Frizell sinks Blues with hat-trick for Highlanders
A HAT-TRICK of tries to Shannon Frizell, the younger brother of league sensation Tyson, helped the Highlanders smash the Blues 34-16 at Eden Park to keep pace with their New Zealand domestic rivals.
While his older brother has been a star for the Dragons in the NRL for half a decade, the junior Frizell has quickly made an impression in his debut Super Rugby season.
Frizell, 24, scored twice in the first half before completing his hat-trick midway through the second half to help the Highlanders pull away from their domestic rivals.
The 18-point win was the Highlanders' fourth straight over the Blues and lifted them to third on the NZ standings on 24 points.
In a year that started with such promise for the Blues after taking out the Brisbane Global 10s, things are very quickly going from bad to worse for Tana Umaga's men.
They are languishing on just 12 points after six losses from their opening eight matches.
"It was a bloody tough game," Highlanders captain Ash Dixon said.
"I think we were lucky there at times. We managed to hold the ball in certain areas of the field and come away with a couple of points.
"Full credit to the Blues, they came back hard and we had to fight pretty hard in that first half to get into some good positions."
After getting back on the winners' list last week against the Sunwolves in Tokyo, the Blues returned home looking to continue the positive momentum.
But immediately they were on the back foot as recalled playmaker Bryn Gatland had his kick charged down by flanker Dillon Hunt, who scored.
The Blues were down 12-0 after six minutes when Frizell scored from close range, despite gaining some illegal assistance from teammates who helped propel the ball to the line after the tackle.
Halfback Jonathan Ruru got the home side on the scoreboard minutes later and when Gatland added two penalties, the Blues trailed 12-11 midway through the first half.
But Frizell's second try sucked the oxygen out of the Blues' tank.
Kayne Hammington's early second-half try gave the Highlanders breathing space and when Frizell completed his hat-trick it looked like the Otago-based side would run up a cricket score over their rivals.
But the wounded Blues, missing a staggering 18 players because of injury, never stopped fighting and Tumua Manu's 70th-minute try gave them their only points of the second half.