The first action in Round 10 of Super Rugby sees the Blues host the Highlanders in Auckland, a second meeting between the sides this season after the Highlanders came out on top in a thrilling contest in Round 2.
Blues v Highlanders, Friday 20th April, Auckland, KO 09:35 (South African time)
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen
Assistant Refs: Angus Mabey, Mike Lash
TMO : Ben Skeen
The Blues came away from Tokyo with a 24-10 victory at the Sunwolves last week. They picked up a bonus point with a 4-1 try count but they remain bottom of the New Zealand Conference with 2 wins and 5 defeats and they are 7 points adrift of the Highlanders who also have a game in hand.
This will be the third home game of the season for the Blues who lost at Eden Park to the Chiefs (27-21) in Round 3 and the Sharks (63-40) in Round 7. They are now 14 NZ derby matches without a win (13 defeats, 1 draw), a sequence which stretches back to Round 1 of the 2016 campaign when they edged out the Highlanders 33-31 at this venue.
The first meeting between the teams this season saw the lead change hands a number of times with the Blues 24-17 in front at the break. Having a man sin binned on 54 minutes proved crucial as the Highlanders came back to take control of the scoreboard and hold on at the death.
The Highlanders came off a bye to see off the Brumbies and beat the handicap with a 43-17 win in Dunedin last week. They now have a record of 4 wins and 2 defeats and all of their victories came on home soil including the first meeting with the Blues and a 25-17 win over the Crusaders in Round 5. Their 2 away fixtures this season were also NZ derby matches and both ended in defeat, 29-12 at the Hurricanes in Round 6 and 27-22 away to the Chiefs a week later.
The Highlanders are fourth of 5 in the NZ Conference but they have played 1 game fewer than all the other local sides and they are only 8 points adrift of conference leaders the Hurricanes.
Blues: 15 Stephen Perofeta, 14 Jordan Hyland, 13 Orbyn Leger, 12 TJ Faiane, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Bryn Gatland, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Kara Pryor, 6 Dalton Papali'i, 5 Jimmy Tupou, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu, 3 Ofa Tu'ungafasi/Mike Tamoaieta, 2 James Parsons (captain), 1 Pauliasi Manu
Substitutes: 16 Matt Moulds/Leni Apisai, 17 Ross Wright, 18 Mike Tamoaieta/Sione Mafileo, 19 Ben Neenee, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Tumua Manu, 23 Matt Duffie
Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (co-captain), 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Tei Walden, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Lima Sopoaga, 9 Kayne Hammington, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Shannon Frizell, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Jackson Hemopo, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Ash Dixon (co-captain), 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Substitutes: 16 Liam Coltman, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Alex Ainley, 20 Elliot Dixon, 21 Aaron Smith, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Matt Faddes
Recent Head to Head (any venue)
2018 Dunedin Highlanders 41-34 Blues (Tries 5-4)
2017 Dunedin Highlanders 26-20 Blues (Tries 2-2)
2017 Auckland Blues 12-16 Highlanders (Tries 0-1)
2016 Auckland Blues 33-31 Highlanders (Tries 3-4)
2015 Auckland Blues 7-44 Highlanders (Tries 1-7)
2015 Dunedin Highlanders 30-24 Blues (Tries 3-4)
2014 Auckland Blues 30-12 Highlanders (Tries 3-0)
2014 Dunedin Highlanders 29-21 Blues (Tries 4-3)
Blues +7.5 points 9/10 WSB
Highlanders -6.5 points 9/10 BetXchange
Note, odds quoted are correct at the time of last update but are subject to change.
The last 4 meetings between these sides, 2 in Dunedin and 2 in Auckland, have been settled by no more than 7 points so on the face of it the plus comes into the equation. However, the Blues have a lengthy injury list stretching their resources and to me this looks like a good opportunity for the Landers to prove they can turn it on away from home.
Bet. 5 units (1-10 scale) Highlanders -6.5 points 9/10 BetXchange
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