21 Apr 2012

Highlanders close gap on Chiefs by beating the Blues

5:31 pm on 21 April 2012

The Highlanders heaped more pressure on the Auckland coach Pat Lam by beating the Blues 30-27 in a scrappy Super Rugby clash in Dunedin that was dominated by the kickers.

The Highlanders first five eight Mike Delaney kicked six penalties and a conversion and the home side crossed for two tries to claim their sixth win of the season and close the gap on the New Zealand Conference leaders, the Chiefs.

The Blues showed a much more spirited performance than in recent weeks and started brightly as they looked to end a run of four consecutive defeats.

The rookie fullback Hadleigh Parkes scored for the Blues in the fourth minute but the Highlanders answered with their opening try eight minutes later.

Both sides were then guilty of ill-discipline as the match turned into a kicking duel with Delaney and Blues' first five eight Gareth Anscombe trading efforts as the home side went in at half-time 16-14 ahead.

The Blues introduced All Black half-back Piri Weepu shortly after halftime and his clever pop pass allowed centre Rene Ranger to dive over at full stretch for the Blues second try in the 53rd minute.

Anscombe converted to hand the Blues a 27-22 lead with 25 minutes remaining as the visitors eyed only their second win of the season.

However 15 minutes later Kurt Baker scored his home side's second try.

The Blues stand-in captain Luke Braid says it was a better effort from his side but their error rate is hurting them.