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Blues player ratings vs Crusaders | Super Rugby Pacific

By Mike Rehu
Will Jordan and Beauden Barrett. (Photo by John Davidson/Photosport)

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There was a sense from the Blues that now was their time, that the Crusaders were ripe for the picking and that the Blues’ improved game would be enough to win this clash. Well, we’d heard that a few times before in the last season or two, maybe even on the regular since the last time they won in Christchurch in 2004.

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It was not only an important match for local ascendency but the winner would go on to join the Brumbies at the top of the overall table.

The Blues looked good going into halftime after two tries sparked by Beauden Barrett’s genius and getting on top of the collisions. Then the Scott Barrett red-card and the Kurt Eklund try seemed to seal it for the northerners but with a mix of fatigue and off-the-throttle mentality, they went into their shell and let the champions back into the game.

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Why rolling maul tries aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be.
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Why rolling maul tries aren’t as bad as they’re made out to be.

Still, they held on somehow to secure the 27-23 victory – nail-biting stuff!

Here’s how the Blues rated:

1. Alex Hodgman – 7
Scrum looked all right on his side and threw some nice short passes to his tight team mates. Dropped the ball cold and then went down like a ton of bricks in the 45th minute after meeting Scott Barrett’s shoulder with his jaw. That was his night done.

2. Kurt Eklund – 7
Lost two lineouts in the first half but licked his chops after Scott Barrett was sent off and nabbed his 6th try of the season in the 47th minute. Made some good in-roads in the third quarter and off at 71.

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3. Ofa Tuungafasi – 7
Sported what looked to be a cycle helmet with a swath of bandages as well to protect the 26 stitches in his head. His side of the scrum was wobbly at times until Joe Moody limped off but Ofa’s running game was penetrative. Off at 60.

4. Luke Romano – 8
You know what you’re going to get with Romano and no one knew better than his ex-teammates. Resolute on defence with 12 tackles and launched jumpers like a forklift at the lineouts.

5. Josh Goodhue – 6
Enjoyed the tight exchanges until Braydon Ennor’s head and shoulder caused a twinge in his thigh area. Off at 43.

 

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6. Tom Robinson – 7
Big Red bounced around in his usual outrageous manner and probably edged his opponent Ethan Blackadder on the day. Missed a couple of tackles but was very effective in the line-out. Off at 71.

7. Dalton Papalii – 9.5
The victory was almost a manifestation of Papalii’s will. In the first half he made a difference with ball in hand with a magical run in the 27th minute to set up a good attack and that was a dress rehearsal for the 31st minute bullocking run for his try. Throughout the match he was surgically accurate at the breakdown and in the last 20, where a lot of his teammates seemed to be flagging, he was there mopping up attacking kicks and smashing Dominic Gardiner into the corner with Rieko Ioane. 21 tackles at 100 per cent completion and metres aplenty, this is what we want out of an All Blacks No 7 – and a captain, perhaps?

8. Hoskins Sotutu – 8
Strong, he did everything with strength and intensity in defence. There was no chance for magic with ball in hand but the victory was cemented at the coalface in the collision and the number 8 was one of the best on display in that realm.

9. Finlay Christie – 7.5
Christie was combative; he made a great cover tackle on Will Jordan at the 5-minute mark when it looked as though it was unfolding into a typical Jordan try. He finished well for his touch-down in the 22nd minute and made a nuisance of himself rushing up on defence. That proved to be the end for him, after getting a rush wrong. Off at 73.

10. Beauden Barrett – 8
Looked as though his brain was a second in front of his body in the first quarter where he was a little frenetic. Twice made a difference in the second quarter, in the 22nd minute set the game alight with a coruscating scamper, sprinting 50 metres to set up the Christie try and then ten minutes later he set up the Papalii try. Pulled out some super freak moves at 50 minutes; he was centimetres away from a miraculous chip and chase try but then was probably guilty of kicking too much and allowing the Crusaders back into the game later on in the piece. 22 kicks from hand is a load of boot and when the fresh legs of players like Tuivasa-Sheck came on he ignored his outsides. The scoreboard says he was right, however!

11. AJ Lam – 5.5
Quiet on attack but got around in defence with 11 tackles and a good hold up on Zach Gallagher for a turnover in the first half. Embarrassed by Pablo Matera’s long pass to allow Sevu Reece in at 54 minutes and seemed to have trouble relying on his inside defenders more than once as the Blues wilted.

12. Bryce Heem – 7.5
I wondered pre-match whether Heem may be a weak link for the Blues but he ended up being the unsung hero. Absolute rock in midfield using his 193cm, 103 kilo frame to good effect. Off in 65th.

13. Rieko Ioane – 7.5
He was exceptionally potent on defence today, laying down the example for his teammates. Strong throughout the match in his battle royale with Ennor. 16 dominant tackles is a huge number for a midfielder, the highlight was the match-saver in the 79th minute with an almost implausible tackle on Gardiner.

14. Mark Telea – 6.5
Seemed to still be in the team hotel in the first few minutes under the high ball but stung into action, popping up after five or six phases to pick some small crevices in the Crusaders defence. Lost in defence for the Jordan try but came back well with some good metres gained.

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15. Stephen Perofeta – 4
Had a busy evening in the backfield chasing down some probing punts from David Havili and Richie Mo’unga. Ripped into a quick tap and go that set the Blues up for a 13 point lead at the break but he couldn’t convert. Whether the couple of missed kicks affected his confidence or not we’ll never know but the rest of the game turned into a Keystone Cops episode with a blown try, tripping over trying to field a kick on the touchline and getting beaten by Reece rather easily on his left flank. Immensely talented but off at 60 and looked flakey for half of that.

Reserves:

16. Ricky Riccitelli – 6.5
On at 71, joined the fray with five tackles in nine minutes and some cool as a cucumber lineout throwing.

17. Jordan Lay – 6
On at 45. Defended well and looked like he played the last five on one leg.

18. Nepo Laulala – 5.5
On at 60. Tried to fight hard and ripped into some strong defence.

19. James Tucker – 6
On at 43. Another grizzled ex-Cantabrian came on at lock and didn’t let his team down. The ex-Bedes man was up for the contact and did well.

20. – Adrian Choat – 5.5
On at 71. Threw himself round like a ragdoll.

21. Taufa Funaki – 5
On at 73. Didn’t let the situation phase him and didn’t put a foot wrong.

22. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – 5.5
On at 64. Knew what the game required of him and tackled his heart out, without getting many chances to run the ball.

23. Zarn Sullivan – 6.5
On at 60 and looked more solid than the starter. Used his left foot very well but there was probably still too much kicking from hand to the Crusaders.

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