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Blues player ratings vs Brumbies | Super Rugby Trans-Tasman

By Tom Raine

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The Blues once again illustrated their credentials as title contenders in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman 2021, overcoming a tough challenge from the Brumbies in the first half to seal victory with an assured and controlled second half performance taking the game out of reach.

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The clash at Eden Park was a mostly tight encounter as neither side were able to gain ascendency early on, the Brumbies in fact looking the more assured of the two sides, spending prolonged periods of time in the Blues’ half. The Blues had not beaten the Canberra franchise since 2017 and were made aware early on of the quality their Australian opposition possessed at set piece.

In a first half dominated by jostling for possession and territory, it was eventually the Blues through Kurt Eklund who bagged the first points of the night with a quarter of an hour gone. The Brumbies not to be deterred however, hit back taking the lead through a Noah Lolesio penalty and building pressure through phases to notch a score at lineout time for hooker Connal McInerney. It was only a splash of individual brilliance from first Rieko Ioane and then Finlay Christie that saw the Blues take a 17-10 lead into halftime.

Ringing the changes and emptying a bench of four All Blacks ultimately paid dividends however as the Blues showed their strength in depth and astute game management in the second half to close out the game with three more scores and bag a 38-10 win.

The Blues’ ratings on the night:

1. Karl Tu’inukuafe – 7.5/10
Asserted himself in a big way at scrum time in a fascinating duel with Super Rugby centurion Allan Alaalatoa. Made the most of the Blues pack’s considerable weight advantage and gained three scrum penalties in the process, however will perhaps be frustrated with a missed opportunity to gain the killer penalty try with the Brumbies under the pump on their 5m line. Off at 61.

2. Kurt Eklund – 6.5
Initially played it short at lineout time perhaps showing a wariness of the dangerous Brumbies lineout (the best in the competition after all). The Blues lost two of his throws but the 29-year-old managed to nab his second try of Super Rugby Trans-Tasman off the back of a quick hit-and-run maul. Was a versatile and effective presence at the breakdown, working well with Papalii as the two led the defensive effort. Off at 67.

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3. Marcel Renata – 6
Good scanning in defence popping up to add his efforts to a busy Blues wall in the first half. Combined effectively with Tu’inukuafe to pile on the weight at scrum time however struggled more than his propping partner. Conceded a couple of scrum penalties that compounded the Brumbies pressure and faced a tough challenge in the form of Scott Sio. Threw a fantastic offload in the build up to Christie’s try. Off at 43.

4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti – 8
As always, showed his value to this Blues team, popping up to carry whenever asked to do so and a titanic presence in defence. Not flashy but always got the job done on the night working hard to keep the Brumbies lineout mauls at bay, only giving way after a heavy period of pressure from the lineout specialists of the comp. Formed an effective locking partnership with Tuipulotu to ensure a strong set piece for the Blues in the second half.

5. Josh Goodhue – 6.5
Busied himself from the off with attacking carries and proved himself an insurer’s worst nightmare in defence, clattering into anyone he could see wearing white. Made a good effort with his maul defence but lost the Blues ball twice at lineout time. Departed on 33 mins with an ankle injury.

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6. Tom Robinson (c) – 6
A relatively quiet game from Big Red as other members of his pack stood out instead. Covered ground that by some miracle wasn’t already covered by Papalii to make important tackles but was caught offside to give the Brumbies their first points. Managed to secure an important lineout steal in the second half and benefitted from Tuipulotu showing up as early as he did.

7. Dalton Papalii – 8
A consistent presence at seemingly every contact area notching a handful of important breakdown steals – the most for his team. Basically assisted Eklund’s try almost carrying his teammate over the line. Made the most tackles of his side in a game that was extremely attritional and defensively inclined in the first half.

8. Hoskins Sotutu – 6.5
Always made metres with ball in hand and often the first to grab the ball as it popped out of the ruck, either in attack or as the beneficiary of a teammates’ turnover, such a role highlighting his distribution and decision-making skills. Nearly lost the ball in the headlights early on from Lolesio’s chip with a couple of Brumbies around him.

