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Highlanders hold off Blues comeback

The Highlanders pulled off a 29-21 upset win over the star-studded Blues in Dunedin.

An inexperienced Highlanders team, with six players making their Super Rugby debuts, raced into a 24-0 lead following tries from All Blacks Aaron Smith and namesake Ben.

They added the bonus point try in the second half and although the Blues racked up 21 points after the break to get themselves back in it, they had dug too deep a hole.

The Highlanders, who finished bottom of the New Zealand conference last season and have been tipped to do so again, defied all the predictions as they scored four tries.

Aaron Smith got the first, charging down a kick from Chris Noakes and racing clear.

Ex-Blue Malakai Fekitoa then sent a message to his old employers with a debut try, grabbing a loose ball 50 metres out and taking it over.

Lima Sopoaga, having made both conversions, then added a penalty and the Highlanders found themselves 17-0 up after 17 minutes.

There was more to come as Ben Smith took a pass from Aaron Smith to dive over with a third try before half-time.

The Blues returned after the break a different team, and Francis Saili immediately got them on the board, gathering his own chipped kick to cross.

But any hopes they had of getting back into the game were dealt a blow when Patrick Osborne scored a bonus-point try on a counter-attack.

Patrick Tuipulotu and Angus Ta'avao added late tries, converted by Noakes, but there was no way back for the Blues.


From Belfast Telegraph