19 Apr 2015

Highlanders hold off Blues

6:58 am on 19 April 2015

The Highlanders survived a ferocious second-half fightback from the Blues to win their all-New Zealand Super rugby clash 30-24 in Dunedin last night.

Malakai Fekitoa in action for the Highlanders

Malakai Fekitoa in action for the Highlanders Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The hosts looked to be in cruise-control mode when they opened up a commanding 24-0 lead at half-time after centre Malakai Fekitoa scored two tries and wing Waisake Naholo crossed once.

But the Blues, who ended a seven-match losing streak by winning their first game of the season last weekend, stormed home in the second term, scoring four unanswered tries.

Second-five George Moala and lock Patrick Tuipulotu both crossed in the first 10 minutes then Keven Mealamu came off the bench and scored two late tries to give the Blues a chance of snatching victory.

The only points the Highlanders managed in the second half were two penalties from first-five Lima Sopoaga, who kicked six from six attempts on goal.

The Highlanders remain fifth on the table and in contention for the playoffs while the Blues are effectively out of the running in 13th place.

"We started well but lost some momentum in the second half," Otago captain Nasi Manu said in a televised interview.

"The Blues came out a different team in the second half and played well but credit to our boys, they hung in there."

Also last night the Melbourne Rebels upset the injury-ravaged ACT Brumbies 13-8 in a low scoring all-Australian Super rugby clash in Canberra, before the South African side the Stomers withstood a late assault from the Western Force to win their match 13-6 in Perth.

The Brumbies remain top of the Australian conference.

This morning the Bulls' Francois Hougaard scored a first half try as they inflicted a third successive defeat on the Sharks with a 17-10 victory in their all-South African clash in Durban.

The Bulls lead the South African conference by two points from the Stormers, with the Sharks seven points back.