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.
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.
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.
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
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