The Blues have continued their unbeaten start to 2024 and stretched the Highlanders' misery against their Kiwi rivals with a 37-29 victory to open Super Round in Melbourne.

With all 12 Super Rugby Pacific teams converging on AAMI Park over three days, the Aucklanders were first to emerge as victors, with hard-running No.8 Hoskins Sotutu scoring a hat-trick on Friday.

While both teams were round-one winners, the Highlanders haven't beaten another New Zealand team since 2021, losing their past 17 games.

The Blues delivered a crushing blow right on halftime when Stephen Perofeta shocked the opposition by deciding to run the ball from the in-goal rather than boot it dead for referee Angus Gardner to call time.

The five-eighth made it to halfway before offloading to winger Mark Telea, with the Highlanders' scrambling defence eventually incurring a penalty, and rookie fullback Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens given a yellow card.

With the Blues forwards laying the platform, Telea dived over the defence, with his team taking a 22-15 lead to the sheds rather than the game being all square at 15-15.

A telling statistic was the tackle count in the first half, with the Highlanders crushing the Blues 146-40.

While they didn't get a lot of payoff for their dominance in possession, All Blacks back-rower Sotutu made an early statement three minutes into the second half with his second try, coming off a pick-and-go.

After a 53rd-minute penalty by Perofeta the score was out to 32-15, but to the Highlanders' credit they kept coming.

Busy halfback Folau Fakatava, who was among the Highlanders' best, was replaced as coach Clarke Dermody emptied his bench.

They were rewarded with a try by winger Timoci Tavatavanawai.

However, their hopes were snuffed out when Sotutu barrelled across the tryline for his third of the night.

The Highlanders at least finished the match on a high, scoring after fulltime through debutant Ajay Faleafaga off a Rhys Patchell grubber to take some confidence into their round-three clash with the NSW Waratahs.