The Highlanders ran the Blues riot to crush their opponents 44-7 in Friday’s Super Rugby action at Eden Park in Auckland. After a fairly open first ten minutes, edged by the visitors, it was the Landers who opened the scoring from a lineout drive that saw John Hardie go over. Lima Sopoaga missed a difficult conversion attempt some 10 metres from the near touchline.
However the away side was down to 14 men when Josh Hohneck was sin binned for not using his arms in a tackle. However from the resultant penalty Ihaia West missed his first penalty at Eden Park this season as the score remained 5-0. Despite being a man down, Jamie Joseph’s men scored their second try in the 26th minute.
From close range, Joseph’s charges played the phases before Shaun Treeby picked up the ball and made his way over. Sopoaga missed his second attempt at a conversion though as the score stood at 10-0. Sopoaga made amends four minutes later when he landed a penalty to extend the advantage to 13-0.
The television match official was called on in first half stoppage time to confirm a third try for the Otago franchise. Despite replays showing Elliot Dixon losing control of the ball before applying pressure, the five-pointer was awarded. Sopoanga slotted a tough conversion from the near side line to send the away side into the break 20-0 up.
After pressing for the majority of the second stanza it was Patrick Osborne who dotted down in the far corner to ensure a bonus point for the men from Dunedin. Quick hands from a ruck saw Osborne run in and beat the defence. The TMO was called upon to confirm the score after which Sopoaga slotted from the touch line in the driving rain.
A beautiful backline move saw the ball move down the line from the far side before eighthman Daniel Pryor went over. It all started from a near side line out that went far before the Landers brought it back. Sopoaga put the two-pointer over to extend the lead to 34-0 with 23 minutes still left on the clock.
The visitors drove over the line in what looked like a melee of players. The TMO was called upon to confirm the try that was awarded to Joe Latta. Sopoaga failed to convert on this occasion.
Sir John Kirwan’s lot finally crossed the line when substitute Matt McGahan scored his first Super Rugby try as the Auckland franchise moved the ball down the line as McGahan was one of two line breaks that resulted in the five-pointer that West converted. There was time for one more try from Jospeh’s boys when Sopoaga popped a kick to the far side that Osborne collected and passed basketball-style to Ben Smith, before exiting the field of play, for the full back to go over.
The final whistle blew on what completes the Blues’ worst ever Super Rugby season but for the south islanders, they have a play-off to look forward to next week.