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Blues defeat Highlanders to keep Super Rugby Aotearoa title hopes alive

The Blues have moved to within touching distance of the Crusaders at the top of the Super Rugby Aotearoa ladder, claiming a 32-21 bonus point victory over the Highlanders in Dunedin.

The win was the Blues' first in Dunedin in over a decade and sees them take home the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy.

The Blues got off to a flying start as they looked to stay in touch with the Crusaders at the top of Super Rugby Aotearoa, with Akira Ioane and Finlay Christie both crossing over for tries in the opening 10 minutes.

The Highlanders proved once again they weren't going to go down without a fight, a converted try to Ash Dixon and penalty to Josh Ioane bringing the hosts back to within two points of the Blues.

The Blues were denied a try to flanker Dalton Papalii, who made a 70 metre break to score under the posts after intercepting a pass from prop Jeff Thwaites. However, Karl Tu'inukuafe was judged to have interfered with Aaron Smith from an offside position.

The Highlanders took the lead with the resulting Ioane penalty, only for the Blues to hit straight back with another try, this time to second-five TJ Faiane.

One last try in the first half, this time to prop Ofa Tu'ungafasi, gave the Blues a 24-16 lead at the break.

While the first half saw an even contest between the two sides, the second spell truly saw the Blues take the upper hand, as Christie's second try of the afternoon, and a penalty to Beauden Barrett put the visitors up 32-16.

From there, the Blues wouldn't give up their lead, going on to seal a bonus point victory to keep their Super Rugby Aotearoa title hopes alive, despite a yellow card to Sione Mafileo.

A late try to Shannon Frizell at least gave the Highlanders points from the second half, however it was too little, too late for the hosts under the roof of Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The Blues are now just two points behind the Crusaders on the Super Rugby Aotearoa ladder, albeit having played a game more.

A Crusaders' victory over the Highlanders in Christchurch next week will guarantee the reigning champions their fourth straight title.