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Blues player ratings vs Crusaders | Super Rugby Pacific

By Tom Vinicombe
Hoskins Sotutu. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

Looking to build on a solid win against the Hurricanes last weekend, the Blues played host to the Crusaders at Eden Park on Saturday night in a repeat of last year’s final.

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While the home side held a nine-point lead at the half-hour mark courtesy of tries to Mark Telea and Caleb Clarke and Roger Tuiavasa-Sheck, a yellow card shortly before halftime proved costly, with the Crusaders two tries throughout the 10-minute period.

The Blues grabbed the final try of the night towards the end of the third quarter and pushed for a match-winner, with both James Tucker and Hoskins Sotutu coming close, but it was the visitors who ultimately prevailed, holding on for a 34-28 win in Auckland.

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Who were the Blues’ best performers on the night?

1. Alex Hodgman – N/A
Off in 14th minute. Wasn’t able to work his way into the match before succumbing to injury.

2. Ricky Riccitelli – 6
Had a couple of issues at lineout time – which is becoming a trend for Blues hookers. Put his hand up to cart the ball up on attack and threw himself into contact. Off in 57th minute.

3. James Lay – N/A
Off in 16th minute. Looked shakey at the set-piece but limped off before the Crusaders could take advantage.

4. James Tucker – 7
Put in plenty of hits on defence and made a couple of nice plays with the ball in hand. Looked to have grabbed a well-earned try with 10 minutes to play which would have put the Blues into the lead but lost the ball in contact. Penalised once for a high tackle.

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5. Cameron Suafoa – 6
A strong run in the midfield gave the Blues the momentum they needed for their second try. Defended resolutely. Temporarily left the field after Lay’s yellow card and then was subbed minutes after rejoining the fray. Off in 52nd minute.

6. Adrian Choat – 7
Industrious on defence, making a game-high 17 tackles. Also hit plenty of breakdowns and did lots of the dirty work, allowing his teammates to spend a bit more time out in the open. One of a number of Blues lineout options.

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7. Dalton Papali’i – 7
Did his best to disrupt the Crusaders’ flow but was fighting a losing battle. Put in a couple of big tackles, especially towards the end of the clash. Made a nice burst from a scrappy Blues lineout but couldn’t find any supporting runners on his inside for what would have been a likely early try. Shepherded into touch late in the game. Off in 76th minute.

8. Hoskins Sotutu – 8
Could always be relied upon for go-forward ball. Made good decisions throughout the match, which has perhaps not been a strength of his in the past. Was unlucky to not be awarded a try after plucking a Beauden Barrett chip out of the air. Pinged once at the breakdown.

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9. Finlay Christie – 6
Had a few issues getting quick, accurate ball out to his teammates. A smart quick tap when the Crusaders were back-tracking led to the Blues’ second try of the evening. Off in 72nd minute.

10. Beauden Barrett – 7
Another relatively quiet night. Put in a lovely little kick-pass for Caleb Clarke to get the Blues on the front foot in the early stages of the match and then did the same for Sotutu later in the game. Otherwise was happy to shovel the ball along. Had the wherewithal to not throw a short ball when the Crusaders had crowded the area around danger-man Mark Telea – instead waited a moment before delivering the pill, and Telea broke away to score the first try of the match. Nailed all his goals.

11. Caleb Clarke – 7
Scragged Sevu Reece when it looked like the Crusaders flyer was about to break away from inside his own 22. Had the ball stripped when the Blues were hot on attack. Used all his power to bowl over the line for a well-taken try and made a couple of strong carries throughout. Typically safe under the high ball.

12. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – 6
Lost the ball inside the Crusaders 22 from a poor Barrett pass. Cut back inside and weaved around a fractured defensive line to grab a try. Defended well from a Blues kick-through, putting pressure on Richie Mo’unga inside his own 22, but then couldn’t shut down his opposite moments later when the Crusaders were attacking, resulting in a try to Leicester Fainga’anuku. Off in 52nd minute.

13. Rieko Ioane – 5
Straightened the line as needed but wasn’t able to make any major impression on the game. Made plenty of carries but the fact he didn’t beat a single defender or break a single tackle says it all.

14. Mark Telea – 7
Scored an excellent individual try, receiving the ball near halfway and breaking away from a cluster of defenders before taking on Mo’unga on the outside. Always difficult to bring down on attack. Made a couple of defensive misreads; rushed up when the Crusaders were looking likely, which created a gap for Fergus Burke in the line, leading to the Crusaders’ first score and couldn’t bring Leicester Fainga’anuku to ground in the build-up to their second. Still, made 11 tackles – six more than any other Blues back.

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15. Stephen Perofeta – 5
Made very little impact throughout the first half. Skewed a kick in-field which gave Sevu Reece plenty of time and space to grab the momentum needed for an eventual Crusaders try. Spent 10 minutes off the field after the break after Lay’s yellow card but immediately sparked a nice attack upon his return and then scored a try off a nice short ball from Christie. Off in 59th minute.

Reserves:

16. Kurt Eklund – 7
On permanently in 57th minute after a 10-minute cameo earlier in the match. Grabbed a breakdown turnover. Put in an excellent spot tackle from a kick-off which led to a Blues turnover at the ruck.

17. Jordan Lay – 5
On in 14th minute. Pinged for not rolling away from the breakdown and then yellow-carded in the 37th minute for infringing at a breakdown on the goal line. Defended stoutly and held up his side of the scrum but ultimately cost his side.

18. Nepo Laulala – 8
On in 16th minute. Immediately shored up the scrum upon his early introduction. Threw a nice no-look pass and then found himself in plenty of space seconds later from a Blues attacking foray. In general, popped up regularly in the open field. His best game in years.

19. Tom Robinson – 6
On in 52nd minute. Old reliable. Hit the breakdown.

20. Taine Plumtree – N/A
On in 76th minute.

21. Taufa Funaki – N/A
On in 72nd minute.

22. Bryce Heem – 8
On in 52nd minute. Added some immediate physical impact in the midfield and pushed his case for more minutes.

23. Zarn Sullivan – 5
On in 59th minute. Couldn’t wrestle any control of the game and looked short of a gallop.

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