As it happened: Blues lose 15th consecutive game to NZ opposition as Highlanders run rampant at Eden Park

Relive 1 NEWS NOW's live updates of tonight's round 10 Super Rugby match between the Blues and Highlanders at Eden Park in Auckland.

FT: BLU 16-34 HIG

Full time hooter goes and the Blues lose their 15th consecutive game to an NZ side. Despite all the ball and more territory, the one-dimensional play of running straight at the Highlanders defence came undone and the Highlanders showed them how to convert in pressure situations. Standout performances from Thompson, Sopoaga and Li, not to mention Frizell's hat-trick. It's back to the drawing board for the Blues but a big result for the Highlanders as they keep in contention in the NZ conference. That's all from us. Thanks for joining us. Ka kite ano!

77min: BLU 16-34 HIG

The Blues knock the ball on 10m out and make matters worse with a penalty for not releasing after the Highlanders clear it. Highlanders kick for touch and get a lineout just inside the Blues' half for it. Time ticking down now.

74min: BLU 16-34 HIG

Blues with another chance here after the Highlanders knock it on off the lineout. Blues scrum 15m out from the Highlanders line.

73min: BLU 16-34 HIG

Blues make a break down the right wing off the kick off thanks to offloads by Rieko and Duffie but Sopoaga comes up with a try-saver into touch. Highlanders lineout just inside their 22m.

72min: BLU 16-34 HIG

BLU TRY! The Blues are in in the left corner. Akira runs it off the scrum, it's recycled quickly and gets to the unmarked man on the left wing. Easy try but there's a too little, too late tag attached to it. 

69min: BLU 11-34 HIG

BIG chance for the Blues with a 5m scrum. Its come thanks to grubber getting through the Highlanders on halfway and despite Sopoaga getting back in time to recover, he's pressured by the chasers and passes it forward in the process.

68min: BLU 11-34 HIG

The Highlanders knock it on after running off the lineout but the Blues falter off the scrum with the clearance kick inside their 22m coming off the boot and it just escapes the 22m. But there's another error from the Highlanders and the Blues get it back. Things getting sloppy here. Blues with the ball on their 40m.

65min: BLU 11-34 HIG

The Blues go nowhere after eight phases but Rieko Ioane makes a break finally! He goes to ground 30m out and the Blues try to clear it quickly but there's a knock on. Sopoaga responds with a low driven kick and the chasers are there to put the pressure on. It's come off the Blues as it goes into touch! Highlanders get the lineout 30m out from the Blues' line now.

63min: BLU 11-34 HIG 

Rare error from Sopoaga tonight as his kick rolls dead in the Blues' in-goal. We'll come all the way back for a Blues scrum on the Highlanders' 40m. 

61min: BLU 11-34 HIG

And it's knocked on by the Blues. Another chance to get back into this game and score their first points of the second half goes missing. Highlanders with a scrum just inside their 22m.

60min: BLU 11-34 HIG

Blues get a second chance after blowing their first. They got a penalty after recovering the kickoff and kick for touch. The 5m lineout is a disaster as the throw goes over the top and Sopoaga scoops it up. The Highlanders try to run it instead of clearing and there's a knock on. Blues scrum on the Highlanders' 22m coming up.

58min: BLU 11-34 HIG

HIG TRY! FRIZELL HAS A HAT-TRICK! Highlanders run it back at the Blues after the clearance kick and they earn a penalty on the 22m for offside. The Highlanders take it quick and go to the left. Ben Smith goes back inside to Frizell and he storms through the line to score from 10m out. 

56min: BLU 11-27 HIG

Highlanders run it into the Blues' 22m but there's another unneeded offload and it leads to a knock on. Blues get a scrum inside their 22m as a result.

53min: BLU 11-27 HIG

The Blues find some space after trading kicks with the Highlanders and the Ioane brothers combine on the left wing to get inside the Highlanders half! Akira goes down 30m out. It's recycled quickly and goes to the right but an offload goes loose and they kill the ball at the breakdown after the Highlanders recover it. Highlanders kick for touch and get a lineout on the Blues' 40m.

