Blues 31-29 Highlanders, Super Rugby
Blues end pre-season on winning note
February 15, 2013
The Highlanders' Aaron Smith passes during a Super Rugby trial against the Blues, Queenstown Recreation Ground, Queenstown, New Zealand, February 15, 2013
The Highlanders' Aaron Smith gets the ball away in the trial against the Blues. © Getty Images
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A hat-trick of tries to Highlanders winger Hosea Gear wasn't enough to stop the Blues winning their final Super Rugby pre-season match 31-29 in Queenstown.

The Highlanders scored five tries to four but the superior goalkicking of All Blacks halfback Piri Weepu, playing his first game for the Blues this season, proved the difference in a free-flowing encounter on Friday.

Trailing 28-19 at halftime, the Highlanders went 29-28 ahead before first five-eighth Baden Kerr knocked over a game-winning penalty in the closing minutes.

The Blues forwards dominated the lineouts and battle at the breakdown, particularly in the first half when they scored their tries through lock Culum Retallick, winger George Moala, prop Tom McCartney and halfback Weepu - all of which were converted by the halfback.

Lock Jarrad Hoeata and flanker Joe Wheeler were the Highlanders' other tryscorers while stand-in captain Gear looked sharp in taking his pre-season tally to five tries from three games.

The Highlanders' trial matches saw them lose heavily to the Chiefs before bouncing back with a defeat of the Crusaders last week.

The Blues won two of their three games, following a loss away to the Queensland Reds with victory last week over the Waratahs.

New Zealand's Super Rugby involvement begins on Friday when the Highlanders host the Chiefs in Dunedin. The Blues are away to the Hurricanes on Saturday while the Crusaders face a bye.

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