Super Rugby Notebook, Apr 30: Smith hails Highlanders defensive display, Blues win thriller


Ben Smith felt Highlanders were rewarded for their persistence after the Super Rugby champions produced a display of defiance to beat Brumbies 23-10 at Rugby Park on Saturday.

Lima Sopoaga scored a try on the stroke of half-time and also added 13 points with the boot, while Smith crossed early in the second half before Josh Mann-Rea came up with Brumbies' solitary try in Invercargill

Brumbies saw plenty of the ball, but Highlanders were rock solid in defence as they ended a two-game losing run.

Highlanders co-captain Smith said: "We just stuck at it tonight, it didn't always go the way we wanted but the boys got the job done in the end,

"The Brumbies had a lot of momentum but couldn't turn it into points. We were lucky enough to keep them out."

Blues outscored Australian Group leaders Rebels by six tries to four to win a classic 36-30 at Eden Park, while Nick Frisby helped himself to a double as Reds saw off Cheetahs 30-17 for only their second win of the season.



Blues 36-30 Rebels

It all started so well for Rebels, with Reece Hodge scoring an early try following a stray pass from new Blues captain James Parsons. Parsons made amends with a try of his own and former skipper Jerome Kaino, Charlie Faumuina and Ihaia West also touched down before a Jordy Reid try ensured Blues trailed 24-18 at half-time.

Tries from Tevita Li and Lolagi Visinia gave the Blues a commanding 36-18 lead, with scores from Colby Fainga'a and Sefa Naivalu proving to be in vain for the Rebels.


Highlanders 23-10 Brumbies

Brumbies had the better of the first half, but were unable to breach a stubborn Hurricanes defence and Sopoaga took a fine pass from Aaron Smith to burst over for a try which he converted on the stroke of half-time.

Smith scored a second try early in the second half and, although Josh Mann-Rea responded by barging over following a driving maul, Sopoaga added another three penalties to thwart Brumbies.


Reds 30-17 Cheetahs

The two sides were level at 10-10 at half-time after Curtis Browning crossed just before the break following a powerful scrum after Uzair Cassiem had scored the opening try for Cheetahs.

Reds took a grip of the game at Suncorp Stadium courtesy of a Frisby double, with Jake McIntyre scoring 15 points with the boot, but they were under the pump after Liam Gill was yellow-carded and there was also concern when Samu Kerevi was replaced due to a wrist injury.



Brumbies had the better of the first half without reward and Highlanders struck a blow just before half-time when Sopoaga scored the opening try.

Parsons turned the game in the Blues' favour when he scored the first of three tries in the space of 10 minutes and the Auckland outfit never looked back.

Frisby's first try came after a sloppy start to the second half and Reds kicked on to claim a much-needed win.



Brumbies captain Lealiifano: "Probably the disappointing thing is that we had a lot of time with the ball and we needed to consolidate. They defended really well and we couldn't get over the line."

Blues skipper Parsons: "My heart's still racing. Obviously we didn't close it out as we would have liked. We will take confidence from this. We didn't finish well but there were some good things and we're excited for the trip to Africa."



Victory for Highlanders put them fourth in the Australasian Group, while Brumbies have work to do as they sit sixth. Rebels remain top of the Australian Conference, just two points better off than Brumbies. 

Blues are just one point behind Brumbies in the Australasian Group with a game in hand, while Reds are second bottom despite their win over Cheetahs.