50min: BLU 11-27 HIG

The Blues go to the left from the scrum and they try a skip pass to Ioane on the wing... and it sails into touch. Massive moment there. To make it worse, the Highlanders earn a penalty off their 5m lineout for offside. So now the Highlanders have a lineout on halfway.

48min: BLU 11-27 HIG

Blues with a big chance to counter as they earn a penalty on the Highlanders' 5m. They go to the scrum with it. Highlanders failed to clear well and the Blues get strong territory off it. They rumble into the Highlanders' 22m and there's a penalty for plaiyng at the ball in the ruck. Blues tap quickly and earn that second penalty 5m out for offside. Blues need to convert here...

45min: BLU 11-27 HIG

HIG TRY! What a try! Offloads galore! Blues clear and Li runs it back brilliantly and breaks through two tackles. He goes to ground 30m out. Highlanders pick and go twice to the Blues' 22m. They go the left and Papali'i gets an offload to Li, Li offloads to Hammington and the halfback is in in the left corner! Great try and it's sure to stun the Blues.

43min: BLU 11-20 HIG

Blues get the first attacking chance of the half after turning the ball over at the ruck 40m out. Slow, steady rugby once again as they hold it for nine phases but a big tackle from Frizell sees the ball go lose and the Highlanders recover to clear. Li's kick floats and just finds touch. Blues lineout just outside their 22m.

40min: BLU 11-20 HIG

Back underway and Gatland gets things going.

HT: BLU 11-20 HIG

That's 40 minutes in the books and that's a funny old half. Blues look in massive trouble at the start, then take control of the game for 20 minutes before the Highlanders finished strong.

Thompson and Sopoaga are having masterful games for the visitors conducting the backline without Aaron Smith's voice there to do it. Gatland's boot has been on-song for the Blues and Rieko Ioane has been as destructive as ever.

Despite the lack of ball and territory the Highlanders have converted on the rare chances they've had and head into the sheds deserving leaders. We'll be back soon for an exciting second half.

38min: BLU 11-20 HIG

HIG THREE! The Highlanders again use the width to their advantage and get good metres off the kick off. The shift it back to the right and Naholo is brought down 30m out. Pryor goes at the ball illegally and the whistle goes. Sopoaga slots this one right down the middle.

35min: BLU 11-17 HIG

HIG TRY! The Highlanders convert at the other end! The Highlanders retain the ball on halfway off the lineout and go to the right. Thompson sells a massive dummy and gets into space before he's brought down on the Blues 22m. The Highlanders shift it back to the left and that's some fancy hadnwork from the forward pack who draw and pass to Frizell on the left wing and he touches down in the corner. Sopoaga can't add the extras.

32min: BLU 11-12 HIG

The Highlanders get out of jail for free! The Blues get a scrum on the Highlanders' 40m after a knock on from the dropout and the backline set piece puts Perofeta in space! He's brought down 15m out. The Blues come back to the right and Rieko Ioane busts through two before he's brought down 5m short. The Blues pick and go twice. Akira looks to go and he knocks it on! Highlanders recover and clear for touch. Big chance goes to waste there.

29min: BLU 11-12 HIG

The Highlanders pack earns a penalty after the Blues front row collapse. They decide oddly enough to go for three from around 48m out and Sopoaga misses to the right! Blues 22m dropout coming up.

27min: BLU 11-12 HIG

There's a stoppage as Tokolahi is taken off field - nasty collision saw his knee in an awkward spot and he's been carried off. Little bit of rain coming in now too.

26min: BLU 11-12 HIG

Blues clear off the scrum and the Highlanders counter attack. Li makes a run down the left wing and he's brought down 40m out. The Blues turn it over and try to go back to the middle of the field but it's knocked on so we'll set down for a Highlanders scrum on halfway.

24min: BLU 11-12 HIG

HIG NO TRY! Heads up! The Highlanders attack to the left off the scrum and it's a bullet pass... straight into Rob Thompson's head! It flies off his noggin and sails into the Blues' in-goal and Walden is there to score! The ref goes upstairs and replays show the initial pass was forward so they come back for a Blues scrum inside their 22m.

23min: BLU 11-12 HIG

And now pressure is on the Blues after Perofeta errors off the kickoff. Highlanders with a scrum inside the Blues' 22m in the middle of the field coming up.

