Super Rugby

Blues beat Highlanders in NZ Super Rugby derby

Auckland - The Blues snapped a three-year losing streak against New Zealand teams as they beat the Highlanders 33-26 on Friday in an emotional Super Rugby encounter a week after the Christchurch attacks.

As it happened: Blues v Highlanders

Both teams linked arms in a minute's silence and the Eden Park stadium announcer's voice cracked as they marked last Friday's shootings at two mosques which left 50 people dead.

But the evening ended in celebration for the Blues, who had gone 20 games without a win against New Zealand opposition since they beat the Highlanders 33-31 in February 2016.

"It's awesome, it's good for our confidence," said flanker Blake Gibson. "Obviously we haven't beaten a New Zealand team in a while and it's good to get that monkey off our back."

Blues winger Rieko Ioane stepped around fellow All Black Waisake Naholo for a dazzling opening try before Luke Whitelock hit back for the Highlanders when he barrelled over from a scrum.

Fullback Melani Nanai's break ensured a narrow 15-13 advantage for the home side at half-time when he set up Ioane for a second eye-catching score.

After the break, Highlanders wing Tevita Li snaffled a loose kick and raced down the left to briefly put the visitors ahead, before Nanai struck for the Blues to level the scores at 23-23.

But with six minutes to go, Patrick Tuipulotu barged through three defenders for the Blues' fourth try, and Otere Black kicked a penalty as it finished 33-26.

The Blues picked up four points for their victory, but stayed fourth in the New Zealand Conference. They did however move up to 11th in the Overall log.

The Highlanders left with a single point for losing by seven or fewer points, but stayed third and seventh in the NZ Conference and Overall standings, respectively.

In next weekend's Round 7 action, the Blues host the Stormers at Eden Park (Saturday, March 30 at 08:35 SA time), while the Highlanders have a bye.

Teams:

Blues

15 Melani Nanai, 14 Tanielu Tele’a, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Josh Goodhue, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1. Alex Hodgman

Substitutes: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Ofa Tuungafasi, 18 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 19 Patrick Tuipulotu, 20 Dalton Papalii, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Otere Black, 23 Levi Aumua

Highlanders

15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Patelesio Tomkinson, 12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock (co-captain), 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Pari-Pari Parkinson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coleman, 1 Ayden Johnstone

Substitutes: 16 Ray Niuia, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Jackson Hemopo, 21 Folau Fakatava, 22 Josh Ioane, 23 Richard Buckman

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