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Watch: Blues star Caleb Clarke gets 'back in business' and breaks open the Highlanders

By Sam Smith
(Source/Sky Sport NZ)

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Blues wing Caleb Clarke is getting back to his best form after scoring an explosive opening try against the Highlanders in Dunedin in the 32-25 win.

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The All Black star took time away from the 15’s game in 2021 to pursue the Olympics with the New Zealand Sevens team but has hit the ground running with the Blues in 2022 after training with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in the off-season.

Clarke scored the opening try after a quick movement across the Blues backline found the left wing in open space 30-metres out. Facing Highlanders first five Mitch Hunt at fullback cover, Clarke stepped back inside off the left foot to blow past Hunt and the inside tackle of prop Dan Lienert-Brown.

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Another change of angle off the left foot step back against the grain beat fullback Sam Gilbert, and Clarke cruised around Aaron Smith to score under the posts in front of the crowd in the Zoo.

The 22-year-old was awarded the man of the match in the Blues win, after lodging 76 running metres, six defenders beaten, one line break and one try in his performance.

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Clarke has been at his damaging best in 2022, leading all players in Super Rugby Pacific in line breaks after five rounds.

Fans on social media claimed that the Blues wing is ‘back in business’ after his ‘menacing’ performance. Many fans believed he looked as strong and fast as ever before this season.

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The Blues were up 18-6 at halftime after a Beauden Barrett try on the stroke of oranges gave the visitors a commanding lead, but as has been the theme this year with the Blues, they were made to work for the win as the Highlanders stormed back.

Head coach Leon MacDonald said that was ‘not the plan’ but credited the Highlanders for their fighting spirit and was grateful to come away from the win in a place where he has had more losses than wins.

“No, not quite. Otherwise, my heart rate wouldn’t have been up so high at the end,” he said.

“I thought the Highlanders just showed a lot of guts and character. I think both teams looked a little bit tired.

“I think maybe some lingering effects of Covid potentially just meant they weren’t at their best in terms of condition but in terms of their mental fortitude, I thought the Highlanders just kept coming back and kept coming back and we felt like we’d make the killer blow and then straight away we’re back down defending our line and conceding points.

“It’s always hard down here – I’ve had more losses than wins – and although it wasn’t pretty at the end, I’m pretty pleased to walk away with one.”

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