22min: BLU 11-12 HIG

BLU THREE! The Blues convert on the pressure they've built once again! The Highlanders look to clear off the lineout but the kick doesn't go into touch so they run it back! It's set up 30m out and after six phases of play Dixon is penalised for playing at the ball. Right in front, Gatland slots it. Great fight back from the Blues.

19min: BLU 8-12 HIG

Pressure goes on the Highlanders after a superb kick through by Gatland and it rolls into touch inside the 5m. Highlanders lineout coming up deep in their territory.

18min: BLU 8-12 HIG

Fun fact. The Highlanders have made 46 tackles so far tonight. The Blues have only made four in 18 minutes of play.

17min: BLU 8-12 HIG

Blues once again building steadily after the kick off but this time it's on their 40m line. They go for 8 phases but it's going no where so their clear. Highlanders kick it back and the Blues begin another slow attack. They roll over halfway thanks to another small break by Rieko Ioane before he offloads. It goes to ground and the ball becomes unplayable. Blues scrum on the Highlanders' 40m.

14min: BLU 8-12 HIG

BLU THREE! Blues carve into the lead with a penalty goal. Highlanders lose the ball at the back of the maul off their lineout and the Blues counterattack immediately! They shift it wide to the left wing. Ioane gets some space, he cuts inside Naholo and goes to ground. It's an illegal entry by Smith at the ruck 30m out and the whistle goes. Gatland converts.

11min: BLU 5-12 HIG

Blues survive a scare after Sopoaga puts a bomb up from half way and Smith flies to apply the pressure. The ball is loose. Bodies are diving all over the place but the Highlanders knock it on! Blues recover inside their 22m and Gatland clears. Highlanders lineout from 40m out coming up.

8min: BLU 5-12 HIG

BLU TRY! The Blues reply almost instantly! The Highlanders were on the back foot after kickoff after they knocked the ball on and the Blues played good patient rugby building phases. They pick and go from 5m out on the right wing. Pick and go again and Ruru is over the line! Did he get it down? TMO says yes! Wild start to this one folks!

5min: BLU 0-12 HIG

HIG TRY! Too easy. Five phases hitting it hard and the Highlanders are in under the posts.

4min: BLU 0-5 HIG

The Highlanders have their tails up! The Blues knock the ball on and the Highladners counterattack immediately with Naholo. It's chipped over the top and recovered by the Highlanders on the Blues' 22m. PENALTY! Blues enter the ruck immediately and the Highlanders aren't going for three. They kick for the 5m lineout and are hunting for more!

2min: BLU 0-5 HIG

HIG TRY! 42 seconds and the Highlanders are in! It's a nightmare start. The ball went to ground off the kick off and pinned The Blues in their 22m. They then tried to get it wide to the left wing but that pass goes to ground too and they're 10m off their own line. Gatland shifts to the pocket, ball comes to him and it's charged down by Hunt! He recovers, he scores! What a start!

7:36pm: KICKOFF

The Highlanders won the toss and elected to kick off. We're underway at Eden Park!

7:30pm

Kick off will be slightly later tonight with the teams paying their respects ahead of ANZAC day. Poppies are on the team jackets as both squads exit the tunnels. We'll also hear the Last Post.

Buck Shelford reads "The Ode" - nice touch.

7:25pm: WEATHER

It's a clear night in Auckland. There's been no wet weather today either so there's no excuses for poor ball handling. It's currently 17 degrees and there is minimal wind to speak of too.

Waisake Naholo makes a break during the Highlanders v Blues, Super Rugby week 2 game held at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand. 23 February 2018. Copyright Image: Derek Morrison / www.photosport.nz
Waisake Naholo in action for the Highlanders against the Blues. Source: Photosport

7:15pm: PREVIEW

The Blues are effectively looking to keep their season alive at Eden Park tonight, but they'll be relying heavily on an inexperienced outfit to get the job done thanks to a long injury list.

Recent form is against the home side however, after they suffered a 41-34 loss to the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium earlier this year - the Highlanders have also won nine of the last twelve outings between the two Kiwi sides.

