9 - 9 Counties ManukauTaranaki vs Counties Manukau Report
More ITM Cup results
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 9
Griquas 24 - 31 SharksGriquas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00