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Blues - Tuipulotu try; Plummer 3 penalties & conversion
Highlanders - Gilbert 3 penalties
40th minute - Ioane runs off the back of the scrum and Renata lunges at the tryline, but Highlanders win a clearing penalty for second movement.
They must go the length of the field after the siren. Hunt finds touch outside the 22.
Renton wins the lineout and Nareki tries to bust through the forwards. Fakatava's pass puts Hunt under pressure, but the Highlanders regroup.
Blues win a penalty at the breakdown and Perofeta kicks for touch to end the game. Highlanders face a nervous weekend with their playoff hopes in the balance.
39th minute - Highlanders secure the kickoff, but a pass from Hunt goes behind the goal-line and RTS secures a scrum feed for the Blues.
38th minute - Big HIghlanders scrum wins advantage and O'Keeffe gives a double blast, warning Tuipulotu. Gilbert lines up the kick at goal...
PENALTY to Gilbert
That gets the Highlanders within a converted try, BLU 16-9
37th minute - Highlanders win the lineout and surge to the Blues 22. Fakatava dummies and sprints through a gap.
Blues knock on in their own 22, so Highlanders scrum.
36th minute - Rob Rush makes his Blues debut, replacing Papali'i. Sullivan finds touch near the Highlanders 10.
Blues win untidy lineout ball and rumble forward. Perofeta kicks high to Telea, but Ioane spills the ball forward.
Fakatava kicks downfield and Sullivan clears towards the Blues 10.
35th minute - Renata counter-rucks on the 22 and Segner dives on the ball. Penalty to the Blues.
Burns is down, after heavy impact with Sullivan.
34th minute - From the scrum, Fakatava goes right, but Hunt can't take Burns' pass. The ball goes backwards and Highlanders are back on the 22.
32nd minute - Marshall takes the tap five metres out and Highlanders forwards drive towards the line. The pad comes off the upright, so they have to stop play.
Scrum collapses, Highlanders have advantage, Mikaele-Tu'u almost crosses and the ball goes forward from Burns, so back for the penalty.
31st minute - Renton wins the lineout and the Highlanders try to maul to the tryline. Fakatava tries to dummy his way over like last week, but the BLues are aware to this.
Highlanders have the penalty for offside.
30th minute - Highlanders have scrum advantage on the Blues 22. Burns kicks to the corner.
29th minute - Highlanders win a lineout on halfway and Burns finds Nareki with a long pass. Nareki kicks ahead and Perofeta can't cover the threat.
Gilbert gathers the ball and slides over the tryline, but it's overturned for a double knockon.
28th minute - RTS throws a long pass to Akira Ioane, who tramples Burns. They shift right, where Telea threatens the defence, but Nareki is over the ruck for a penalty.
27th minute - Highlanders win the lineout and Fakatava kicks upfield, but the Blues have the ball on halfway.
26th minute - Perofeta looks for a way through the traffic on the 22, but Telea finds the space, brushing off Harmon on his way to the line. That equals Doug Howlett's franchise record for tries in a season.
Hold the phone. The try is being reviewed, with Plummer pulled into touch during the build-up... and it's ruled out.
25th minute - Aaron Smith leaves Eden Park probably for the last time, replaced by Fakatava.
Blues win the lineout and look for entry into the 22.
24th minute - Highlanders scrum is untidy and the Blues stream onto the ball inside the 22. Smith clears outside the 22.
23rd minute - Sullivan finds touch near halfway. Blues front row depart, along with Finlay Christie.
Tuipulotu wins the lineout and Perofeta finds Rieko Ioane bursting through a midfield gap, but Plummer spills the pass.
22nd minute - Blues try to break upfield, but the ball comes back to the Highlanders, who re-enter the 22, but the BLues win a clearing penalty.
21st minute - Sullivan kicks high to the right wing, Plummer tries to pop a ball inside to Telea, but it goes loose. Highlanders hack ahead and Burns is winning the race, but Reiko Ioane beats him to the ball.
20th minute - Burns kicks towards the Highlanders 10 and they win a free-kick at the lineout. Burns kicks high and Perofeta is underneath.
19th minute - Highlanders have to rearrange their pack for this scrum, with Ma'u replacing Ainsley in the front row and centre Whaanga sent to the sideline.
