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Blues player ratings vs Drua | Super Rugby Pacific quarter-finals

By Ned Lester
Ricky Riccitelli of the Blues. Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images

The Blues have emerged victorious from a quarter-final encounter with the Fijian Drua at Eden Park, setting up another semi-final appearance for the Auckland club.

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It was a brutal Blues performance, with clinical execution around the breakdown and strong carries making life difficult for the visitors.

The Drua didn’t help themselves with a number of offside penalties handing the Blues strong attacking field position, which was converted into points more often than not.

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The lads have plenty of big club games to react to this week after finals in Europe and Japan as well as some huge results in Super Rugby Pacific. We start by dissecting the games in Christchurch and Hamilton before casting an eye over the Champions Cup final.

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The lads have plenty of big club games to react to this week after finals in Europe and Japan as well as some huge results in Super Rugby Pacific. We start by dissecting the games in Christchurch and Hamilton before casting an eye over the Champions Cup final.

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Here’s how the Blues rated:

1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi – 7

The All Black charged forward in the scrums, providing a key and consistent platform in the game for his team to play from. A handful of carries got him over the advantage line more often than not but he also lost the ball twice for his club.

2. Ricky Riccitelli – 9

If you happen to find yourself lying in the way of the Blues trying to recycle the ball, you might want to move before Ricky Riccitelli moves you, because he won’t do it gently.

The hooker’s first lineout throw was just out of reach, and the Blues struggled early to connect but found their rhythm in that respect as the game progressed.

Riccitelli had a huge game with the ball in hand, carrying more than any forward on his team and making by far the most metres with the ball out of any forward in the contest.

Defensively, Riccitelli was one of his side’s best, too, with more tackles than any Fijian player on the night.

3. Marcel Renata – 8.5

An unsung hero of the Blues’ 2024 season, Renata provided superior power against one of the strongest scrums in the competition in this quarter-final.

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The prop’s athleticism proved impactful around the park as he got off the ground quickly and powered into collisions.

Renata’s tackle accuracy left a little to be desired but he got through a mountain of work in his 52 minutes.

4. Patrick Tuipulotu (c) – N/A

Left the field early with an apparent knee injury.

5. Josh Beehre

Beehre was chewing through the collisions early, making an impact on both sides of the ball. He was quickly called upon as the senior lock when his second-row partner and captain left the field, but it didn’t overwhelm the youngster.

The lineout was problematic early but Beehre was as safe of a pair of hands as the Blues could find. The lock finished the game with not a single missed tackle to his name.

6. Akira Ioane – 7

Ioane’s role has changed in 2024 and the All Black has impressively surrendered some of his wide channel play for some more traditional blindside flanker work and his team has certainly benefitted from it.

Ioane hit plenty of rucks in this contest and while his impact elsewhere was limited, his efforts enabled those around him to make metres.

7. Dalton Papali’i – 9

An unorthodox finish to a driving maul saw the All Black flanker score the opening try of the game. Papali’i was the game’s best on the defensive end, with 20 tackles while also contributing two steals.

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With the ball in hand, Papali’i found seams around the ruck and had a number of charges upfield where he dragged Fijian defenders with him.

A lot of credit must go to the Blues pack for how quickly they were able to recycle ball and win the collision area throughout the game.

8. Hoskins Sotutu – 8

Sotutu got through a mountain of work defensively while providing fewer than usual carries. His one missed tackle came from Selestino Ravutaumada’s break, in which the Fijian winger scored. Under pressure at lineout time, Sotutu’s hands were up to the challenge.

22m Entries

Avg. Points Scored
2.7
13
Entries
Avg. Points Scored
1.2
4
Entries

9. Finlay Christie – 8

Christie kept the ball moving behind a rapid breakdown effort from his pack, also setting the tone to keep pushing as the Blues enjoyed advantage after advantage for Drua offside indiscretions.

The halfback provided his familiar effort on defence, being on hand to drag down threatening Drua efforts and finishing the game with the second-highest tackle count out of any back on his team.

10. Harry Plummer – 8.5

Plummer went about his game-driving duties excellently in this contest, as he has done consistently since assuming the reins at first five-eighth.

The kicks made good metres both from penalties and in open play, and when the opportunity presented itself Plummer unleashed a wide pass to put Caleb Clarke away in the corner.

One kick that missed touch did little to undermine a strong performance.

