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Highlanders 35 Blues 29
Highlanders: Tries - Himeno, J.Ioane, Punivai, Nareki, Collins. Conversions - J.Ioane (2). Penalties - J. Ioane,
Blues: Tries - Ruru, R.Ioane, Laulala, Sotutu. Conversions - Black (3). Penalties - Black.
One last chance for the Blues, but the Highlanders have turned it over! They clear into touch and seal a classic!
80 mins - TRY BLUES
Blues lineout in the corner. They've got advantage, as Plummer kicks out towards the right wing. Heem wins it, and plays in Perofeta, but the Highlanders defend well.
We'll go back for the advantage, and the Blue go to the other wing - where Sotutu scores! This game isn't over!
They take a drop goal as the siren goes, which means we'll at the very least get another kick-off.
(HIG 35 BLU 29)
75 mins - TRY HIGHLANDERS
That should be that! Hunt hits Collins with the perfect pass inside the Blues 5m zone. Collins slips right past the Blues' defenders and scores.
Hunt can eat up time here, but he can't convert.
(HIG 35 BLU 24)
73 mins - RED CARD BLUES
Potential foul play here. Hodgman's gone in high and with the shoulder on James Lentjes. The more this is slowed down, the worse it looks. This will only be red.
And it is. The Blues will now have to finish the night with 14 men.
71 mins - TRY BLUES
The Blues are desperate now. They're camped on the Highlanders' line, with advantage. Clarke tries to batter over, and wins another advantage.
Laulala picks and goes - and he scores! Now the Highlanders will use their referral though. Aaron Smith is claims there's been a swinging arm in the build up.
Smith's not wrong, he's been hit by the arm of Josh Goodhue as Laulala grounds the ball, but whether or not it's affected play will be a big call. The onfield decision stands.
(HIG 30 BLU 24)
Apisai is penalised for obstruction on Tomkinson, and we'll have a captain's referral. This looks like a nailed on penalty, and the TMO concurs. Shocking appeal.
Hunt lines up the shot at goal, and gets it.
(HIG 30 BLU 17)
The Blues need to hit back, and look to do so as they approach the Highlanders' tryline.
Akira Ioane goes close, and Finlay Christie claims the try? None of the Blues celebrate, but we'll go to the TMO anyway.
Replays show no evidence of the ball being grounded. So it'll be a goal line dropout.
58 mins - TRY HIGHLANDERS
Blues' scrum, they look for Sotutu to run off the back, but he's smothered by Aaron Smith and the Highlanders have the ball!
They go wide through Smith and Gregory, before Frizell takes it to the line. Hunt throws a huge cutout pass out to Nareki alone on the left, and he has enough time to plant it one handed.
Ioane to convert, but he can't hit the target.
(HIG 27 BLU 17)
Bit of push'n'shove between the two sides after a scrum. Laulala and De Groot are warned after the Highlanders prop won a penalty.
Still scoreless in the second half as the Highlanders have a lineout.
Clarke bumps off Dixon, and breaks the line again! And surely he'll score this time?! Hunt gets back to make the cover tackle, and slows play down for long enough for his teammates to get back.
Aaron Smith gets over the ball and wins the turnover. Highlanders' scrum.
The Highlanders go from side to side, getting through 10 phases, before getting inside the Blues' 22. Tomkinson tries to slip through, but Akira Ioane does well to rip the ball away and win the turnover.
Clarke breaks the Highlanders' line out of nowhere! The Blues have to score here, as they go wide to Papalii, but he can't hang on to a pass out on the wing!
Josh Ioane made the tackle on Clarke, he's having an exceptional evening.
Blues lineout after Smith clears into touch.Tolai throws and the Blues look to drive. The Highlanders contest well though, before the Blues win a penalty. Himeno the culprit.
We're back and ready for the second 40. Hunt kicks off to get us back underway.
HALFTIME - TRY HIGHLANDERS
The siren goes as Himeno wins a penalty. The Highlanders will have one last lineout before halftime.
They go off the back to Smith, who does brilliantly to play in Punivai with a pass back inside - and the winger scores!
Ioane with the final kick of the half, and it's a beauty!
(HIG 22 BLU 17)
They won't have the scrum, they want the points. Black converts the shot at goal, and the Blues re-take the lead.
(HIG 15 BLU 17)
Out of nowhere the Blues are breaking away after the two locks, of all people, combine.