Highlanders scrum responds by buckling the Blues and winning a clearing penalty.
18th minute - They've gradually hedged across the field and this scrum sets up near the left corner. The Blues have another penalty and the Highlanders are down a man.
YELLOW CARD to Ainsley
17th minute - Blues scrum holds and they win a penalty, when flanker Withy drives into the front row. Blues will take yet another scrum...
16th minute - Another scrum in the Highlanders 22, but a defensive feed this time.
15th minute - Blues win another penalty advantage at the scrum and O'Keeffe gives a double blast. He warns Harmon about tighhead prop Ainsley angling in.
Lam replaces Clarke, who was having his ankle strapped.
Highlanders disrupt the Blues scrum, but the ball comes to Lam, who has it knocked from his grasp with the tryline in sight.
13th minute - The game is moving in slow motion, with all these scrums, but the Blues have another just a few metres from the tryline.
They have another penalty advantage and Christie's kick is picked off by Harmon, so back for the penalty... and another scrum.
11th minute - Withy replaces Hicks, which will see Renton into the Highlanders second row.
From the scrum, Christie goes left and Perofeta's pass is almost picked off. Clarke has the ball, but it's knocked on by Highlanders.
10th minute - Blues opt for an attacking scrum to the right of the posts, but they'll need to repack.
Eighth minute - Blues have a five-metre scrum, with Telea lurking on the blindside to the left. They have penalty advantage and Christie releases right, where Telea doubles around, but can't take the pass.
Seventh minute - Blues build 13 phases and have a knockon advantage, when the movement dies under the posts.
Sixth minute - Segner rumbles to halfway and when the ball shifts right, Rieko Ioane breaks into the 22. Christie tries to put Telea over from close range.
Fifth minute - Christie feeds the midfield scrum and Blues have a penalty advantage...
Fourth minute - The scrum takes an eternity to pack down and eventually Highlanders win a clearing penalty. Burns clears to halfway.
Hicks wins the lineout and Nareki breaks into Blues territory, but Smith knocks on.
First minute - Highlanders spill the kickoff and the Blues go straight onto the attack, but under pressure from Nareki, Sullivan's touch pass to Telea goes forward.
40th minute - PENALTY to Plummer
The siren sounds for halftime, BLU 16-6
39th minute - Burns clears only as far as the Highlanders 22. Parkinson wins the throw and Smith clears towards halfway.
Tucker wins the ball and Blues have penalty advantage at the lineout. Papali'i points to the posts...
37th minute - Blues win the lineout, but Highlanders defend the maul and Burns wins a clearing penalty from near his goal-line.
36th minute - From the scrum, Smith kicks, but Telea breaks upfield. Sullivan kicks towards Clarke's wing, but the ball goes loose.
Highlanders are offside and Perofeta kicks to the corner.
34th minute - Highlanders win the lineout near their 10 and Smith runs. Burns fakes a kick and finds Renton, but Segner bursts from the breakdown and Blues enter the 22, before losing the ball.
33rd minute - Tucker lunges towards the tryline, but Hicks wins a clearing penalty for Highlanders.
32nd minute - Sullivan kicks to the Highlanders goal-line and Burns' clearance only reaches the 22.
Robinson and Riccitelli work a short lineout option, and the BLues forward take the ball into midfield.
31st minute - Burns kicks off and Tuipulotu stretches for the ball in the air. Christie kicks high and Blues secure the bounce.
29th minute - TRY to Tuipulotu
After about a dozen phases, the Blues forwards drive to the tryline. Robinson runs a dummy line that distracts the defenders, allowing his lock to plunge over.
28th minute - Blues trying to break out of their half and eventually Telea enters Highlanders half. Plummer throws a long pass to Segner, who finds Telea inside him.
27th minute - Hicks steals the Blues throw and the ball is kicked upfield. Telea has to tidy up and Ioane tries to make a break down the left.
26th minute - Blues secure the kickoff and de Groot is penalised at the ruck. Sullivan finds touch near the Highlanders 22.
24th minute - Perofeta kicks to the corner for an attacking lineout. Segner wins the throw, but the maul is held up.
Christie releases to the backs and Highlanders are penalised in midfield. Plummer will take the kick...