11. Caleb Clarke – 8

A couple of handling errors early from Clarke let the All Black down, although the first one didn’t stop his team from scoring. While Clarke wasn’t making his usual impact on the attacking side of the ball early, his defence remained strong and he made his presence felt.

Kicking the ball out on the full continued Clarke’s woes but even with all those plays not going his way, the 25-year-old found the try line just shy of the halftime break.

Refusing to be dismayed by the early errors, the winger continued to look for opportunities in the game and ended up topping the carries count, contributing the most carry metres, defenders beaten and linebreaks of anyone on his team and finding his way to the try line yet again.

12. AJ Lam – 9

Lam was strong and active in the defensive line early, also contributing some hard carries to emerge as one of the game’s best from the outset.

The defence continued to set him apart in the contest, as Lam’s strength saw him defuse the many threats of the Drua forwards and backs alike.

13. Rieko Ioane – 7

Ioane’s success rate on defence wasn’t up to his usual high standard but the All Black hit some nice lines on attack and delivered a try assist.

An under-the-radar matchup between two of the competition’s premier centres was ultimately underwhelming as both Ioane and Iosefo Masi had quiet games.

14. Mark Tele’a – 6

Tele’a contributed a game-high three offloads from his six carries. The All Black didn’t find many opportunities to play with the ball in hand, and at one point was stripped and knocked the ball on within the space of a minute. He also had limited impact on defence.

15. Stephen Perofeta – 6

Perofeta overcooked the opening kick of the game, handing the Drua a scrum off the kickoff. The fullback’s performance was indicative of his 2024 season; moments where he threatened to be a game-breaking runner and playmaker, but ultimately without convincing or consistently executing.

Ruck Speed

0-3 secs
59%
60%
3-6 secs
31%
26%
6+ secs
3%
9%
77
Rucks Won
90

Reserves

16. Kurt Eklund – 8

17. Joshua Fusitu’a – 8

18. Angus Ta’avao – 8

19. James Thompson – 8.5

On early for the injured Tuipulotu and quickly claimed a lineout steel. Perhaps looked a little tentative in the early collisions but quickly learned there would be no room for passive defence against the Drua. Once he found his feet in the contest, Thompson was superb.

20. Adrian Choat – 8

Always an impressive impact player, Choat brought plenty of energy off the bench and threw himself into everything.

21. Taufa Funaki – 8

22. Corey Evans – 8

23. Cole Forbes – 8

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

1 Comment
T
T-Bone 13 days ago

Riccitelli has been a revelation
I thought he was in his 40s but he’s only 29!
Do not write this guy off as he does the core duties well and is very good in close quarter running

Reece and Telea are surely the wings this year but Clarke and Rayasi are lethal with ball in hand and could be great torpedoes off the bench

I hope Paddy is ok as we are very thin at lock for the ABs (good news is Vaai has FINALLY shown what he is capable of)

Dalton is a lock in for 7
A big man who does an I credible amount of work

Finau is tempting but I’d have Blackadder and Dalton on the flanks
Such massive engines
Give Ardie a rest 😉 and let Sititi have a blast at 8!

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Shaylen 6 hours ago
Brumbies the best team in Australia but still nothing to show for it

The Brumbies have been the strongest side in Australia for a long time and that was down to their forwards and set piece which has always been good and has always been able to dominate their Australian counterparts. This year the lack of maul tries and also the lack of a stable scrum has been a real problem which was also something Nick alluded to in his article this week about the creaking brumbies tight five. Home advantage is key as you say and the Brumbies must find a way to score more bonus points. If the Brumbies are really serious about winning a title they need to do what Kiwi sides at the top do. They need to smash every Aus side with a bonus point at home while claiming losing bonus points in every game they lose and denying their rivals bonus points. In their 3 losses in NZ this year they were smashed. They only scored 60 tries which is middle of the road, their scrum came in at 73% which was one of the worst in the comp, tackle success at just 83% which was right at the bottom and in terms of metres, clean breaks, carries, offloads and rucks built they were in the middle plus they had the most yellows. They basically were just not dominant enough wile they can improve their discipline. They excelled at kicking and won plenty of lineout ball plus their rucks were secure at 97%. Not sure about turnovers but they weren’t bad there. They just need to be more clinical and give away less and they will give themselves the best chance to win the title.

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