Vodacom Super 14

Blues keep hopes alive

2009-04-17 11:24
Blues wing Josevata Rokocoko (Gallo Images)
Auckland - The Blues stayed in the hunt for a role in the Super 14 playoffs when they brought the Highlanders' resurgence to a shuddering halt with 26-6 win on Friday.

The bonus-point, four-try victory - two in each half - in the New Zealand derby temporarily lifted the Blues to second in the championship.

But such is the congestion in the top half of the ladder, where week 10 started with the top nine teams separated by only eight points, the end of their three-game winning streak may well have ended the Highlanders' hopes.

The Blues rattled the Highlanders from the start playing a high-paced running game, with kicking restricted to a last resort as they raced to a 14-3 lead inside the first 10 minutes.

Former Highlander loose forward Josh Blackie was the dominant figure on the paddock, dominating the breakdown for the Blues, while Jimmy Gopperth's direction of play from flyhalf kept the Highlanders' defence stretched.

For a period in the second half the Highlanders began to turn the tide when, down 6-21, their tight five started to dictate terms up front.

But their hopes of pulling off a come-from-behind victory fell apart when captain and halfback Jimmy Cowan was red-carded for leading with the shoulder in a late tackle on Gopperth and they played the last 20 minutes with 14 men.

The Blues signalled their intention to run the ball wide from the opening whistle and were immediately rewarded with a try to Isaia Toeava, which Gopperth converted.

It was the second week in a row the Highlanders have conceded a try in the first 30 seconds but, whereas they were able to bounce back and beat the Queensland Reds, there was to be no such comeback against the Blues.

A Mathew Berquist penalty reduced the deficit to 3-7 before a deft piece of individual play by Gopperth extended the Aucklanders' lead.

The Blues' pivot cut inside on receiving a ruck ball and dived over several forwards still sprawled on the ground for the try.

The first-half scoring was all over inside the first 10 minutes as the Blues held on to their 14-3 lead through to the break, unable to capitalise on the 10 minutes Highlanders hooker David Hall spent in the sin bin.

A second Berquist penalty just after the resumption was to be the end of the Highlanders' scoring.

Halfback Taniela Moa stretched the Blues' lead with a try converted by Gopperth in the 50th minute, and Joe Rokocoko added the bonus-point try with two minutes remaining.

In next weekend's action the Blues host the Reds while the Highlanders welcome the Stormers to Dunedin.


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