0'
Brendon Pickerill is the referee for this encounter between the fourth-placed Highlanders and second-placed Blues.
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Highlanders: 1. Ayden Johnstone 2. Ash Dixon (cc) 3. Siate Tokolahi 4. Bryn Evans 5. Josh Dickson 6. Shannon Frizell 7. Billy Harmon 8. Kazuki Himeno 9. Aaron Smith (cc) 10. Mitch Hunt 11. Jona Nareki 12. Scott Gregory 13. Patelesio Tomkinson 14. Ngatungane Punivai 15. Josh Ioane. Reserves: 16. Liam Coltman 17. Ethan De Groot 18. Josh Hohneck 19. Manaaki Selby-Rickit 20. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u 21. Kayne Hammington 22. Michael Collins 23. James Lentjes
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Blues: 1. Karl Tu’inukuafe 2. Luteru Tolai 3. Ofa Tuungafasi 4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti 5. Sam Darry 6. Tom Robinson (c) 7. Dalton Papalii 8. Hoskins Sotutu 9. Jonathan Ruru 10. Otere Black 11. Caleb Clarke 12. TJ Faiane 13. Rieko Ioane 14. Mark Telea 15. Stephen Perofeta. Reserves: 16. Leni Apisai 17. Alex Hodgman 18. Nepo Laulala 19. Josh Goodhue 20. Akira Ioane 21. Finlay Christie 22. Harry Plummer 23. Bryce Heem
0'
Hello and welcome to our blow-by-blow coverage of this Super Rugby Aotearoa clash between the Highlanders and Blues at the Forsyth Barr Stadium.
1'
The match is underway at the Forsyth Barr Stadium. Josh Ioane sees an early kick charged down and the Highlanders carry over their own line for a 5m scrum to the Blues!
3'
Sotutu goes round the back, but the Blues are stopped short and Himeno gets over the ball. Penalty to the Highlanders.
5'
The Blues take the ball through several phases and move it out right to Papalii, who is bundled into touch at the vital moment to prevent a try!
6'
TRY, BLUES, RURU! 0-5: The Highlanders win the lineout, but Aaron Smith throws possession away to Ruru, who goes over for the try! After solid defence from the Highlanders in the early minutes, that's an absolute giveaway!
7'
CONVERSION, BLUES, BLACK! 0-7: Otere Black adds the extras for the Blues.
10'
Mitch Hunt pops the ball over the top and the bounce favours the Highlanders, who are on the attack now. They win themselves a penalty and Josh Ioane will go for posts.
11'
PENALTY, HIGHLANDERS, J. IOANE! 3-7: Ioane puts the Highlanders on the board in Dunedin.
13'
Clarke wins the ball from the kick-off for the Blues and puts them on the attack. Ultimately, the Highlanders get it back and manage to relieve the pressure via Aaron Smith.
15'
TRY, HIGHLANDERS, HIMENO! 8-7: The Highlanders go on the attack and win a penalty, taking it quickly. Aaron Smith is tackled just short of the line. Hunt looks to get the Highlanders over. Himeno is there to finish the job!
16'
CONVERSION, HIGHLANDERS, J. IOANE! 10-7: Ioane slots the conversion over to consolidate the Highlanders' lead.
20'
The Highlanders continue to pile the pressure on. Hunt's kick in behind is a beautiful one, leaving Ruru with no choice but to carry back over his own line. The Highlanders have a five-metre scrum.
23'
YELLOW CARD, BLUES, SOTUTU! Sotutu is yellow-carded for what is deemed a cynical infringement with his boot at the ruck!
23'
The Highlanders lose the ball forward, but Brendon Pickerill goes upstairs to look for potential foul play from Hoskins Sotutu.
25'
TRY, HIGHLANDERS, J. IOANE! 15-7: The Highlanders move the ball left from the scrum and Ioane runs a beautiful line, stretching over to score his team's second try of the match!
26'
Ioane hooks his conversion attempt wide, so the Highlanders' lead remains at 15-7.
29'
Tuungafasi does well to stop the Highlanders drive, winning the Blues a scrum just inside their own half.
30'
Perofeta's kick is straight into the arms of an opponent and booted out near halfway.
33'
TRY, BLUES, R. IOANE! 15-12: Lovely build-up play from the Blues as Akira Ioane puts them on the front foot. Close to the try-line, Tu'ungafasi passes to Black, who sends Rieko Ioane through for the try!
34'
CONVERSION, BLUES, BLACK! 15-14: Black adds the extras to a try he played a significant role in creating!
38'
PENALTY, BLUES, BLACK! 15-17: With Sotutu back on the field, momentum is with the Blues and they win a penalty, allowing Black to put them back in front!
41'
Off we go for the start of the second half.
41'
CONVERSION, HIGHLANDERS, IOANE! 22-17. HALF-TIME: HIGHLANDERS 22-17 BLUES. The half ends with a great kick from near the right touchline from Josh Ioane. This topsy turvy encounter continues to throw up twists and turns.