9. Finlay Christie – 8.5
Another excellent performance from the 26-year-old Scottish-born Tasman Mako as he continued to make a strong case for that starting 9 jersey in Auckland. Provided good contestable box kicks and ensured a high tempo around the park whenever the Blues had ball in hand. Also put in some really solid defensive work with a try saver on Valetini a highlight. Produced a superb individual weaving effort to beat five defenders and dot down under the poles for the Blues second try. Made the most metres and beat the most defenders for the Blues.

10. Otere Black – 7.5
A classic Black performance in all honesty. Ever keen to test the defensive line he ghosted through early on and on the whole orchestrated the Blues attack around the park nicely, communicating well with Christie and sharing the exit duties with Sullivan. Built important phases for the Blues in the second half and put in a solid defensive performance to boot, making few errors. Perfect off the tee.

11. AJ Lam – 5.5
Was under pressure early on down the left and it perhaps showed with a shaky clearance. Wasn’t as actively in the game as Heem but was always keen when the ball found its way to him. Finished off a well worked score after the Blues built phases for his second SRTT try. Off after 61.

12. TJ Faiane – 7.5
Made a huge defensive contribution in the backline and carried very effectively in attack making sure to have an impact whenever he had the ball, never dying in contact. His role as a defensive spearhead allowed Rieko to drift onto the next attacker. Ran the crucial dummy line for Lam’s try and claimed a well deserved score of his own displaying good footwork and strength.

13. Rieko Ioane – 6.5
Fairly inconspicuous in the first half but a hard chase through on Heem’s  deft grubber in the second quarter got him back into the game. Linked up well defensively with Faiane and showed his attacking class with a cutting line off Black to hand the ball off to Christie for the halfback’s score.

14. Bryce Heem – 7.5
Continued to show his great form in SRTT with another energetic performance. Conceded an early unforced error in a game of kick tennis but went on to produce a big defensive effort. Great take to set his side back on the right path after the Brumbies score. Chased hard on kicks and was utilised consistently as a first receiver. Went joint top scorer in the comp running a fantastic line off Black for his fourth in SRTT.

15. Zarn Sullivan – 7.5
Narrowly missed a 50m penalty attempt in the first half but remains a really effective kicking option for the Blues possessing a cultured left boot. Excellent read to bite in on Banks in the Brumbies’ first attack. Showed a classy performance and continues to stamp his mark on the 15 shirt showing good physicality and a confident running game.

Reserves: 

16. Soane Vikena – 6.5
On at 67 mins. Hit his mark straight off the bat at lineout time and opitimised the Blues’ change in fortune at that set piece. A good performance from the 19-year-old.

17. Alex Hodgman – 6.5
On at 61 mins. Straight into the fray making big tackles and teamed up with Laulala to draw a scrum penalty when the Brumbies looked to build in the second half.

18. Nepo Laulala – 7.5
On at 42 mins to take on the tricky Sio. Showed exactly why he has 29 caps for the All Blacks bringing back assurance and late on, dominance, to the right-hand side of the scrum, although he did concede a few penalties of his own. Landed a couple of huge hits on Fainga’a, who must have said something a bit mean to him pre-game in the tunnel.

19. Patrick Tuipulotu – 7.5
On early and the Blues were better for it. The Blues team captain carrying well and bringing an assured and calming presence to his team. Assumed a vital role at lineout time, defusing the Brumbies’ most effective weapon and reducing any nerves the Blues pack might have had at kick off.

20. Akira Ioane – 7
On at 61. Made a huge impact in attack, making the second most metres and beating the second most defenders despite only featuring for 20 minutes. Part of the All Blacks quality contingent at lineout time. Threw a body over a ruck late in the game but was deemed to be fine.

21. Jonathan Ruru – n/a
On at 69 mins.

22. Harry Plummer – 6
On at 67 mins. Put up a garryowen with almost his first touch to build continued pressure on the Brumbies. Picked up from where Black left off, threatening the Brumbies defence and providing a great offload for Faiane’s try before securing the conversion.

23. Mark Telea – n/a 
On at 61 mins. Unable to make a real impact.

 

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Blues player ratings vs Brumbies | Super Rugby Trans-Tasman

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