However, one thing going for the Blues is the Highlanders struggles away from the south with the Dunedin-based team yet to pick up a win on the road this season thanks to losses against the Hurricanes and Chiefs.

The Blues are looking to use the game as a foundation for a strong finish to the season with tonight's match kick-starting a run of six games from seven at Eden Park - a streak coach Tana Umaga says the team is fully aware of.

"We have been mostly on the road with a tough two-game trip to South Africa and now a trip to Japan with a short turn around," he said.

"But we are home at Eden Park in front of our fans and our families for the next few games. We want to make this our fortress in the coming weeks.

"All of the clubs have injuries and we are no different. But it gives opportunities for other players to stand up and bring some real enthusiasm to our team.

"We have improved over the last two weeks and once again we have to step up again to another level in every facet of our game. Our record against other New Zealand teams is well documented so we want to make our homecoming a special one."

The Blues have had to make several changes to their line-up from last week's starting XV but the one of note is the return of Rieko Ioane on the wing.

The young speedster faces off against fellow All Black Waisake Naholo in a powerful match-up.

Highlanders coach Aaron Mauger has made two changes to his line up - the biggest being Aaron Smith shifting to the bench to make way for Kayne Hammington.

TEAMS

BLU: 1. Pauliasi Manu, 2. James Parsons (captain), 3. Ofa Tu'ungafasi/Mike Tamoaieta, 4. Patrick Tuipulotu, 5. Jimmy Tupou, 6. Dalton Papali'i, 7. Kara Pryor, 8. Akira Ioane, 9. Jonathan Ruru, 10. Bryn Gatland, 11. Rieko Ioane, 12. TJ Faiane, 13. Orbyn Leger, 14. Jordan Hyland, 15. Stephen Perofeta

BLU Subs: 16. Matt Moulds/Leni Apisai, 17. Ross Wright, 18. Mike Tamoaieta/Sione Mafileo, 19. Ben Neenee, 20. Murphy Taramai, 21. Sam Nock, 22. Tumua Manu, 23. Matt Duffie

HIG: 1. Daniel Lienert-Brown, 2. Ash Dixon (captain), 3. Siate Tokolahi, 4. Jackson Hemopo, 5. Tom Franklin, 6. Shannon Frizell, 7. Dillon Hunt, 8. Luke Whitelock, 9. Kayne Hammington, 10. Lima Sopoaga, 11. Tevita Li, 12. Teihorangi Walden, 13. Rob Thompson, 14. Waisake Naholo, 15. Ben Smith (captain)

HIG Subs: 16. Liam Coltman, 17. Aki Seiuli, 18. Tyrel Lomax, 19. Alex Ainley, 20. Elliot Dixon, 21. Aaron Smith, 22. Fletcher Smith, 23. Matt Faddes



1 NEWS NOW expert's round 10 Super Rugby picks: Highlanders to pile more woe on injury-hit Blues

Some big guns return for the Crusaders, while the Chiefs should make the trans-Tasman hoodoo 35 straight games in Brisbane. The Highlanders will be very warm favourites for tonight's Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy clash in Auckland.

Blues v Highlanders - Highlanders by 6

If you believed one media outlet, then the Blues – minus 18 (!) of their roster – enter this with a starting XV equipped to defeat the Highlanders. They might push them close, but only if the forwards mark up. Stephen Perofeta will be comfortable at fullback, despite the inevitable high ball barrage, but the Blues pack must make some kind of a strong statement after too much passivity this season. Aaron Smith takes a seat on the bench, but Elliot Dixon will be beside him. He should be in the No. 6 jersey.

Crusaders v Sunwolves - Crusaders by 34

The Sunwolves defended with more vigor against the Blues, but that will not save them in Christchurch. The home side have rotated many key men, including Sam Whitelock, Mitch Hunt and Luke Romano, but it should not matter. Israel Dagg is back, though on the wing and not at the back, while prop Owen Franks too makes a long-awaited comeback. Five points. Bank them.

