Don’t worry, there was no gunfire at Forsyth Barr Stadium in a Round 8 Super Rugby Aotearoa match but the Blues shot themselves in the foot more than once, as they went down to the plucky Highlanders 35-29 to intensify the race for the final.
The Blues looked good when they focused on getting across the advantage line and using momentum, dominated statistically across the board but they allowed the Highlanders to dictate terms for crucial periods through aimless kicking, blowing chances in the red zone and indiscipline.
Here’re the Blues’ ratings
1. Karl Tu’inukuafe – 6
Scrummed solidly, looked a little pedestrian in open play. Off at 49 but back for a final cameo after Hodgman’s red.
2. Luteru Tolai – 6.5
Probably his best game of the season, the set piece was good and he was energetic around the paddock as usual. Off at 62.
3. Ofa Tuungafasi – 7
Packed a lot of work into under 50 minutes. He was the big dog at scrum time and top tackler for his team and an awesome maul swim turnover in the 29th minute. On the negative side, he conceded a penalty that led to the Himeno try and probably should have done more to stop Punivai off the back of the lineout. Off at 49.
4. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti – 7
Has taken the Paddy role controlling the midfield with strong running and defence. Some good metres, angry defence on Ash Dixon in the 56th minute and reliable aerial man at kick off and lineout.
5. Sam Darry – 6.5
Seems to have been working on his clean outs, was strong there and is quite spectacular to watch at lineout time. Silky slip of the ball to Cowley-Tuioti in the 35th minute who gave him one back seconds later. Off at 55.
6. Tom Robinson © – N/A
Blood bin after taking on the Frizell melon and off for good at 3 minutes.
7. Dalton Papalii – 6
Great charge down in the first minute, driven out at the corner in 5th minute. Looked good on the left flank at the start of the 2nd half although couldn’t collect a tough ball for a try in 45th. Was penalised for changing his line at a crucial time.
8. Hoskins Sotutu – 5.5
Brave turnover at 8 minutes, tried hard to deny Smith on Himeno try. Silly play on the ground that led to yellow card but good to see glimpses of his running off the boot. Marked him down a point for the card.
9. Jonathan Ruru – 6
Quite phenomenal reflexes to score the first try, leaving a bit of egg on Aaron Smith’s face but Smith wiped the egg off and turned it into a juicy omelette. Wasn’t quick enough to cover for the Josh Ioane try. Off at 55.
10. Otere Black – 6
Aimless kick at 17 minutes that led to his team mates being offside. Fine piece of play in 33rd minute to slink through a gap to feed Rieko for his try and some good combos to get Caleb Clarke in the game.
11.Caleb Clarke – 7.5
It was comforting to see the youngster step up a gear and have his best game of the season. Good kick off collection at 12 minutes and was finally released in the second half running challenging shadow lines off the playmaker and breaking tackles, almost reaching the 100 metre mark in running.
12. TJ Faiane – 6
Needed to draw the defender on Papalii’s near try a bit better in the early minutes. Ran arrow straight in the run to set up Rieko try and generally did well in the midfield. Off at 50.
13. Rieko Ioane – 6
Finished the try at 33 minutes. Tried to step up in the final stanza to gee up the troops but couldn’t shift the gears.
14. Mark Telea – 4.5
Off at 67. Tepid outing from the wing and may have played himself out of next week’s fifteen.
15. Stephen Perofeta – 5.5
A little aimless kicking at 30 minutes but is always good running it from the backfield. Got drawn in on the Nareki try.
16. Leni Apisai – 4
On at 62. Didn’t add much and took out Hunt when Papalii was penalised as well.
17. Alex Hodgman – 3
On at 49. Red-carded at 72. Clumsy stuff rather than dirty.
18. Nepo Laulala– 6
On at 49. Good swan dive for a try and had a ding-dong battle with the young gun de Groot.
19. Josh Goodhue – 5.5
On at 55. Brought the energy, was lucky to not get a try disallowed for accidentally swinging an arm onto Smith.
20. Akira Ioane – 6
On at 3 minutes after blood bin for a good opportunity to get his mojo back. Some good straight running leading up to the Rieko try. Stopped the Highlanders in their tracks with a turnover in 49th. Points win for Frizell though.
21. Finlay Christie – 5
On at 55. Frenetic but didn’t add to the momentum.
22. Harry Plummer – 4.5
On at 50. Needed to make a difference but didn’t.
23. Bryce Heem – 5
On at 67. Put one on the toe instead of keeping it in hand which is a shame as he is a dangerous runner and may be preferred next week.
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