Fast start sees Highlanders home
Lima Sopoaga kicked 15 points as the Highlanders held on to record a 30-24 Super 15 victory over the Blues, despite a second-half onslaught from their opponents at the Forsyth Barr Stadium.
The hosts had Malakai Fekitoa to thank after his first-half double - either side of Waisake Naholo's effort - which, combined with Sopoaga's early penalty and three conversions, put the hosts 24-0 up at the break.
Keven Mealamu scored a second-half brace as the Blues fought back, with a try apiece also from George Moala and Patrick Tuipulotu.
But two further penalties from Sopoaga won it for the Highlanders, who remain fifth.
Sopoaga opened the scoring for the hosts just two minutes in, converted Fekitoa's first try 10 minutes later and scored again after Naholo's effort midway through the first half.
The Highlanders continued to dominate as 22-year-old New Zealand centre Fekitoa touched down for the second time just before the break.
Moala crossed over to finally get the Blues on the score sheet straight after half-time before Sopoaga landed a further penalty for the home side.
Tries from Tuipulotu and Mealamu - along with a single conversion from Dan Bowden - reduced the deficit even more as the Auckland-based outfit began to mount a fightback.
Sopoaga was successful with his third three-pointer of the match after 65 minutes before Ihaia West converted Mealamu's second try with three minutes remaining to set up a grandstand finish.
But the Highlanders held on for the four points, while the Blues picked up two losing bonus points.