Reds v Chiefs - Chiefs by 13

The Chiefs have come a cropper across the Tasman over the years. But not this time, even in Queensland's 1000th match. George Smith returns to the Reds bench, but the great No. 7 will have his hands full with the June All Blacks captain Sam Cane. Reds coach Brad Thorn is coming under heat for not looking at Brisbane club rugby's most expensive player Quade Cooper, but that ship has sailed. The match will be won in the pack, where the Reds will try, but fail, to dominate the Chiefs' eight.

Matt Duffie of the Blues during the Super Rugby match between the Highlanders and the Blues, played at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, New Zealand on Friday 23 February 2018. Copyright Image: Joe Allison / www.photosport.nz
Source: Photosport

TODAY'S
FEATURED STORIES

Super Rugby Round 10 Picks: Will the Blues finally end their NZ losing streak at home against the Highlanders?

The Blues hosting the Highlanders headlines round 10 of Super Rugby action - and there's plenty of opinion from the TVNZ oracles around the result!

How it works: TVNZ sports buffs will chip in their picks for matches involving New Zealand sides each round with some adding a little insight into their thinking. A correct result will give them two points and a correct margin a bonus point!

ROUND 10

Blues v Highlanders
Crusaders v Sunwolves
Reds v Chiefs

Matt Hall-Smith - 1 NEWS Sport Reporter

Blues v Highlanders: Blues 1-12
Crusaders v Sunwolves: Crusaders 13+
Reds v Chiefs: Reds 1-12

Guy Heveldt - 1 NEWS Sport Reporter

Blues v Highlanders: Highlanders 1-12
Crusaders v Sunwolves: Crusaders 13+
Reds v Chiefs: Chiefs 1-12 - "The Reds are better this year, but have they improved enough to beat the Chiefs? I’m doubtful."

Brodyn Knuckey - 1 NEWS NOW Sport Producer

Blues v Highlanders: Highlanders 1-12 - "Same old story. Blues will put up a good fight for the local derby but injuries and difficulty retaining the ball should deny them again - even with Ioane back."
Crusaders v Sunwolves: Crusaders 13+
Reds v Chiefs: Chiefs 13+

Faleatua Malili - 1 NEWS NOW Sport Producer

Blues v Highlanders: Highlanders 1-12
Crusaders v Sunwolves: Crusaders 13+
Reds v Chiefs: Chiefs 13+

John McKenzie - 1 NEWS Reporter

Blues v Highlanders: Highlanders 1-12
Crusaders v Sunwolves: Crusaders 13+
Reds v Chiefs: Reds 1-12

Michelle Prendiville - 1 NEWS Sport Producer

Blues v Highlanders: Highlanders 13+
Crusaders v Sunwolves: Crusaders 13+
Reds v Chiefs: Reds 1-12

Josh Reich - 1 NEWS NOW Homepage Editor

Blues v Highlanders: Highlanders 13+
Crusaders v Sunwolves: Crusaders 13+
Reds v Chiefs: Chiefs 13+

Andrew Saville - 1 NEWS Sport Presenter

Blues v Highlanders: Highlanders 1-12
Crusaders v Sunwolves: Crusaders 13+
Reds v Chiefs: Chiefs 1-12  "Tricky away game against Brad Thorn's new Reds, but Chiefs have shown enough to win away again."

Tamati Rimene-Sproat - Te Karere Sport Reporter - CO-LEADER

Blues v Highlanders: Highlanders 13+
Crusaders v Sunwolves: Crusaders 13+ - "It could be 130+"
Reds v Chiefs: Chiefs 13+

Stephen Stuart - 1 NEWS Sport Reporter

Blues v Highlanders: Blues 1-12 - "C'mon Jimmy, surely!"
Crusaders v Sunwolves: Crusaders 13+
Reds v Chiefs: Chiefs 1-12

Victor Waters - Breakfast Sport Producer - CO-LEADER

Blues v Highlanders: Highlanders 1-12
Crusaders v Sunwolves: Crusaders 13+
Reds v Chiefs: Chiefs 13+

Scoreboard: Rimene-Sproat 56, Waters 56, Saville 53, Malili 52, Heveldt 49, Knuckey 48, Reich 48, Stuart 46, Wilson 44, Hall-Smith 43, Prendiville 39, McKenzie 37, Manukia 35

1 NEWS Sport's experts break down this week's action. Source: 1 NEWS


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