They're inside the 22, before going wide to Telea's wing. Gregory defends well, but the hosts aren't out of danger.
Darry has a go, but Harmon wins the turnover and the Highlanders can clear. No they can't Smith makes a mistake and knocks it on!
33 mins - TRY BLUES
Nareki impedes Telea going for a high ball, and the Blues win a penalty. Black clears into touch to restart with a lineout.
Tolai throws and the Blues drive. Faiane does well to make ground, as the Blues work forwards. Ruru picks and goes and gets to the five-metre line.
Otere Black does brilliantly to play in Rieko Ioane with a short pass, and he scores!
Black with the kick, and he gets it. Just seconds left on Sotutu's yellow too.
(HIG 15 BLU 14)
26 mins - TRY HIGHLANDERS
Smith feeds, and the Blues chew up 90 seconds of Sotutu's yellow card.
Smith takes the ball off the back, and goes flat to Hunt, who draws in Perofeta before finding Josh Ioane outside him! Ioane holds off two defenders and he scores!
Ioane looks to convert his own try, but hooks it to the left.
(HIG 15 BLU 7)
There's a check for foul play holding up play. It looks like the Highlanders' knock on was caused by a stray boot from Sotutu. That looks very deliberate, this will be yellow.
Slight mix up from the referee over whether it was Sotutu or Akira Ioane, but eventually the No.8 is shown yellow.
Highlanders' scrum, right in front, with an extra man.
The Highlanders run from the back of their own scrum. Nareki takes the ball to the line, but the Blues defend. Dickson has a go, as does Dixon, before the referee is stopped - Blues offside.
Smith tries to go quickly again, but the Highlanders lose it forward.
Highlanders lineout, they look to drive but the Blues defend well. The Highlanders go to the backs before Josh Ioane is smashed by Telea. The Highlanders still have the ball though, and they work into the 22.
Hunt tries a stab kick through the line, Ruru gets there, but he's taken into touch by Tomkinson and Nareki.
16 mins - TRY HIGHLANDERS
Blues lineout on their 10m line, and the Highlanders contest with a maul. Ruru goes to the air with a box kick, only as far as Frizell though. The Highlanders go wide to Punivai, but he's smashed by Faiane.
Advantage Highlanders as they go into the 22. Dixon run up the middle, but we stop for a penalty. Aaron Smith goes quickly, and catches the Blues napping! He's tackled short of the line, before Himeno crosses over to score!
Great work from Aaron Smith, and the Highlanders are in front. Ioane with the kick, and gets it.
(HIG 10 BLU 7)
Great pressure from the Highlanders as Gregory and Tomkinson chase a kick over the top from Hunt. They win a penalty as the Blues don't release. The Highlanders want the points.
Josh Ioane lines up his first attempt of the night, and he gets it.
(HIG 3 BLU 7)
Sotutu wins a penalty, and the Blues take a lineout inside the Highlanders' half. Tolai throws, Papalii wins it and they look to run. Shades of a forward pass into Tu'inukuafe, but the Blues lose it forward anyway.
6 mins - TRY BLUES
Take a bow Jonathan Ruru! The Highlanders have a lineout on their own line. They go to Smith, who looks to pass, but it's intercepted by Ruru who crashes over and scores out of nowhere!
Otere Black with the kick, and he nails it.
(HIG 0 BLU 7)
Robinson goes off for a blood bin, he's replaced by Akira Ioane. The Blues attack and take the ball inside the Highlanders' half. Quick hands from Sotutu puts Faiane away, and he gets the pass to Papalii on the wing!
Papalii has the tryline in front of him, but Nareki and Harmon do brilliantly to force him into touch. Try saved.
Blues' scrum, Ruru feeds and Sotutu takes it off the back. The Blues creep towards the tryline, but Himeno turns the ball over on the tryline! Excellent work from the Japan international.
Straight away the Highlanders move the ball wide through Gregory. Smith goes back to Ioane, but his kick is charged down by Papalii! The ball trickles back into the in goal, but Ioane gets there first and forces a scrum.
Perofeta kicks to the Highlanders, and we're away!
And now Dixon and Smith lead out the Highlanders to a chorus of cheers and bagpipes!
The Blues are the first side out onto Forsyth Barr, tonight will be huge if they're to hold off the Chiefs for a spot in the final.
Not long to go now! Both sides are back in the sheds for their final preparations.
