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Blues player ratings vs Highlanders | Super Rugby Pacific

By Ned Lester
Stephen Perofeta lines up a conversion for the Blues. Photo by JOHN COWPLAND/AFP via Getty Images.

The Blues had an opportunity to secure a third-place finish with a win over a desperate Highlanders side in Auckland on Friday night.

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The result would likely define the Highlanders’ season, as the Southlanders sat in eighth place and needed a win to qualify for the knockout stages.

The visitors had to make just shy of 100 tackles with just a 74% success rate at halftime, leaving the opening period on the wrong side of a 16-6 scoreline.

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The second half was played at a snail’s pace with brief intervals of Mark Telea magic and Rieko Ioane speed. Just three points to the Highlanders in the second 40 reflected the stagnant nature of the match. Fulltime score: 16-9.

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Here’s how the Blues rated:

1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi – 7

Tu’ungafasi was heavily involved in attack – by prop standards – and claimed some impressive run meters in the match. Squaring off with the in-form Jermaine Ainsley in the front row was a strong challenge for the All Black and one that went both ways. He was called out for taking a knee in the scrum after over-extending early in the second half but provided a good platform throughout the rest of the match.

2. Ricky Riccitelli – 8

Riccitelli’s execution at lineout time was nearly perfect, his side struggled to capitalise on it though. Some brief runs gained good meters and provided energy which the match lacked in large parts.

3. Nepo Laulala – 7.5

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A mighty battle up front was on offer on the night with Laulala facing off with Ethan de Groot. Laulala looked to have the upper hand in the contest, but the supporting cast in the second row looked to be contributing more for the Blues compared to their opposites.

4. Patrick Tuipulotu – 7.5

Tuipolotu Handled some awkward takes under the high kick-offs. The All Black was winning the contact regularly and getting his side over the gain line while looking for the offload.

5. James Tucker – 6.5

Poor tackle execution cost his side early. The slug-fest nature of the game meant Tucker was hitting rucks and not doing a whole lot else. The Blues dominating possession didn’t demand much defence of the forwards.

6. Tom Robinson – 8.5

Robinson’s mobility around the park was a huge positive for the Blues, his ability to keep up with dynamic play and lend a heavy shoulder to the ensuing breakdowns with multiple-effort plays ensured the Auckland team made the most of their runs.

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7. Anton Segner – 8

A great support line saw the young German storming upfield with ball in hand having received a Mark Telea offload. Segner has a knack for timing at the ruck, he’s efficient in his clearouts and has the motor and mobility to be effective all over the park. Snagged an opportunistic ball at the back of the ruck to initiate some more attack just before halftime.

8. Dalton Papali’i – 7

Saved his team early with a turnover. Papali’i won’t have made any fans by reducing nearly the entire third quarter of the game to scrum practice. Papali’i didn’t get to benefit much from his move to the back of the scrum, the platform and field position never allowed him to spread his legs. The defence was as exceptional as you’d expect from the captain.

9. Finlay Christie – 8

Some awkward takes off the kickoff saw Patrick Tuipolotu get isolated right in front of Christie, the forwards should have taken care of it but if Christie had recognised the threat quicker it would have saved his side a turnover. Had some great clearing kicks, peeling off heavy meters. Generally managed an ugly game well.

10. Stephen Perofeta – 7

Perofeta hit the ball with pace and intent early. Some fine kicking from Freddie Burns put Perofeta and Zarn Sullivan in awkward positions to clear. The backs just had limited opportunities in the match given the amount of time spent at set piece.

11. Caleb Clarke – 5

Clarke has struggled to find his rhythm in 2023 and started the night by slightly overrunning his first line before getting called for not rolling shortly after.

12. Harry Plummer – 7

Plummer is a composed leader in the backline, he doesn’t rush anything but also doesn’t hesitate to inject pace into the attack when he sees it fit. Very little was asked of the backline defensively on the night.

13. Rieko Ioane – 7.5

Some heroic work not only saved a try but sparked a counter-attack. Ioane ran some good lines, claiming a couple of clean breaks in addition to some clean distribution work.

14. Mark Telea – 8

There’s X-factor galore every time this guy touches the ball. As well as beating defenders at will, his influence around the ruck was superb. A silky offload contributed to the first try of the game.

15. Zarn Sullivan – 7

Sullivan has a game IQ that continues to grow and a boot that rarely fails. His size offers physicality you don’t often see at fullback.

 

Replacements:

 

16. Kurt Eklund – 7

17. Jordan Lay – 6

18. Marcel Renata – 6.5

19. Rob Rush – 8

20. Akira Ioane – 7.5

Entered the game early for a brief stint and showed great strength in the lineout drive. Physical in defence.

21. Sam Nock – 8

22. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck – 7.5

23. AJ Lam – 7.5

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M
Mzilikazi 8 hours ago
Swashbuckling Hurricanes and Harlequins show scrum still matters

I always enjoy a good scrum based article. Thanks, Nick. The Hurricanes are looking more and more the team to beat down here in Australasia. They are a very well balanced team. And though there are far fewer scrums in the game these days, destructive power in that area is a serious weapon, especially an attacking scrum within in the red zone. Aumua looked very good as a young first year player, but then seemed to fade. He sure is back now right in the picture for the AB’s. And I would judge that Taukei’aho is in a bit of a slump currently. Watching him at Suncorp a few weeks ago, I thought he was not as dominant in the game as I would have expected. I am going to raise an issue in that scrum at around the 13 min mark. I see a high level of danger there for the TH lifted off the ground. He is trapped between the opposition LH and his own powerful SR. His neck is being put under potentially dangerous pressure. The LH has, in law , no right to use his superior scrummaging skill….getting his head right in on the breastbone of the TH…..to force him up and off the ground. Had the TH popped out of the scrum, head up and free, there is no danger, that is a clear penalty to the dominant scrum. The law is quite clear on this issue: Law 37 Dangerous play and restricted practices in a scrum. C:Intentionally lifting an opponent off their feet or forcing them upwards out of the scrum. Sanction: Penalty. Few ,if any, referees seem to be aware of this law, and/or the dangers of the situation. Matthew Carly, refereeing Clermont v Munster in 2021, penalised the Munster scrum, when LH Wycherly was lifted very high, and in my view very dangerously, by TH Slimani. Lifting was coached in the late ‘60’s/70’s. Both Lions props, Ray McLouglin, and “Mighty Mouse” McLauchlan, were expert and highly successful at this technique. I have seen a photo, which I can’t find online atm, of MM with a NZ TH(not an AB) on his head, MM standing upright as the scrum disintegrates.

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