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'Talent gulf': How NZ media reacted to Blues destroying Highlanders

By Kim Ekin
Ethan de Groot, Pari Pari Parkinson and Josh Dickson of the Highlanders look on during the round one Super Rugby Pacific match between Highlanders and Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium, on February 25, 2023, in Dunedin, New Zealand. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The New Zealand Super Rugby franchises are renown for being highly competitive between each other, with lopsided beatings usually reserved for the Australian sides.


The Blues threw that rhetoric out of the window last night with a 60-20 beating of the Highlanders at home in Dunedin, the franchise’s highest ever score over the men from the south.

It looked ugly from the beginning as the Blues built a 31-6 lead before two quick tries on the stroke of half-time gave the Highlanders hope down by 30-20 going into the sheds.

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The Highlanders counter-punches came while the Blues were dealing with two yellow cards, but once returned to a full contingent there was no contest.

The Blues put another 29 points on in the second half to leave the Highlanders with little to write home about outside of a few individual showings.

New Zealand Herald rugby writer Liam Napier wrote ‘the gulf in talent was brutally exposed’ in Dunedin as the Blues contingent of 13 starting All Blacks put the Highlanders to the sword.

Missing starting halfback Aaron Smith, the Highlanders starting line-up featured two All Black starters from last year, Ethan de Groot and Shannon Frizell, while capped No 9 Folau Fakatava had a rare start in Smith’s absence.


While on the opposite side, the Blues talent-laden side had just two uncapped players with the rest All Blacks.

“In a first half counter-attacking blitz and clinical finishing, the Blues underlined why they are among the favourites for this year’s title,” Napier wrote.

Hayden Miekle of the Otago Daily Times wrote the home side “showed the odd flicker of potential” but “slipped” to the historic loss.

“The Blues were brutally efficient when they got turnover ball and showed all their attacking threats,” he wrote.

“By contrast, the Highlanders struggled for cohesion often as their passing, in particular, was wayward.”


Many of the Blues tries came from Highlanders errors, with the dangerous backs pouncing on loose passes and launching long-winding counter-attacks.


For, Marc Hinton put the spotlight on the performance of Mark Telea and claimed his standing within All Blacks’ pecking order would have been boosted as a result.

He wrote the Highlanders gave everyone a lesson in “how not to play” the Blues, who rode a 15-game win streak into last year’s final.

“They were too messy, too muddled and too generous to apply the necessary pressure to knock them off stride,” he wrote.

Both the Blues and the Highlanders head to Melbourne for next week’s Super round but it won’t get any easier for Clarke Dermody’s side who will face the Crusaders coming off a loss on Friday night to the Chiefs.


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Connie 513 days ago

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Dunnos 514 days ago

They can talk about talent gulf but really the Landers made it easier for the Blues. Regardless of talent the Landers had basic errors and sloppy defence and really the Blues pounced on the errors.

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