The New Zealand Super Rugby franchises are renown for being highly competitive between each other, with lopsided beatings usually reserved for the Australian sides.
The Blues threw that rhetoric out of the window last night with a 60-20 beating of the Highlanders at home in Dunedin, the franchise’s highest ever score over the men from the south.
It looked ugly from the beginning as the Blues built a 31-6 lead before two quick tries on the stroke of half-time gave the Highlanders hope down by 30-20 going into the sheds.
The Highlanders counter-punches came while the Blues were dealing with two yellow cards, but once returned to a full contingent there was no contest.
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The Blues put another 29 points on in the second half to leave the Highlanders with little to write home about outside of a few individual showings.
New Zealand Herald rugby writer Liam Napier wrote ‘the gulf in talent was brutally exposed’ in Dunedin as the Blues contingent of 13 starting All Blacks put the Highlanders to the sword.
Missing starting halfback Aaron Smith, the Highlanders starting line-up featured two All Black starters from last year, Ethan de Groot and Shannon Frizell, while capped No 9 Folau Fakatava had a rare start in Smith’s absence.
While on the opposite side, the Blues talent-laden side had just two uncapped players with the rest All Blacks.
“In a first half counter-attacking blitz and clinical finishing, the Blues underlined why they are among the favourites for this year’s title,” Napier wrote.
Hayden Miekle of the Otago Daily Times wrote the home side “showed the odd flicker of potential” but “slipped” to the historic loss.
“The Blues were brutally efficient when they got turnover ball and showed all their attacking threats,” he wrote.
“By contrast, the Highlanders struggled for cohesion often as their passing, in particular, was wayward.”