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Blues player ratings vs Highlanders | Super Rugby Trans-Tasman Final

By Alex McLeod
Mark Telea and Dalton Papalii. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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The Blues have claimed their first Super Rugby title in 18 years, dispatching the Highlanders 23-15 at Eden Park in Auckland in the Trans-Tasman final.

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Here’s how the home side rated after their drought-breaking victory:

1. Alex Hodgman – 6/10
Fell off his tackle attempt on Billy Harmon poorly and was then pinged for a breakdown infringement just moments later. Off in the 49th minute.

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2. Kurt Eklund – 6
Largely solid with his lineouts, aside from a couple of miscued throws that got stolen. Showed good ticker to last as long as he did. Off in the 81st minute.

3. Nepo Laulala – 6.5
Strong on defence in the opening phases. Folded Ethan de Groot with a monster scrum in the 13th minute, which could be seen as redemption for the Southland youngster’s set piece victory over the All Blacks veteran back in April. Off in the 51st minute.

4. Patrick Tuipulotu – 6
Not overly effective in the opening stanza. Was dominated a couple of times in the collision zone, which, for a man of his size, shouldn’t be happening all too much. Biggest contribution came at the lineout where he was the top target for the Blues. Off in the 57th minute. Back on in the 64th.

5. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti – 6
Solid but unspectacular. 10 metres from nine carries, seven from seven tackle attempts and two lineout takes.

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6. Akira Ioane – 6.5
From a numbers point of view, there wasn’t a whole lot to write home about, but Ioane did go about his work with a lot of energy, especially on the defensive front. Off in the 67th minute.

7. Dalton Papalii – 7
Good interlinking play down the right-hand flank in the lead-up to one of the Blues’ clean breaks. Dynamite tackle on Jona Nareki in the 54th minute. Defensively sound.

8. Hoskins Sotutu – 8
A standout for the Blues. Brought plenty of energy to his work in the contact area, which should appease some concerns about how he will fare in test rugby against the likes of the Springboks. Busted through a few tackles to go close to scoring early in the second half. Replicated his barnstorming ball-carrying from the ensuing goal-line dropout. Almost scored again but coughed the ball up over the line about 10 minutes later. Turned out to be the key man in the lead-up to the decisive try with a bustling run into the opposition’s 22 to allow Blake Gibson to go over. A massive performance all-round.

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9. Finlay Christie – 7
A wayward box kick from inside his own half cost his side dearly as he put the ball out on the full. Improved his tactical kicking as the match wore on. Drew the ire of Mitch Hunt for no apparent reason as he was shoved into the turf while his Tasman Mako halves partner chased a high ball. Targeted again by Ash Dixon shortly afterwards with a tackle off the ball. Boisterous and energetic throughout. Did a good job with his box kicking as well. Enough to nab the All Blacks’ third halfback spot? Off in the 67th minute.

10. Otere Black – 7
Victim of Dixon’s shoulder in the sixth minute, which lost his side possession. Recovered well, though, and chipped the ball into the clutches of Telea who scored the opening try of the contest. Was then clocked in the head by another big tackle from Dixon, which earned the Highlanders co-captain a trip to the sin bin. Brilliant ball-playing ability put TJ Faiane through a gaping ball towards the end of the first half, but sprayed an easy penalty attempt on the other side of the break. Came off in the 24th, back in on the 35th and then succumbed to an injury in the 67th minute.

11. Mark Telea – 7.5
Lively throughout the opening quarter of an hour. Was rewarded with a try from a beautifully-placed cross-kick from Black. Produced one of the more eye-catching displays and was a big part of why the Blues succeeded on the day.

12. TJ Faiane – 7
Showed how effect the art of running hard and straight can be as he opened up a number of opportunities for the Blues from the middle of the park. Remains an underrated talent by many.

13. Rieko Ioane – 6
Showed glimpses of what he can do at his elusive best, but was largely kept at bay in the first half. Similar story in the second half.

14. Bryce Heem – 6.5
Limited involvement in the thick of the action, but was at the centre of attention when he barrelled into an airborne Mitch Hunt while jostling for a high ball with Jona Nareki. Escaped with only a penalty. Seemed to have put Dalton Papalii in for the match’s second try in the 49th minute but threw the ball forward.

15. Zarn Sullivan – 6.5
Proved his worth as a tactical magician by pegging the ball in behind the opposition’s defensive line time and time again. Not bad with ball in hand either.

Reserves:

16. Ray Niuia – N/A
On in the 81st minute.

17. Karl Tu’inukuafe – 6
On in the 49th minute. Victim of Aaron Smith’s theatrics to the referee while he was caught at the bottom of a ruck and couldn’t roll away, thus conceding a penalty. Acquitted himself well from there onwards.

18. Marcel Renata – 5
On in the 51st minute. Got outdone in his first scrum of the match by Ayden Johnstone. Pinged again not long later for not releasing the ball at the breakdown. Not exactly the impact his coaches were after.

19. Jack Goodhue – N/A
On in the 57th minute. Off in the 64th due to injury.

20. Blake Gibson – 7
On in the 67th minute. Crossed over for the decisive try with three minutes to play, which is enough to earn himself a fairly high ratings for such a brief stint.

21. Jonathan Ruru – N/A
On in the 67th minute.

22. Harry Plummer – 7
On in the 24th minute, off in the 35th, on in the 67th. Made two significant plays in the closing stages of the contest. Slotted a penalty goal from a long way out to edge the Blues into the lead by one point. Followed it up with a conversion to push the Blues beyond the seven-point buffer.

23. AJ Lam – N/A
Unused.

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Blues player ratings vs Highlanders | Super Rugby Trans-Tasman Final

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