Highlanders 41-34 Blues, Forsyth Barr Stadium
Rob Thompson and Teihorangi Walden scored doubles as Highlanders kick-started their Super Rugby 2018 campaign with a 41-34 win over Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday.
Lima Sopoaga started the proceedings for Highlanders with a ninth minute penalty but the Blues went on to claim the lead when Bryn Gatland kicked a converted try five minutes later.
The momentum once again swung towards the home side with Thompson scoring the first of the two tries four minutes later but his efforts were negated by Matt Duffie in the 23rd minute.
The scoreline became 15-14 in favour of Highlanders with Thompson diving past the line once again and Sopoaga kicking the extras. However, Akira Ioane with his 38th minute touchdown that had Gatland kicking a conversion and a penalty after that ensured the visitors ended the first half strong with a 15-24 margin.
The second half saw Siate Tokolahi and Akira exchanged tries but the Blues suffered a major setback when Antonio Kirikiri was yellow-carded in the 53rd minute and Highlanders made use of the numerical advantage with Walden scoring back to back tries in the 56th and 60th minutes and a double conversion from Sopoaga made it 38-31.
Even though Gatland with his 66th minute penalty reduced the gap to four points, replacement Fletcher Smith with his three-pointer two minutes later sealed a 41-34 win for Highlanders.