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Blues player ratings vs Chiefs | Super Rugby Pacific Grand Final

By Finn Morton
Caleb Clarke of the Blues looks on during the Super Rugby Pacific Grand Final match between Blues and Chiefs at Eden Park, on June 22, 2024, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The Blues are the 2024 Super Rugby Pacific champions after beating the Chiefs 41-10 on a historic night at Eden Park. Just as the scoreline suggests, it was one-way traffic for most of the match as the hosts ran away with a dominant victory.

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All Blacks wing Caleb Clark impressed with a hat-trick, and outgoing backrower Akira Ioane also stood out in his final match for the Blues. Of course, captain Patrick Tuipulotu deserves a mention after an inspirational performance.

Here’s how the Blues rated.

  1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi – 6/10

It was a surprise to see Ofa Tu’ungafasi leave the field only a couple of minutes into the second half. Tu’ungafasi looked a little ginger but to say it was an injury would be speculation and that’s not the point of this ‘player ratings’ article. So, before walking off the sacred turf at Eden Park, the All Black had been a bit quiet.

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Tu’ungafasi has been superb this season overall, and while the Blues dominated for almost the entire Grand Final, the front-rower couldn’t turn that into individual success. The loosehead carried the ball a handful of times and made a few tackles but was mostly seen as a supporting player at the breakdown.

  1. Ricky Riccitelli – 8

Ricky Riccitelli has won another Super Rugby title. After helping the Hurricanes claim their first-ever crown in 2016, the hooker has helped another Kiwi franchise end a long trophy drought.

Following a bit of a nervy start from the hots, Riccitelli helped settle the Blues down with some accurate work at the lineout. Only one throw didn’t hit the mark, but the home team managed to retain possession with Harry Plummer running onto the loose ball from the overthrow.

Away from the set-piece, Riccitelli was relentless. With more than 14 carries and some impressive work on the defensive side of the ball, it was the type of performance that deserves plenty of appreciation.

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  1. Marcel Renata7

Marcel Renata contributed to the Blues’ solid work at the set-piece, but away from that, it was the tighthead prop’s work in defence which was especially impressive. Renata finished with 100 per cent tackle accuracy from almost 10 attempts.

  1. Patrick Tuipulotu – 9

It’s incredible, admirable and even baffling that Patrick Tuipulotu took the field on Saturday night. Two weeks ago, the Blues skipper picked up a knee injury and was expected to miss up to two months of rugby. That’s what makes this captain’s knock even much more special.

Tuipulotu was in the thick of everything and that led to some telling involvements. In the 13th minute, Tuipulotu caught a kick-off before beating a few defenders – including Tupou Vaa’i and Cortez Ratima – on an impressive carry up the field.

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Midway through the first term, the captain had the second-most running metres out of any player in the Grand Final. That set the tone for what ended up being an unforgettable night for ‘Patty T’ and rest of the Blues.

14 carries for more than 60 metres in just 57 minutes. Not bad at all.

  1. Sam Darry – 8

If you look up the definition of the popular sporting phrase ‘workhorse’, you’ll find a picture of Sam Darry. It wasn’t necessarily the type of stuff that has been captured on highlight reels or the stats sheet, but the lock was pretty well everywhere, that’s for sure.

Darry was always moving in a slow jog around the park. The New Zealander usually supported other players into contact, hitting about one in every two breakdowns for lengthy periods.

Add a couple of lineout receptions and even one kick to bring up half-time, and it was quite the performance from the 23-year-old. ‘Sam Darry the Super Rugby Pacific champion’ is a well-deserved title.

  1. Akira Ioane – 9

Sport doesn’t always reward legends with a fairytale finish they deserve. We saw at the Rugby World Cup last year that Aaron Smith, Sam Whitelock and others missed out on the chance to finish their Test careers with a gold medal draped around their neck.

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But for Akira Ioane, who has served the Blues’ club with passion and skill during a decorated Super Rugby career, it’s a different story. In his final game for the Auckland-based club, Ioane has bowed out as a champion.

Ioane opened the scoring in the Grand Final after reaching out for the try line from a pick and drive. Then, not long after, the backrower played a key role in another score after showing brilliant skill to remain inside the field of play to send Caleb Clarke over.