PENALTY to Plummer
22nd minute - Tuipulotu wins a lineout on the Highlanders 10 and the Blues forwards carry forward. When they shift right, Sullivan makes a break, Tu'ungafasi spots a gap and offloads to his hooker to score.
As Plummer lines up the conversion, the try is reviewed for a knockon in the build-up and that's confirmed. Blues have a penalty instead.
21st minute - Long dropout from Sullivan and Hunt punts high. Perofeta is taken in a head-high tackle from Renton.
19th minute - Highlanders win the lineout and a penalty advantage. De Groot drops the ball, so Highlanders have the penalty and Gilbert tees up another shot at goal.
18th minute - Highlanders win their scrum in midfield and Burns runs right, kicking to the 22. Perofeta clears towards halfway.
16th minute - Big scrum from the Blues, but the Highlanders clear and kick to the BLues 22. Telea breaks upfield and finds Segner, but Perofeta can't take the offload.
15th minute - Tucker has passed his head check and returns for this scrum.
14th minute - Highlanders win another lineouot and Burns kicks for position, but out on the full. Blues will have the lineout feed in Highlanders half.
Tuipulotu wins the ball and Blues maul forward. Parkinson emerges through the maul to disrupt servies to Christie, who knocks on, trying to free the ball.
13th minute - Riccitelli finds Segner with a long throw to a quick lineout and Christie clears towards halfway.
12th minute - Highlanders win the lineout and Smith pops a kick over the top. Blues exit their 22 and Sullivan kicks high... Burns kicks to the corner.
11th minute - Highlanders win the lineout near halfway, Burns kicks to the tryline, but Sullivan clears to the 10.
10th minute - Hicks claims the kickoff and Blues have gone high on Frizell, conceding a clearing penalty.
Eighth minute - Tuipulotu secures the kickoff, but Renton is over the ruck and wins a penalty. Gilbert tees it up from in front, near the 22.
PENALTY to Gilbert
Seventh minute - Blues have penalty advantage and the ball spills out of Sullivan's hands, so they come back for the penalty. Plummer will kick for goal from in front.
PENALTY to Plummer
Fifth minute - Ioane wins the lineout and the Blues maul towards the tryline. BLues build phases towards the posts, but the ball goes loose over the line - Blues five-metre scrum.
Fourth minute - Perofeta makes a break, but his offload is spilt, so they come back for the penalty and Sullivan kicks to the corner.
Third minute - Sullivan kicks off for the BLues, but Highlander kick it back. BLues have penalty advantage inside Highlanders half.
Two minutes - Perofeta eventually finds touch towards halfway. TMO is reviewing possible foul play, as Tucker leaves for head check.
Replays show Tucker was guilty of high tackle, but only a penalty. Akira Ioane has replaced Tucker, with Robinson moving to lock.
PENALTY to Gilbert
First minute - Burns kicks off for the Highlanders, Tuipulotu takes the ball, but it's stolen by the Highlanders. Big carry from Ainsley, Tucker goes down for the Blues, who steal the ball back.
7:02pm - Heavy rain has fallen on Auckland this afternoon, but abated for kickoff. Ben O'Keeffe will be the referee tonight.
Kia ora, good evening and welcome to Newshub's live coverage of the Super Rugby Pacific clash between the Blues and Highlanders at Auckland's Eden Park.
The southerners enter this contest in eight spot on the competition table, holding onto the final playoffs spot with their fingernails and three teams queuing up behind them. If they falter, chances are they'll miss out.
With a home quarter-final well within their grasp, the home side probably don't need this win as badly as their opponents, but they haven't pulled too many punches with their playing line-up, bringing captain Dalton Papali'i back a week early from suspension and resting only Beauden Barrett, with stitches in his foot.
A big bonus-point win may still be enough to boost the Aucklanders into a home semi.
This may well be the final Highlanders appearance for veteran halfback Aaron Smith, who bade farewell to Forsyth Barr Stadium last week and will leave for Japan after the Rugby World Cup later this year.
Join us at 7pm for kickoff.
