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Blues 32 Highlanders 17
Blues (Black, Clarke, Narawa, Eklund, Ioane tries; Black 3 conversions, 2 penalty goal)
Highlanders (Dixon, Fakatava tries; Ioane 2 conversions, penalty goal)
77th minute - The game is turning scrappy with both sides throwing their subs on and throwing the ball around. Garden-Bachop breaks again down the wing but knocks is on in contact.
At the scrum, the Blues dominate and win a penalty on halfway.
72nd minute - TRY HIGHLANDERS to Folau Fakatava
From the lineout five metres out and the rolling maul going nowhere, Fakatavasnipes down the short side and catches the Blues napping and crashes over.
Ioane converts the try. (BLU 39-17)
70th minute - YELLOW CARD to Sam Nock
With the game looking like it's out of reach, the Highlanders are starting to throw the ball around. Garden-Bachop breaks through the Blues defence and gets down to the 10m line. With the home side under pressure, Nock gives away a deliberate penalty and the referee has sent him to the bin.
65th minute - TRY BLUES to Akira Ioane
Nock puts up a pin-point high kick which Narawa wins and spins out of a tackle. He gets down to the 22 before offloading to Nock who dishes it off to Ioane to score. Black converts the try. (BLU 39-10)
62nd minute - The Highlanders get an opportunity to attack inside the Blues 22. After two phases Akira Ioane wins a brilliant breakdown penalty to ease the pressure that was building on his side.
61st minute - The Blues go straight back onto the attack with Clark breaking down the left wing. He gets down to the Highlanders 22 before scrambling defence halts the home sides attack but give away breakdown penalty under pressure.
The TMO has seen foul play before the attack and the referee awards a penalty way back on the Blues 22. The Highlanders will have a lineout 15m out.
59th minute - PENALTY GOAL BLUES - Otere Black
After eight phases of attack it comes to nothing but the Highlanders infringe again and the Blues will have a shot at goal 28m out out. Black nails the easy kick. (BLU 32-10)
56th minute - The Highlanders start to build some pressure on the home side with their attack on halfway but discipline lets them down again. Black will give his side a lineout on the southerners 22.
54th minutes - TRY HIGHLANDERS to Ash Dixon
The Highlanders finally get an opportunity to attack. They have a lineout five metres out and they produce a perfect lineout drive and Dixon crashes over. Ioane converts the try. (BLU 29-10)
50th minutes -TRY BLUES to Kurt Eklund
From a lineout five metres out, the Blues execute a perfect lineout drive and Eklund crashes over. Black converts the try. (CRU 29-3)
47th minute - The Highlanders build eight phases of attack but knock the ball on and Clarke picks it up and kicks it off down field. Garden-Bachop gets back and clears it out to just inside his own 22.
The Blues make a rare mistake at the lineout with the ball not going straight. The Highlanders are back to 15 players with Josh Dickson back from the sin bin.
45th minute - The Blues go straight back on the attack from the kickoff with Narawa getting down to halfway.The Highlanders win a reliving penalty and they'll have a lineout on the 22.
43rd minute - TRY BLUES to Emoni Narawa
From the lineout, the Blues go wide straight away and Ioane is in a mountain of space,. He draws and passes the final defender and Narawa scores in the corner.
Black can't convert the try. (BLU 22-3)
42nd minute - The Highlanders continue where they finished the first half with more poor discipline. Black gives his side a lineout on the southerners 22.
Kickoff - Mitch Hunt gets the second half underway and the southerners still have another seven minutes with 14 players.
Halftime - What a half of rugby from the Blues who'll wonder how they aren't further in front. The home side have had 73 percent territory and been camped down in the Highlanders half with the visitors giving away eight penalties, which didn't help them.. They were rewarded with tries through Caleb Clarke and Otere Black to take a 17-3 lead into the sheds.
40th minute - YELLOW CARD HIGHLANDS to Josh Dickson
Ioane puts up a midfield bomb and Highlanders lock Josh Dickson takes out a Caleb Clarke in the contest and referee Mike Fraser sends him to the bin as he had no eyes for the ball.
39th minute - Highlanders win a breakdown turnover just when they need it with the Blues just inches short of their line. The home side gives away an offside penalty and Ioane will clear to ease the pressure just one minute till halftime.
