The Blues travelled to Dunedin in round eight of Super Rugby Aotearoa not having won there for nine years.
The Highlanders came off a bye and, of course, the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy was up for grabs which tends to get these two teams invigorated.
Also, a poignant moment as the Aucklanders played their first match after the death of legend Andy Haden.
A last minute change to the Blues line-up saw Tony Lamborn come in for Blake Gibson, while for the Highlanders, Josh Ioane slotted in at first five and Michael Collins at centre.
The Blues power was too much for the southern men and they took a dominant win, 32-21.
Here’re the Blues player’s ratings.
1. Karl Tu’inukuafe – 7.5
Great comeback to the starting line up for Big Karl. The scrum purred with him dictating terms. Off in the 53rd minute.
2. Kurt Eklund – 7
Climbed in boots and all with some stringent runs early on, almost got a rolling maul try moments later but denied by Aaron Smith’s boot. Lost his lineout bearings around 46 minutes for a couple of wobbles. Off at 71.
3. Ofa Tu’ungafasi – 8
It seems as though Ofa may have the inside running for a black number 3 jersey with his form this year. Led a commanding scrum. Great turnover in the lead up to the Faiane try. Well deserved try for himself after a bruising scrum and clean out. Off at 65 but a bonus seven minutes after Mafileo’s yellow.
4. Patrick Tuipulotu (c) – 7
A massive supertanker with surgical hands. Early in the second half we saw a lovely backhanded flick to Eklund then seconds later a thundering hit on Collins. Off at the 73rd minute for a well-deserved rest.
5. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti – 7
Just to illustrate that he’s an 80 minute player in the 77th minute he swooped behind some great defensive rucking for a pick up turnover off the ground, awesome skills! Solid tight forward who seems to be back to full fitness.
PLAYER RATINGS ??
A couple of admirable displays for the Highlanders in their 32-21 loss to the Blues in Dunedin.https://t.co/tCA2sNE7wJ
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 2, 2020
6. Dalton Papalii – 7
The top tackler in the tournament after round seven showed he has pace to burn with his run-away try, which bizarrely was disallowed. Off at 47.
7. Tony Lamborn – 6.5
The last minute call up acquitted himself well. HIA test at 53 minutes but managed to get back for some more robust play.
8. Akira Ioane – 8.5
Enjoyed the fruits of a dominant scrum. Took his chance well for the first try and delivered some karma to Aaron Smith off the back of the scrum that led to the Tu’ungafasi try. Good defensive performance as well; top Blues tackler.
9. Finlay Christie – 8
Popped up all over the place, running the tram lines for his first try and out on the wing to flick an inside ball to Faiane for his try in the 32nd minute. Cocked up his box kick first up in 2nd half but bounced back with a lovely tracking run for his second try a minute later. Off at 65.
10. Beauden Barrett – 7.5
Great vision for the first Christie try with the cross field kick to Clarke. Christie’s second try also owed a lot to the influence of Barrett. A huge hanging kick for the turnover then a looping pass out to Lambourn to create havoc. Off at 71.
11. Caleb Clarke – 8
Finally got some ball with space and made the Highlanders pay. Nice set up for the Christie try; busting runs at the 22nd and 32nd minutes setting off alarm bells in the Highlanders defence.
12. TJ Faiane – 7
His try in the 32nd minute was a good reward for his solid all-round outing. Off at 59.
13. Rieko Ioane – 7
A little quiet but played a great foil role. Great distribution infield to Christie for his first try.
14. Mark Telea – 6.5
Was industrious in the first half but the ball eluded him in the second forty.
15. Matt Duffie – 6.5
The fullback is playing with real courage under high balls and running hard on to the ball.
16. Luteru Tolai – N/A
On at 71.
17. Alex Hodgman – 6.5
On at 53 and continued the scrum dominance.
18. Sione Mafileo – N/A
On at 65 and the poor prop was the victim of a team yellow so had an abbreviated game.
19. Jacob Pierce – 7
Came on as HIA replacement at 53 minutes. Amazing ball playing skills in his 10 minutes, back on at 73 for the skipper. Proved the locking stocks in the Blues are deep.
20. Aaron Carroll – 6.5
On at 47 and buried himself in his duties.
21. Sam Nock – N/A
On at 65.
22. Otere Black – 6.5
On at 59 and a solid outing.
23. Harry Plummer – N/A
On at 71.
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