TAB Odds: Blues $1.16, Highlanders $5, Draw $26
Blues: 1-Ofa Tuungafasi, 2-Ricky Riccitelli, 3-Nepo Laulala, 4-Patrick Tuipulotu, 5-James Tucker, 6-Tom Robinson, 7-Anton Segner, 8-Dalton Papalii, 9-Finlay Christie, 10-Stephen Perofeta, 11-Caleb Clarke, 12-Harry Plummer, 13-Rieko Ioane, 14-Mark Telea, 15-Zarn Sullivan
Reserves: 16-Kurt Eklund, 17-Jordan Lay, 18-Marcel Renata, 19-Rob Rush, 20-Akira Ioane, 21-Sam Nock, 22-Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, 23-AJ Lam
Highlanders: 1-Ethan de Groot, 2-Andrew Makalio, 3-Jermaine Ainsley, 4-Pari Pari Parkinson, 5-Max Hicks, 6-Shannon Frizell, 7-Billy Harmon (c), 8-Hugh Renton, 9-Aaron Smith, 10-Freddie Burns, 11-Jona Nareki, 12-Sam Gilbert, 13-Matt Whaanga, 14-Scott Gregory, 15-Mitch Hunt
Reserves: 16-Rhys Marshall, 17-Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18-Saula Ma'u, 19-Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, 20-Sean Withy, 21-Folau Fakatava, 22-Connor Garden-Bachop, 23-Fetuli Paea
by Stephen Foote
Blues captain Dalton Papali'i admits to some unwelcome flashbacks of his secondary school days at Auckland's St Kentigern College, as he underwent the process to have his three-week suspension for a dangerous tackle reduced.
"I sucked at school, to be honest," Papalii laughed. "I didn't like it, but it is what it is."
Earlier this month, the All Blacks loose forward was slapped with a three-week ban for his high shot on Richie Mo'unga that earned him a red card in the Blues' defeat to the Crusaders at Christchurch.
After acing a World Rugby coaching intervention programme - rugby's equivalent of a defensive driving course - Palii has had a week cut off his sentence, allowing him to return to the field for the final match of the regular season against the Highlanders at Auckland's Eden Park on Friday.
"I know what I did wrong," Papalii said. "Shoulder to head - any day of the week, that's got to be yellow or going into a red.
"Reviewing the clip again - yes, I did deserve the red. I think going through the process makes you realise what damage you can do.
"I went through it, made some videos and sent it to World Rugby, and they accepted and said I have learnt my lesson. I've got to drop my body height .
"It's just one of those things... heat of the moment. I know Richie Mo'unga, he's a good mate of mine, so I flicked him a message after.
"It's all said and done now, so I'm happy to be back."
Papali'i's mea culpa involved working in tandem with assistant coach Craig McGrath to recreate the scenario that led to his red-card incident with Mo'unga, then demonstrating how he'd approach the situation differently, identifying the key areas for improvement in tackling technique to avoid similar incidents in the future.
In Papalii's case, that included lowering his height by adjusting his line of sight - and hence his target area - as well as shortening his strides in the lead-in to the tackle to afford him more control of his body.
"I just tried to set an example, especially for people in the future, because it's a contact sport and it's going to happen in games," he said. "You've got to know what you've done wrong and how you can get better from it.
"I read the play… I tried to beat [Mo'unga] to getting the pass off, but I went too fast. I should've shortened my feet up and given myself time to lower my body height, then I would've made a chop tackle."
Last season, the Blues went through the same process with prop Nepo Laulala, which also resulted in a sentence reduction.
In fact, World Rugby was reportedly so impressed with Papali'i's self-assessment, it plans to use it as a test case for future coaching interventions.
"Dalton owned it,"said McGrath. "It was a really useful exercise for us and it was a good exercise for Dalton too."
Typically a flanker, Papali'i will shift to the back of the scrum against the southerners on Friday, when a win would guarantee the Blues a quarter-final at Eden Park next weekend. He'll replace Hoskins Sotutu, who is unavailable on All Blacks rest.
"All the loosies basically play the same role in our system," he noted. "Not much changes, just the number on the back really, but I have been messaging [Sotutu], asking for some advice for the game."
The Blues will be without Beauden Barrett for a second straight week, due to a cut foot, suffered against the Reds a fortnight ago.
The awkward location of the cut on his Achilles means the stitches have been slower to heal than anticipated, although it is unlikely to threaten his chances of taking the field for the playoffs.
Barrett trained at full pace for a large chunk of Wednesday's training session.2023-06-02T01:34:32Z dg43tfdfdgfd