37th minute - The Blues set a perfectly rolling maul and looks like they just need to fall over the line but they spill the ball and Aaron Smith picks it up and clears down to the 22 to ease the pressure for now.
36th minute - The Blues go straight back on the attack and again a Highlanders infringe and referee Mike Fraser puts the southerners on a team warning. Blues have a lineout five metres out.
34th minute - The Highlanders get their first opportunity to attack and Nareki makes a strong run but the Blues win it back inside their own 22.
Rieko Ioane throws a great cut out pass to his brother Akira, who sprints down to halfway before he flinging a 20m pass infield back to his brother Rieko to score next to the posts.
The television match official will check for a forward pass and replays show the pass is forward but the referee has gone back for a late tackle on Reiko Ioane as he threw the forward pass.
30th minute - The Highlanders can't buy a trick right now with Josh Ioane slicing a clearing kick out on the full and the Blues will have a lineout just before the southerners 22. Ioane lets the Blues off the hook with a poor handling error from Rieko Ioane.
27th minute - BLUES PENALTY GOAL to Black
The Blues are building great pressure on the visitors inside the 22. Discipline continues to hurt the Highlanders who give away another offside penalty 15m out and right in front.
Black takes the easy penalty goal and nails it. (BLU 17-3)
24th minute - Hoskins Sotutu make a strong run downfield breaking through the Highlanders defence before offloading to Dalton Papalii on the visitors 22m line. Papalii is brought down in a try saving tackle by Ioane just five metres out.
21st minute - The momentum is continuing to favour the home side but the Highlanders aren't helping themselves. The visitors have a lineout on halfway after the home side cleared from the kickoff, and the southerners make a meal of it to hand possession back.
18th minute - TRY BLUES to Caleb Clark
The Blues build their attack nicely and after four phases, Black flings a wide pass to Ioane who finds space before drawing and passing to Clarke who crashes over in the corner.
Black converts the try. (BLU 14-3)
16th minute - Discipline is really letting the Highlanders down. After initially defending the lineout drive well, they give away an offside side penalty. The Blues choose to take a scrum, 17m out and 15m out from the lefthand touchline.
13th minute - The game has swung in the Blues favour following the opening try with the home sides pack asserting themselves. At a scrum on halfway, the Blues forwards dominate the set piece and win a penalty.
Black gives his side a lineout 17m out.
10th minute - TRY BLUES to Otere Black
Perofeta starts the attack as he breaks the defensive line and gets down to the Highlanders 22. He offloads to Ioane who is brought down in a great tackle but he dishes it off to Black who strolls over in the corner.
Black converts his own try. (BLU 7-3)
Ninth minute - Jonathan Ruru picks the pocket of Aaron Smith that sees the ball come free inches from the Highlanders line. Luckily for the visitors, Smith dived on it and wins a break down penalty to ease the pressure.
Seventh minute - The Highlanders make a meal of the kickoff and hand possession back to the visitors and they win a breakdown penalty straight away.
Black gives the Blues a lineout five meters out but the home side drop the ball at theset piece to let the Highlanders off the hook.
Third minute - PENALTY GOAL HIGHLANDERS to Josh Ioane
After seven phases of some good early play from the Highlanders with ball in hand, they win a breakdown penalty 30m out right in front and Josh Ioane will have a shot from right in front.
Perfect conditions for goalkicking and he nails it to put the visitors in front. (HIG 3-0)
Second minute - The Highlanders make a bright start with James Lentjes making a strong run down to halfway. After nine phases, a great box kick from Aaron Smith sees Perofeta make a meal of it and the 'Landers build their attack just short of the Blues 22.
Kickoff - The Blues Stephen Perofeta gets us underway.
3:33pm - Aaron Smith and Patrick Tuipulotu lead their sides out on to a beautiful Auckland Day. No wind and 23 degrees.
3:29pm - We are just six minutes from kickoff and we should be in for a brilliant encounter.
The Blues are on a four match home winning streak but haven't won five in a row since 2014.
The Highlanders are looking for back-to-back away wins versus New Zealand opponents for the first time since 2015 back-to-back victories for the first time since 2019.
The home side are in brilliant form winning 10 of their last 12 matches but previous to that they had won only 2 of the previous 12.
Kia ora, good afternoon and welcome to Newshub's live coverage of the Super Rugby Aotearoa clash between the Blues and the Highlanders at Auckland's Eden Park.
