18 May 2024

Ruthless Blues hammer Highlanders in Auckland

9:54 pm on 18 May 2024
Cole Forbes of the Blues scores against the Highlanders in the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy match and round 13 of the Super Rugby Pacific competition at Eden Park.

Cole Forbes of the Blues scores against the Highlanders in the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy match and round 13 of the Super Rugby Pacific competition at Eden Park. Photo: Photosport

The table-topping Blues have maintained their momentum with a dominant 47-13 win over the Highlanders in Auckland.

Up 13-12 with halftime looming, the Blues stormed home in the second keeping the Highlanders scoreless and running in seven tries to rout the southerners whose season is now in serious jeopardy.

Coach vern Cotter opted to rest a host of front-line players, illustrating the immense depth the Blues possess as they picked up their ninth win on the trot.

With Mark Telea a late scratching from the side, Kade Banks made his first start and capped hi debut with a try.

He told Sky Sport it will be a night to remember.

"It's something I've dreamed of for a long time, it's been a whirlwind week, named on the bench, then told I was going to start, a few nerves, but was just keen to have a crack."

Blues captain Dalton Papalii told Sky Sport things clicked after half-time as they cleaned up their discipline.

"It was massive, we knew the 'Landers had won three on the trot, so they had momentum too, so we knew it was going to be a grudge match, and we just had to match it."

With a number of new face thrust into the match day 23, Papalii said they all stood up.

"We are all here for a reason because we are good footy players, we trust each other, we had a few changes so a credit to those boys, getting a bit of a surprise, they did their job so pretty proud."

He said it was imperative the side did not get complacent with the finals looming.

"Don't get conformable, we have been here before, the senior players are doing a good job of holding everyone accountable, you can get your tails up but it's about staying grounded."

Try scorer Angus Ta'avao in action.

Try scorer Angus Ta'avao in action. Photo: Photosport

After Caleb Clarke claimed the Blue's kick-off to put his side straight on the front foot, Ofa Tuʻungafasi barrelled his way over the line to give his side ascendancy after less than five minutes.

The Highlanders struck back immediately, a deceptive lineout move seeing Sean Withy shift to the blind and link with Timoci Tavatavanawai who powered through two defender to score.

The frantic start continued as Corey Evans grubbered behind the line into an acre of space, and fullback Cole Forbes swooped to score.

Cam Millar nailed back-to-back penalties to bring his team within a point but just before the break, a surging rolling Blues' maul too powerful to repel with Kurt Eklund getting the rewards to send the sides to the sheds at 21-13.

Debutant Kade Banks got the first points after the break, the beneficiary of a beautiful ball from Eklund.

Eklund was in again moments later from another lineout drive, peeling off to the short side, hitting and spinning from close range to crash over.

Caleb Clarke injected himself into the game, as he busted through and fired it back on the inside for Funaki who stepped inside to slam it down 10 metres in from touch.

Twisting the knife, Clarke then snaffled an intercept on halfway and streaked way to score under the sticks.

Clarke's superb second-half looked to be sealed with a try on the siren, but a forward pass prevented the half century.

The Blues travel to Christchurch next weekend to meet the faltering Crusaders, while the Highlanders will host the Drua in Dunedin.


Blues 47 (Eklund 2, Tuʻungafasi, Forbes, Banks, Funaki, Clarke, tries, Plummer, 6 cons)

Highlanders 13 (Tavatavanawai, tries, Millar, 1 con, 2 pens)

Akira Ioane of the Blues on the charge.

Akira Ioane of the Blues on the charge. Photo: Photosport