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Blues player ratings vs Brumbies | Super Rugby Pacific

By Tom Vinicombe
Caleb Clarke. (Photo by David Gray/Photosport)

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The Blues travelled to Canberra to take on the Brumbies on Saturday night in a top-of-the-table clash between the best side in New Zealand and the best side in Australia.

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What developed was an incredibly scrappy but fiercely competitive match with every breakdown a genuine contest.

The Brumbies looked to have sealed a win late in the game with a try to hooker Billy Pollard and a clutch conversion from Noah Lolesio, but with time already up on the clock, the Blues managed to sneak a 21-19 victory thanks to a Beauden Barrett drop kick.

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The Classic All Blacks preview their epic clash in Madrid.
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The Classic All Blacks preview their epic clash in Madrid.

How did the Blues rate in the victory?

1. Alex Hodgman – 6.5
Wasn’t as penetrative on offence as he has been throughout the rest of the season – as was a trend with the rest of the Blues forwards thanks to the Brumbies’ dogged defence. Strong at the set-piece – the All Blacks selectors will be taking note. Off in 61st minute.

2. Kurt Eklund – 6
Struggled a little bit to leave a mark in a hugely physical contest but used his quick-stepping in close to some success. Had a few issues at lineout time early in the match but eventually came right. Grabbed one steal at the breakdown and almost scored another well-taken try off a second-quarter lineout (although, for once, not from the back of a maul) but it was snuffed out due to a knock-on. Remained on the park for the full 80 minutes.

3. Ofa Tuungafasi – 7
Conceded a penalty at the first scrum but started to dominate opposite Scott Sio as the match wore on, which played a huge role in the Blues’ eventual victory. Clocked up some decent metres with the ball in hand. Off in 61st minute.

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4. James Tucker – 6.5
A tidy game from the former Brumby. Hit plenty of breakdowns, tackled with venom and carried strongly. Disrupted the Brumbies’ lineout when they were ready to launch an attack inside the 22 and nabbed four of his own.

5. Sam Darry – 4
Struggled to work his way into the match and was probably the least effective second-rower on the park tonight. Still doesn’t quite seem to know how to use his big frame – unlikely to feature in the coming weeks if the Blues have all hands back on deck. Off in 60th minute.

6. Anton Segner – 5.5
Regularly put his hand up to carry but was less industrious on defence, making just four tackles. The primary lineout option for the Blues but not always with success, conceding two deliveries to the opposition. Did nab a steal of his own to somewhat make up for it.

 

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7. Dalton Papalii – 6
A key lineout option when the Blues were inside the opposition 22 but otherwise a relatively quiet game from the captain. His late-game steal, however, was obviously crucial in nabbing the win. Finished the game with 12 tackles, the most of any Blues player. Ran a great support line off Mark Telea when the Blues winger made a break down the righthand side.

8. Hoskins Sotutu – 7
Despite clocking up the most metres of any player on the field, struggled a bit in contact with the Brumbies doing well to contain the All Blacks number 8 and more often than not seemed to wrestle him back behind the advantage line. Was never found wanting, however, with a game-high 19 carries, and drawing in plenty of defenders helped free up space for his teammates. Pinged once for some illegal work at the breakdown.

9. Finlay Christie – 6.5
Had a fascinating tit-for-tat battle with Wallaby Nic White and forged on for the full 80 minutes. Didn’t exactly get the ball on a dinner plate from his forwards but generally dealt well with the scrappy possession. As with most halfbacks, sometimes needs to focus more on playing and less on barking complaints to the referee.

10. Beauden Barrett – 7
Slowly built into the match and his running game started causing issues for the Brumbies defence in the second half. His long tactical kicking game wasn’t quite on the money but there were moments of class throughout from the No 10 – including the match-winning drop goal. Ran in for an easy try on halftime.

11. Caleb Clarke – 5
An excellent run early in the match saw Clarke get the best of three Brumbies defenders and set up the Blues’ first attacking opportunity but was held up from the ensuing lineout. He looked dangerous with every touch in the first quarter but soon faded out of the match after his opening showcase. Left the field with an injury in the 53rd minute.

12. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – 7
Looked sharp when given a bit of space and came close to grabbing his first Super Rugby Pacific try, beating two defenders on his way to the line but was ensnared by three further Brumbies as he crashed over the line and couldn’t get the ball to ground. Dropped the ball cold when the Blues were on attack and White raced away to almost score but Tuivasa-Sheck turned and chased the halfback down, bringing him to ground him in a dodgy tackle. Once again one of the Blues’ busiest on defence.

13. Bryce Heem – 5
A somewhat understated performance but still managed to work his way through 50 metres on attack and six tackles on defence.

14. Mark Telea – 8
Saw plenty of ball throughout the match, whether stationed on the left or right wing, often popping up at first receiver or even at halfback. Always a challenge to bring to the ground thanks to his dipping, ducking and diving, coupled with his impressive acceleration.

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15. Stephen Perofeta – 6.5
It was a mixed night from the fullback. Made a couple of uncharacteristic errors, knocking the ball on twice relatively free of any major pressure but looked slick in the final 20 minutes of the match and threatened the line. Popped ahead a great wee chip kick for Telea to set up a nice attacking break earlier in the match. A nice chase off a Barrett kick almost result in points for the Blues but Perofeta was (illegally) stripped in the tackle. One poor missed penalty attempt from basically in front could have cost the Blues.

Reserves:

16. Ricky Riccitelli – N/A
Unused.

17. Karl Tu’inukuafe
On in 61st minute. Grabbed a try with his first touch of the match.

18. Nepo Laulala
On in 61st minute.

19. Luke Romano
On in 60th minute.

20. Adrian Choat – N/A
Unused.

21. Sam Nock – N/A
Unused.

22. Tanielu Tele’a – N/A
On in 53rd minute. Managed just eight minutes as an injury replacement for Caleb Clarke before having to depart the field himself.

23. Zarn Sullivan – N/A
On in 61st minute. Didn’t see any action in the unfamiliar wing role.

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