The Blues have extended their winning run to seven games with a hard-fought 27-24 win over the Highlanders in their Super Rugby Aotearoa match at Eden Park in Auckland.
Flanker Dalton Papali’i grabbed a brace for the Blues, who ran in four tries but had to defend desperately in the closing minutes to secure the win.
Blues winger Caleb Clarke kickstarted proceedings after barely five minutes with a strong finish from an attacking lineout, Otere Black’s conversion giving the home team an early 7-0 lead.
The Highlanders took little time to respond, skipper Ash Dixon barging over from close range and Mitch Hunt adding the extras to level the scores.
A penalty apiece kept the scores even until the 23rd minute when the Highlanders crumbled under pressure, fullback Scott Gregory’s clearing kick was charged down and Papali’i was on hand to dot down.
Rieko Ioane added a third for the Blues five minutes later, finishing off a superb Clarke break to extend the home team lead to 22-10 after half an hour, a lead they carried into halftime.
The Highlanders came out firing after the break, Hunt set up for the try after a wonderful break from No.8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u’s storming run.
Winger Ngane Punivai’s 50th minute try was disallowed for a knock on, but the Blues were left a man down with Rieko Ioane’s sinbinning and the Highlanders took full advantage.1_incoming.5_wires_categories.sport
Shannon Frizzell proved too strong from close range, Hunt converted and the Highlanders took the lead for the first time in the game at 24-22.
That lead lasted only four minutes, Papali’i finishing off a strong lineout drive to grab his second try of the night and give the Blues the 27-24 lead which saw them home.