Highlanders win Gordon Hunter Trophy
June 1, 2013
Hosea Gear impressed with a try-scoring performance
© Getty Images
The Highlanders turned the form book upside down with a classic performance of attacking rugby to win the Gordon Hunter Memorial Trophy at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday. They dominated the Blues for the opening 60 minutes, finally producing a performance befitting of their squad, and they held off the resurgent visitors in the final quarter to claim only their second victory of the Super Rugby season and deal a hammer blow to the Auckland side's hopes of making the play-offs.
The Highlanders devastated the Blues in all aspects for the opening three-quarters of the game, and the only surprise was that they failed to score more than the bonus-point four tries dotted down in the first half by New Zealand Test backs Ben Smith (two), Tamati Ellison and Hosea Gear.
Waisake Naholo scored a try for the Blues in the shadows of half-time, but any hope the visitors held of mounting an unlikely recovery mission died before it took root in the opening five minutes of the second half, when Colin Slade kicked two penalties and twice a Blues kick-off failed to go 10 metres.
The Blues did enjoy the best of the second half, however, scoring three tries to ensure they returned to Auckland with at least a bonus point. Rene Ranger scored a sublime try from a midfield bust in a set move from a lineout on halfway, and the Blues made inroads on the flanks though Frank Halai, Charles Piutau and Noholo, particularly with kicks behind Trent Renata on the Highlanders' right wing.
Steven Luatua also rumbled over and Luke Braid scored after the siren, but the visitors' efforts were too little too late and Keven Mealamu will not remember so fondly becoming only the second player, after Nathan Sharpe, to make his 150th Super Rugby appearance.
Piri Weepu copped an accidental knee to the head in the first half, and lay prone on the ground before he was taken off the pitch on a stretcher with his neck in a brace, but he was reported after the match to have suffered only concussion.
The Highlanders upset New Zealand rivals the Blues in Dunedin (video available in Australia only)
© ESPN Australia / New Zealand
The rolling maul is becoming an increasingly potent attacking weapon. Conor O'Shea looks at the difficulties of stopping it
The news of James Horwill, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Dan Carter's respective transfers will open the floodgates, writes Tom Hamilton
Kiwi coaches can be found far and wide across the globe, and Murray Mexted believes the All Blacks benefit every bit as much as their rivals
Clermont, Toulon, player burnout, Sam Burgess and a farewell to Adams Park - Monday Maul looks back at the weekend's action