The Blues narrowly nudged past the Highlanders 33- 31 on Friday at Eden Park, to take victory in the opening match of the 2016 Super Rugby season. The Landers quickly took the lead in the opening stages when in the eighth minute, a succession of 10 phases finally saw Ben Smith smash through the defence and find the try line. Melani Nanai ran through an empty 22 to find the try line to equalise at 7-7, but a penalty allowed Lima Sapoaga to kick for 10-7, before Blake Gibson bounced off two tackles to find a 14-10 lead shortly after.
A quick throw-in in the 31st minute, set Teihorangi Walden up for a stretch home to equalise at 17-17, but a penalty for the hosts saw them take a 20-17 lead. The defending champions were back in front just before the whistle, when Naholo beat the defence to catch the chip and slide over the line to restore the advantage. The second period saw the momentum lost as play was slower and less aggressive from both sides, displaying more technical sets of play, rather than simple rugby.
Ihaia West took the Blues to a 26-24 lead through penalties. Tana Umaga’s men began to dominate, putting themselves on the front foot, which saw them find a 33-24 lead after Patrick Tuipulotu nudged through the defence to put the ball over the line in the 72nd minute. Jamie Joseph’s lads put themselves back into the match after a number of quick offloads saw Smith soar over the line for a 33-31 scoreline.
The final whistle blew and it was the Blues who took a 33-31 win in the opening match of the 2016 Super Rugby season.