The former All Black had the most carries out of anyone on the night as well. So, again, sport can’t always deliver on that fairytale finish but when it does it’s supremely special. Not only is Ioane a Super Rugby Pacific champion but the loosie was one of the Blues’ best on the night.

  1. Dalton Papali’i – 6

It’s not very often that Dalton Papali’i has such an off night in a Blues jersey. The openside flanker is usually one of the standouts, especially from the forward pack, but that wasn’t quite the case on Saturday evening.

Papali’i only ran the ball once but did make an impact in defence with six tackles and no misses. But with fellow loose forwards Akira Ioane and Hoskins Sotutu impressing, it’s almost not a surprise that someone took a back seat.

  1. Hoskins Sotutu – 8.5

Hoskins Sotutu was the best player in Super Rugby Pacific this season. It all started with five tries in just two games to open the campaign, and about five months later, it ended with a slice of history by taking out the title.

Especially early on in the final, Sotutu was busy. With the Chiefs’ Wallace Sititi lining up opposite him, Sotutu took the challenge head-on by running around desperate to get his hands on the ball.

Sotutu ended up carrying the ball 15 times for 36 metres, passing it on 13 occasions and finishing with 100 per cent tackle completion as well. With the All Blacks squad set to be announced this coming week , it would be a surprise not to see ‘Hoskins Sotutu’ among the backrowers selected.

  1. Finlay Christie – 7.5

Finlay Christie did exactly what he needed to do. The All Black helped steer the Blues around the park with some quick and accurate passing, but also tried to make a difference wherever else he could.

Christie won a penalty at the breakdown in the 25th minute – the halfback had looked to secure a steal at the two rucks before that. It was just that kind of night for the Blues as everything just seemed to click for pretty well everyone.

  1. Harry Plummer – 8.5

Harry Plummer, you might’ve just played yourself into the All Blacks squad. That’s not necessarily just going off this performance on its own but rather the season as a whole which saw Plummer make that No. 10 jersey his own.

Playing in the Grand Final, it didn’t start well for the first five-eighth. Plummer hooked an attempted exit kick into touch just beyond the Blues’ 22-metre, so that gifted the Chiefs a golden opportunity to strike first.

But from then on, it was all the Blues. Plummer seized the opportunity to be the playmaking general for the Aucklanders once again and led them to glory. Not only was Plummer steady around the park with some cool, calm and composed play, but the flyhalf was also perfect off the kicking tee once again.

  1. Caleb Clarke – 9

That was Caleb Clarke’s best performance of the season, and what a time to do it. With silverware on the line and a packed house at Eden Park spurring the Blues on to glory, the All Blacks winger stole the show as a hat-trick hero.

From early on in the match, you could tell that Clarke was on song. The Aucklander carried the ball 40 metres upfield in the seventh minute – beating some world-class defenders in the process. But that was just the beginning.

Clarke reaped the rewards of some magic from the Ioane brothers in the first half to score. While the New Zealand international just had to fall over the line really, it was well-deserved considering Clarke’s general intent to get stuck in and make a difference around the park.

The No. 11 added another two tries to the Blues’ dominant lead during the second half as the hosts ran away with it, and Clarke deserves plenty of praise and plaudits for helping the champions do just that. It was a Player of the Final performance.

  1. AJ Lam – 8

When the likes of Akira Ioane, Hoskins Sotutu and Caleb Clarke are running riot, it can take some of the spotlight away from other members of a champion Blues outfit. Take AJ Lam as an example who seemed to fly under the radar and maybe wouldn’t get the appreciation the utility deserves.

It wasn’t Lam’s best performance of the season, but the inside centre played a key role in the Blues’ quest for a title. Other than a try late in the piece, there was plenty that could’ve gone unnoticed. Whether it was with some fearless carries, hard defence or a bit of playmaking, Lam was solid in the No. 12 jersey once again.

  1. Rieko Ioane – 8

There was one moment of magic that stands out from Rieko Ioane. With the Blues making their way closer and closer to the try line, Ioane looked to run into the corner before a swarm of Chiefs defenders attempted to bundle the centre into touch.

Ioane managed to keep the play alive by offloading the ball to brother Akira. It was inch-perfect work, and after Akira did quite literally the exact same thing, Caleb Clarke ended up scoring midway through the first term.

Other than that, Ioane looked threatening at times but tended to go missing for decent periods. But when the utility did get the ball, it looked like something special was about to happen practically every time.

