Super Rugby: Blues score comfortable 30-12 victory over Highlanders at Eden Park
By Ben Hampshire | @BH92. Last Updated: 29/03/14 3:55pm
The Blues reached the summit of the New Zealand conference on Saturday with a 30-12 victory over the Highlanders at Eden Park.
Sir John Kirwan's side built on their success over the Cheetahs last weekend to gain revenge for their 29-21 reserve to the Dunedin-based side last month.
George Moala and Charles Piutau scored inside the opening 10 minutes of each half and Ma'a Nonu also touched down as the Blues raced to a comfortable victory in Auckland.
Blues fly-half Simon Hickey struck 15 points from the kicking tee, while the Highlanders only riposte came via the boot of Lima Sopoaga, who scored all 12 of the visitors' points.
Winger Moala put the Blues ahead in the opening 10 minutes, before the hosts lost momentum and allowed the Highlanders to seize the advantage through three Sopoaga penalties.
Moments later, Kirwan's side regained the lead courtesy of Simon Hickey's boot and could have extended their lead even further when Bryn Hall - in for scrum-half Piri Weepu who was determined to have suffered a minor stroke earlier in the month - sliced through the Highlanders defence, only to be held up short of the line.
Persistence paid dividends for the Blues as the briskly recycled possession and Steven Luatua drove his All Black colleague Nonu over the line for the Aucklanders' second try of the night, with Hickey's conversion handing the hosts a 17-9 lead at the interval.
Hickey made no mistakes in bisected the uprights shortly after the restart, only for his strike to be cancelled out by a Sopoaga penalty minutes later.
With the Highlanders failing to clear their lines, Blues full-back Piutau made sure the visitors paid the ultimate price.
As the forwards drove towards the line, Piutau set himself on the right flank, before gathering possession and leaving All Black Ben Smith on his back as he crashed over the line to give the Blues a 13-point cushion.
Hickey slotted home the extras to keep his near-perfect record intact, with an embarrassing slip at the tee the lone blemish on his card.
The Blues fly-half added another three-pointer just before the hour, which allowed the hosts to play out the final 20 minutes with relative ease.
The Highlanders made a rare foray late on as Hayden Parker picked out Richard Buckman with a precision cross-field kick and the winger touched down with great skill, only for referee Steve Walsh to consult the television match official, who ruled out the try for an early knock on.
Chasing the game ended in disappointment for the Highlanders, while the Blues may also rue a scoreless final quarter, having dominated their opposition so well throughout.
Victory temporarily elevates the Blues to the top of the New Zealand conference but they could slip back into second later in the round when back-to-back champions the Chiefs face the Bulls in Pretoria.