41'
TRY, HIGHLANDERS, PUNIVAI! 20-17: Wonderfully-worked move off a lineout from the Highlanders! Punivai is sent through the gap by a wonderful pass from Aaron Smith and goes all the way for the try!
45'
Caleb Clarke bursts through a gap in the defence, but he is stopped short by a wonderful tackle from Josh Ioane!
51'
The Blues have possession just inside Highlanders territory. They eventually work the ball to Clarke, who breaks a tackle and goes through the gap once again. Wonderful cover defence from the Highlanders saves their skin. Mitch Hunt makes the tackle and then Aaron Smith tackles Ruru, getting over the ball and forcing the turnover!
54'
Tempers are flaring between the sides. Pickerill tries to calm things down. Laulala has conceded the penalty for collapsing the scrum.
58'
TRY, HIGHLANDERS, NAREKI! 27-17: Aaron Smith's pressure on Hoskins Sotutu wins a turnover for the Highlanders and they pile on the pressure. The Highlanders have room out left. Smith passes to Hunt, who swings wide to Nareki for the finish!
60'
From the edge of the touchline, Josh Ioane fails to add the extras. The Highlanders lead 27-17.
64'
The Blues desperately search for a way to burrow over the line. However, some good work from Frizell sees the Highlanders hold them up. The Highlanders restart with the goal-line dropout.
65'
The Highlanders win a penalty for hands in the ruck, relieving the pressure on themselves. Hunt boots the ball out inside Blues territory.
66'
Apisai and Papalii run across Mitch Hunt after his kick and the Highlanders have a penalty for obstruction. Hunt will go for posts.
68'
PENALTY, HIGHLANDERS, HUNT! 30-17: Hunt pops the penalty over and the Highlanders stretch their advantage.
71'
CONVERSION, BLUES, BLACK! 30-24: The Blues are back within striking distance! That was a simple conversion, right under the posts.
71'
TRY, BLUES, LAULALA! 30-22: The Blues go over for the try with Laulala going over, but Aaron Smith goes for the captain's referral, looking for a swinging arm from Josh Goodhue which could get the try disallowed. Pickerill's on-field decision stands!
73'
RED CARD, BLUES, HODGMAN! Hodgman's no-arms tackle on Lentjes sees him catch his opponent right on the chin and Pickerill has no choice but to hand out the red card.
75'
TRY, HIGHLANDERS, COLLINS! 35-24: Hunt's superb pass sends Collins through and he runs a superb line to score the try!
76'
No conversion added. The score remains 35-24, but the game should be beyond reach now for the Blues.
80'
TRY, BLUES, SOTUTU! 35-29: The Blues are not giving up just yet. They eventually manage to burrow their way over through Sotutu and they go for the drop-goal conversion. It's missed, but we'll have a kick-off from the Highlanders. This is not over just yet.
82'
FULL-TIME: HIGHLANDERS 35-29 BLUES. The Highlanders win the turnover and put the ball into touch to seal the win! It's been a titanic tussle, but with a superb performance from Aaron Smith playing a major role, the hosts have claimed a vital victory.
Highlanders
Blues
5
Tries
4
15' Himeno Kazuki
25' Ioane Josh
41' Punivai Ngane
58' Nareki Jona
75' Collins Michael
5' Ruru Jonathan
32' Ioane Rieko
70' Laulala Nepo
80' Sotutu Hoskins
2
Conversions
3
16' Ioane Josh
42' Ioane Josh
6' Black Otere
33' Black Otere
71' Black Otere
2
Penalties
1
11' Ioane Josh
68' Hunt Mitchell
38' Black Otere
0
Drop Goals
0
0
Yellow Cards
0
0
Red Cards
0
15
Squad
15
Johnstone Ayden
Dixon Ash
Tokolahi Siate
Evans Bryn
Dickson Josh
Frizell Shannon
Harmon Billy
Himeno Kazuki
Smith Aaron
Hunt Mitchell
Nareki Jona
Gregory Scott
Tomkinson Sio
Punivai Ngane
Ioane Josh
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
Tuinukuafe Karl
Luteru Tolai
Tuungafasi Ofa
Cowley-Tuioti Gerard
Darry Sam
Robinson Tom
Papali'i Dalton
Sotutu Hoskins
Ruru Jonathan
Black Otere
Clarke Caleb
Faiane TJ
Ioane Rieko
Telea Mark
Perofeta Stephen
8
Reserves
8
Coltman Liam
De Groot Ethan
Hohneck Josh
Selby-Rickit Maanaki
Mikaele Tu'u Marino
Hammington Kayne
Collins Michael
Lentjes James
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
Apisai Leni
Hodgman Alex
Laulala Nepo
Goodhue Joshua
Ioane Akira
Christie Finlay
Plummer Harry
Heem Bryce