WELLINGTON – The Auckland Blues snapped a three-year losing streak against New Zealand teams as they beat the Otago Highlanders 33-26 on Friday in an emotional Super Rugby encounter a week after the Christchurch attacks.
Both teams linked arms in a minute's silence and the Auckland stadium announcer's voice cracked as they marked last Friday's shootings at two mosques which left 50 people dead.
But the evening ended in celebration for the Blues, who had gone 20 games without a win against New Zealand opposition since they beat the Highlanders 33-31 in February 2016.
“It's awesome, it's good for our confidence,” said flanker Blake Gibson. “Obviously we haven't beaten a New Zealand team in a while and it's good to get that monkey off our back.”
Blues winger Rieko Ioane stepped round fellow All Black Waisake Naholo for a dazzling opening try before Luke Whitelock hit back for the Highlanders when he barrelled over from a scrum.
Fullback Melani Nanai's break ensured a narrow 15-13 advantage for the home side at half-time when he set up Ioane for a second eye-catching score.
After the break, Highlanders wing Tevita Li snaffled a loose kick and raced down the left to briefly put the visitors ahead, before Nanai struck for the Blues to level the scores at 23-23.
But with six minutes to go, Patrick Tuipulotu barged through three defenders for the Blues' fourth try, and Otere Black kicked a penalty as it finished 33-26.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)