  1. Mark Tele’a – 6.5

The life of a winger can be a frustrating one. If the ball doesn’t come your way, there’s not much you can do about it and that was the story for Blues and All Blacks speedster Mark Tele’a for a while.

Tele’a hadn’t touched the ball once midway through the first half. That continued for a little bit longer before Tele’a finally got involved around the 30 minute mark with a couple of touches. Then, normality resumed.

The 2023 World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year wasn’t close to his best but quickly became more active in the match. Tele’a finished with seven carries in the end for only 12 metres, but he’s a Super Rugby champion nonetheless.

  1. Stephen Perofeta – 8

It was a quiet start to the Grand Final from Stephen Perofeta. The playmaker didn’t have a memorable involvement for the first 16 minutes before a kick-off came his way – much to Perofeta’s surprise. As the ball sailed over Patrick Tuipulotu’s head, Perofeta tried to react but couldn’t as the fullback knocked the ball on cold.

Perofeta was visibly frustrated but bounced back in a way that deserves some discussion. While it can be easy to dwell on errors in sport, the All Black responded by kicking well, running the ball for more than 55 metres and beating a few defenders.

Replacements

  1. Kurt Eklund – N/A
  2. Joshua Fusitu’a – 7
  3. Angus Ta’avao – 6.5
  4. Josh Beehre – 7.5
  5. Adrian Choat – 7
  6. Taufa Funaki – 7
  7. Bryce Heem – 7
  8. Cole Forbes – N/A

Watch the exclusive reveal-all episode of Walk the Talk with Ardie Savea as he chats to Jim Hamilton about the RWC 2023 experience, life in Japan, playing for the All Blacks and what the future holds. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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Comments

21 Comments
B
Brendon 23 days ago

This was one for the puritans. Congratulations Blues.

J
Jasyn 23 days ago

Rieko is skating by on long-past reputation alone, and that’s as a Winger.

Doesn't have the all round game for 13, where his limited arsenal of pace (and nothing else) has seen him be largely ineffective in every respect.

A grand total of zero tries for the entire season to boot. Over-rated.

S
Shane 24 days ago

Finlay Christie did not play well and only deserved a rating of 4 or 5 (at most). He is very very slow clearing the ball at almost every breakdown. He gets the ball has a cup of tea then looks both ways before making a decision to take a few steps and eventually passing the ball. Christie was out played by Ratima (who clears the ball quickly like a halfback should), Aaron Smith,Brad Weber andCam Roigard also know how to quickly clear the ball from breakdowns. No delays

s
swivel 24 days ago

Pretty high ratings for a lot of the positions the Blues were outplayed in

D
David 24 days ago

If you are big and strong you will score well because it was mostly one off the ruck stuff where the outside backs rarely saw the ball unless they were helping the maul or pick and goes. NH style, yes a winning style but dull, deadly dull stuff as far as exciting entertainment is concerned.

M
Monique 24 days ago

Oh yeah the Blues we are chaps of super rugby of 2024 💙💙💙💙🏆🏆🏆🏆

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Mzilikazi 3 hours ago
Daugunu salvo shows why Wallabies work-rate is everything to Schmidt

Nice article, Brett, and good to be writing about a second win. I think Georgia will be far more testing. Tbh, I have not looked at their touring squad, but at full strength they are a far better and more dangerous team than they were at RWC France. They would have been disappointed they did not perform to full potential there. I think that the WB’s under Joe Schmidt have started soundly. Recovery from a serious setback always takes time. And the Jones era was that and more. I think the arrival of Les Kiss back to his native Qld. is a very positive factor, and the fact that he and Schmidt know each other well is a help. Players I think are much improved this year: Daugunu, who has blossomed with the Rebels, so credit to the coaching unit down there. Am pleased he will come back to the Reds. McReight is said to have put on up to 7 kgs since last season. His work rate has always been good, but it is his carrying into contact that has gone up. Now makes those critical one or two metres post contact very often. Is conceding fewer penalties now as his game matures. Rob Valetini was good last year, but is now a greater force this one. A really punishing ball carrier. Hunter Paisami is now a more controlled player. His carrying into contact is very impressive for an 80 kg man. Interestingly, if you saw Nick Bishops latest article, he has a team for RC with Kerevi at 12. Also Skelton in the team. Not sure if there will be o’seas players as early as RC though….but need them in by the EYOT games.

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