The Blues have made a huge statement in their opening game of Super Rugby Pacific 2023, defeating the Highlanders 60 - 20 under the roof in Dunedin.

The powerful running of winger Mark Telea was a high point in a fast-paced match at Forsyth Barr Stadium. 

But head coach Leon MacDonald, who recently was linked to the Scotland national team, will be concerned with the Blues' discipline.

They played the last 10 minutes of the first half and the first 10 minutes of the second half with 14 men after yellow cards and conceded too many penalties, especially near their line.

The Blues lost last year's Super Rugby Pacific final to the Crusaders 21-7.

"I don't want to bring up last year but we're probably playing with a bit of fire in the belly from the disappointment last year," Blues captain Dalton Papali'i said.

The Blues started strongly with tries to Telea, Beauden Barrett, Caleb Clark and Rieko Ioane to lead 31-6 after 28 minutes. 

The Highlanders had a small resurgence before halftime and cut the lead to 31-20 at the break.

A try to Marcel Renata kick-started the Blues second-half scoring and with second tries to Ioane and Telea and another to Papali'i they walked away with the match.

Highlanders 20 (Mitch Hunt, Josh Timu tries, Sam Gilbert 2 con, 2 pen) Blues 60 (Dalton Papali'i, Caleb Clarke, Rieko Ioane 2, Mark Telea 2, Marcel Renata tries, Beauden Barrett try, 7 con, 2 pen). HT: 20-31

Referee: Paul Williams

Assistant Referees: Dan Waenga, Michael Winter

1. Ethan de Groot 2. Rhys Marshall 3. Jermaine Ainsley 4. Paripari Parkinson 5. Josh Dickson 6. Shannon Frizell 7. Billy Harmon © 8. Marino Mikaele Tu’u 9. Folau Fakatava 10. Mitch Hunt 11. Jona Nareki 12. Thomas Umaga-Jensen 13. Josh Timu 14. Jonah Lowe15. Sam Gilbert
Reserves: 16. Andrew Makalio 17. Daniel Lienert-Brown 18. Saula Mau 19. Will Tucker 20. Sean Withy 21. Kemara – Hauiti Parapara 22. Freddie Burns 23. Connor Garden-Bachop,

1: Ofa Tuungafasi 2: Kurt Eklund 3: Nepo Laulala 4: Patrick Tuipulotu 5: Cameron Suafoa 6: Akira Ioane 7: Dalton Papalii 8: Hoskins Sotutu 9: Finlay Christie 10: Beauden Barrett 11: Caleb Clarke 12: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 13: Rieko Ioane 14: Mark Telea 15: Stephen Perofeta

Reserves: 16: Ricky Riccitelli 17: Joshua Fusitu’a 18: Marcel Renata 19: James Tucker 20: Adrian Choat 21: Taufa Funaki 22: Bryce Heem 23: AJ Lam