Cape Town - An acrobatic Shannon Frizell sparked a Highlanders
revival to snap a five-match losing streak with a 24-12 victory over the Blues in their Super Rugby clash in Dunedin on Saturday.
It was all the Blues for most of the first half when they
led 5-0 before Frizell put the Highlanders on the board by diving over a ruck
to score after a series of forward drives had proved fruitless.
From there the Highlanders took control and outplayed the
Blues three tries to two, to lift themselves off the bottom of the New Zealand
The Blues remain in third place, behind the Canterbury
Crusaders and Wellington Hurricanes, but have not won an away match in New
Zealand since round two of the 2013 season.
Highlanders' skipper Ben Smith described the win as
"Our defence did a good job because they’ve got
x-factor right across their team and we managed to work hard for each other and
shut that down."
Pre-match interest in the match had focused on rival
fly-halves Josh Ioane and Otere Black now Damian McKenzie is out of World Cup
But neither provided any obvious answers for the All Blacks
selectors, although Ioane had a 100 percent kicking record with three out of
The one person who did shine in the opening stanza was
veteran Blues centre Ma'a Nonu who blasted his way through the Highlanders'
defence to put Tom Robinson over for the opening try in the 22nd minute.
By that stage the Highlanders had been forced to make 67
tackles compared to 19 for the Blues.
But fortunes were reversed in the run up to half-time
when momentum shifted to the Highlanders.
After being denied one try, when Blues wing Caleb Clarke won
a three-way dive for the ball, they were eventually rewarded with Frizell's
dive over a ruck to score.
Ioane's conversion put the Highlanders two points ahead and
with signs their confidence was growing.
Their domination continued at the start of the second half
and their scrum, which had struggled early on, was able to bully the Blues
all-All Black front row to earn a penalty try.
Matt Faddes extended the lead to 21-5 with a runaway try
from an intercept on half-way and Ioane extended the advantage with a penalty.
With time on the clock, the Blues had their best moment of
the second half when Melani Nanai latched on to a cross kick to score.
Highlanders 24 (7)
Tries: Shannon Frizell, Penalty Try, Matt Faddes
Conversions: Josh Ioane (2)
Penalty: Josh Ioane
Blues 12 (5)
Tries: Tom Robinson, Melani Nanai
Conversion: Harry Plummer
15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Sio Tomkinson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Elliot Dixon, 7 James Lentjes, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Substitutes: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Ayden Johnstone, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Josh Dickson, 20 Luke Whitelock (co-captain), 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 Thomas Umaga-Jensen
15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Otere Black, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Dalton Papalii, 6 Tom Robinson, 5 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (captain), 3 Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons, 1 Karl Tu’inukuafe
Substitutes: 16 Leni Apisa, 17 Alex Hodgman, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Josh Goodhue, 20 Jed Brown, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Harry Plummer, 23 Matt Duffie