The Blues came agonisingly close to winning at Eden Park tonight, eventually losing 12-16 to a desperate Highlanders side looking for its first victory of the season.
They made the visitors earn it, forcing them to make 40 more tackles. The home side fought tooth-and-nail right up until the bitter end, hammering repeatedly at the Highlanders line until the death.
Though it was a gripping contest, the rugby was far from pretty. Both sides traded mistakes early, culminating with Highlanders centre Malakai Fekitoa dropping what looked like a certain try in the first five minutes of play.
Fortunately for him, he’d make up for it exactly ten minutes later, scoring the only try in the match.
Meanwhile, the Blues showed some glimpses of brilliance, but mistakes and a lack of possession kept hampering their efforts. They were unfortunate not to capitalise off a number of half-opportunities created by impressive centre George Moala punching holes in the opposition defence during the first half.
Though the visitors had the ascendancy going into the half-time break, their uncharacteristically poor kicking game in open play and the boot of Ihaia West – who kicked two penalties from two – kept the deficit to only four.
It was still anyone’s game late in the second half. Both sides traded penalties and fumbles, and cleared the benches, searching for something special to break the game open.
Moala looked to be that man, when in the 64th minute he ran half the length of the field off a Piers Francis offload, getting agonisingly close to the try line. That got the Eden Park faithful screaming.
And with five minutes to go and only four points in it, there was plenty to scream about. A break by Augustine Pulu sparked another attacking play that fell excruciatingly short.
The Blues will have to wait until round seven to have another crack at the Highlanders. For now, though, the team’s attention will turn to their match against the Crusaders on Friday 17 March.
Blues 12 (West 3 pen, Francis 1 pen)
Highlanders 16 (Fekitoa try; Sopoaga 1 con, 2 pen, Banks 1 pen)
Photo by Photosport NZ