Good evening! Conditions are - predictably - perfect under the roof down in Dunedin. The students are out in force, so they'll be hoping for a good game to start a big Friday night.
Kick-off around 30 minutes away.
Kia ora, welcome to Newshub’s live updates of Super Rugby Aotearoa round eight clash between the Highlanders and the Blues, from Dunedin.
Despite a torrid run of injuries, the Highlanders need nothing short of victory, and other results going their way, if they’re a chance to claim a spot in the Super Rugby Aotearoa final.
The home side are without a considerable chunk of their squad, with Folau Fakatava, Liam Squire, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Freedom Vahaakolo and Connor Garden-Bachop for tonight’s encounter.
The Blues meanwhile can solidify their grasp of second place - currently eight points behind the Crusaders, but only two clear of the third placed Chiefs.
Tom Robinson will again captain the side, with regular skipper Patrick Tuipulotu still out with a neck injury.
Highlanders $2.60, Blues $1.44
Highlanders: 1-Ayden Johnstone, 2-Ash Dixon (cc), 3-Siate Tokolahi, 4-Bryn Evans, 5-Josh Dickson, 6-Shannon Frizell, 7-Billy Harmon, 8-Kazuki Himeno, 9-Aaron Smith (cc), 10-Mitch Hunt, 11-Jona Nareki, 12-Scott Gregory, 13-Patelsio Tomkinson, 14-Ngataungane Punivai, 15-Josh Ioane
Reserves: 16-Liam Coltman, 17-Ethan De Groot, 18-Josh Hohneck, 19-Manaaki Selby-Rickit, 20-Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, 21-Kayne Hammington, 22-Michael Collins, 23-James Lentjes
Blues: 1-Karl Tu'inukuafe, 2-Lutero Tolai, 3-Ofa Tuungafasi, 4-Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 5-Sam Drury, 6-Tom Robinson. 7-Dalton Papalii, 8-Hoskins Sotutu, 9-Jonathan Ruru, 10-Otere Black, 11-Caleb Clarke, 12-TJ Faiane, 13-Rieko Ioane, 14-Mark Telea, 15-Stephen Perofeta
Reserves: 16-Leni Apisai, 17-Alex Hodgman, 18-Nepo Laulala, 19-Josh Goodhue, 20-Akira Ioane, 21-Finlay Christie, 22-Harry Plummer, 23-Bryce Heem
Super Rugby Aotearoa: Injury toll 'unsustainable', warns NZ Rugby head of professional rugby Chris Lendrum
NZ Rugby has warned that the intensity of the domestic Super Rugby Aotearoa competition is not sustainable, after All Blacks midfielder Jack Goodhue suffered a season-ending knee injury.
The last two weeks of the bruising, five-team competition has taken a heavy toll, with the Crusaders' Goodhue joining All Blacks captain Sam Cane and loose forward Ardie Savea also sidelined, and prop Joe Moody under an injury cloud.
"We don't want to read too much into two weeks, but we know playing that standard and intensity of rugby year on year is not really sustainable for our players," NZR professional rugby and performance boss Chris Lendrum has told local radio station Gold AM.
"As a competition, as fans we love it, right? But we're looking forward to a more balanced programme for those players next year, where we have Australian teams in the mix and hopefully these Pasifika teams in the mix, so you're not watching All Blacks trials every weekend."
The five-team tournament was launched last year to fill the void, after the Super Rugby season, which featured Australian, South African and Argentinian teams, was abandoned during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Australia and South Africa also set up domestic competitions with their Super Rugby sides. New Zealand hopes to start a new competition in 2022, with Australian teams and two sides comprising Pacific islands players.
Goodhue, who was starting centre in five tests last year, ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the tight win over the Hurricanes at the weekend.
Moody is sidelined indefinitely, after scans confirmed a "significant injury" to the soft tissue at the base of his big toe. He will see a specialist in two weeks.
Chiefs co-captain Cane, who had surgery on a torn pectoral muscle this week, will miss at least the July tests against Italy and Fiji, while Hurricanes skipper Savea is out for up to eight weeks with a torn knee ligament.
All Blacks halfback Aaron Smith has questioned whether organisers have provided enough rest weeks for players to recuperate. The teams are given two bye weeks in the 10-round competition and play no more than four games in succession.
"Last year, we had a lot of chat around player welfare, making sure the byes were set up well, and I feel like this year they've just sort of flunked it and said, 'Oh well, go out there and do it'," Smith says.