2 Mar 2024

Sotutu hat-trick sinks Highlanders

6:28 am on 2 March 2024
Hoskins Sotutu during the Blues v Highlanders Super Rugby Pacific in Dunedin 26th March 2022

Hoskins Sotutu ran in three tries in the Blue's win over the Highlanders in Melbourne. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

A Hoskins Sotutu hat-trick has helped the Blues brush aside the Highlanders 37-29 in a ten-try thriller to kick off Super Round in Melbourne.

After a strong start, tries either side of half-time shut the gate on the southerners, with the Blues taking the maximum ten points from their opening two games.

The Highlanders will rue a costly nine points missed from the tee, with Sam Gilbert's radar well off, missing three conversions while Rhys Patchell also pushed a penalty wide.

Following a poor performance in round one against the Drua, Stephen Perofeta ran the show at AAMI Park, sending a timely reminder of his talents to All Blacks coach Scott Robertson who was sitting in the crowd.

Despite his impressive outing, Perofeta was far from content with the result.

"Up and down, we will take the win but it was a slow start, the Highlanders have a formidable pack and we knew they are a team that never give up."

The Highlanders opened the scoring after just three minutes, Folau Fakatava throwing a beautiful ball wide to Sean Withy who threw a dummy to beat the last defender and crash over.

The Blues struck back shortly after through the power of Sotutu to lock things up, however the Highlanders responded with an absolute stunner.

A superb out the back offload from Welsh playmaker Rhys Patchell set Jona Nareki away who linked with Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens to score his third try of the season.

The southerners continued the magic, Patchell pouncing on a pin-point grubber from Fakatava for the Highlander's third.

Sam Gilbert was struggling with his conversions, pushing his third straight attempt to leave things at 15-8.

Just as halftime approached, Taufa Funaki muscled his way through some lacklustre Highlanders defence to square the score again at 15 a piece.

A crucial turnover as the hooter sounded for the Blues looked to bring an end to the half, but Perofeta had other ideas, breaking out from behind his own line, the Blues scorching 80 metres up field.

A a result, the Highlanders would concede a penalty, a yellow card, a try and the lead.

With Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens sent to the bin, the Blues kicked to the corner and Mark Telea eventually burrowed over to put his side ahead 22-15 at the break.

Their momentum carried onto the second stint, Sotutu scoring his second shortly after the resumption.

Perofeta pushed the advantage by another three, before another slick Highlanders backline move put Timoci Tavatavanawai in the corner.

However, Highlanders' hopes were quickly quashed, as Sotutu bagged his third, the 14-test All Black proving impossible to stop close to the chalk.

The Highlanders managed an 81st minute consolation, a five pointer for debutant Ajay Faleafaga, who iced his cameo by converting his own try.


Blues 37 (Sotutu 3, Funaki, Telea tries, Perofeta 3 cons, 2 pens)

Highlanders 29 (Withy, Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, Tavatavanawai, Patchell, Faleafaga, tries, Gilbert 1 con, Faleafaga 1 con)