The home side come into this contest looking to back up their opening-round victory over the Hurricanes, after having a bye last week.
After some worry this game would be played without fans, the Government put everyone's minds at ease, when they shifted Auckland to COVID-19 Alert Level 1.
Coach Leon MacDonald has made five changes, with four coming in the forwards, including a brand-new front row.
All Black props Karl Tu'inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi enter the starting side, while hooker Luteru Tolai replaces Kurt Eklund, who drops to the bench.
Exciting 20-year-old lock Sam Darry will make his debut, alongside captain Patrick Tuipulotu, with the other change seeing Jonathan Ruru start at halfback and Sam Nock dropping to the bench.
The Highlanders have started the season win-loss, losing the southern derby in the opening round, before rebounding with a resounding victory over the sorry Chiefs.
The southerners have brought All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith back into their starting line-up, while flanker James Lentjes makes his return, after more than a year out with a broken ankle.
Smith takes the place of Folau Fakatava, while Josh Ioane is preferred to Mitchell Hunt at first-five. Former All Black Liam Squire has been left out of the side altogether.
The Highlanders hope to win back the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy, after losing both encounters with the Blues in last year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa.
Blues: 1-Karl Tu'inukuafe, 2-Luteru Tolai, 3-Ofa Tuungafasi, 4-Patrick Tuipulotu (c), 5-Sam Darry, 6-Akira Ioane, 7-Dalton Papalii, 8-Hoskins Sotutu, 9-Jonathan Ruru, 10-Otere Black, 11-Caleb Clarke, 12-Harry Plummer, 13-Rieko Ioane, 14-Mark Telea, 15-Stephen Perofeta
Reserves: 16-Kurt Eklund, 17-James Lay, 18-Nepo Laulala, 19-Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20-Tom Robinson, 21-Sam Nock, 22-Tanielu Tele'a, 23-Emoni Narawa
Highlanders: 1-Ethan de Groot, 2-Liam Coltman, 3-Siate Tokolahi, 4-Josh Dickson, 5-Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 6-Shannon Frizell, 7-James Lentjes, 8-Hugh Renton, 9-Aaron Smith (cc), 10-Josh Ioane, 11-Jona Nareki, 12-Sio Tomkinson, 13-Michael Collins, 14-Ngantungani Punivai, 15-Connor Garden-Bachop
Reserves: 16-Ash Dixon (cc), 17-Josh Hohneck, 18-Jeff Thwaites, 19-Bryn Evans, 20-Marino Mikaele Tu'u, 21-Folau Fakatava, 22-Mitch Hunt, 23-Billy Harmon.
TAB odds: Blues $1.32, Highlanders $3.15
Blues braced for whatever COVID-19 throws at them
The Blues are doing their best not to let Auckland's recent COVID-19 lockdown hamper their performance on the field.
The side had to relocate to Cambridge to avoid Alert Level 3 restrictions, but despite returning home, they're all too aware it could happen again and they're prepared if it does.
They've benefited from a well timed Super Rugby Aotearoa bye week, but they're not about to let their circumstances dictate their performance.
"Without lockdown, our job is to learn our plays and be the best rugby players we can be," says captain Patrick Tuipulotu. "That doesn't stop if we're in lockdown - there's a lot of stuff we can do by ourselves."
They're more than familiar with that over the past year and while team trainings are back on the agenda to prepare for the Highlanders on Sunday, the side are ready to move again, if Auckland returns to Level 3 at any time.
But for Tuipulotu, who's just become a dad for the first time, that's still easier said than done.
"For a lot of us with families, there's a lot of disruption in that way - missing home and partners needing us to be at home as well," he says. "If i want to play well and I need to play well, I need to make sure everything's okay at home."
That sense of sacrifice is well reflected within this current Blues set-up.
Tuipultou's situation is vastly different to someone like Caleb Clarke, but if the Blues are forced to move again, Clarke is keeping everything in perspective.
"Everyone has to face different problems in life and there are harder problems in the world than us not being able to play rugby," he says.
And Clarke is confident no matter what happens on the field, their direction on it, won't begin to suffer.
"I think that culture that's here that's been built over these few years has really come to fruition, so we don't get thrown off by these things."
The Blues are running head first into whatever obstacles may be thrown their way.