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Blues player ratings vs Waratahs | Super Rugby Pacific

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

The Blues are the first team through to the Super Rugby Pacific semi-finals after beating the NSW Waratahs 41-12 at Eden Park on Friday night.

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Waratahs lock Ned Hanigan scored the first points of the match in just the third minute, but that’s as good as it got for the visitors.

The Blues hit back with a try to Finlay Christie shortly after, and ended up running away with it from there. Here’s how the Blues rated in the quarter-final win.

  1. Zarn Sullivan – 9/10

Fullback Zarn Sullivan started the match quite well, but certainly hit his stride in the final 30 minutes of the match in particular. Sullivan was reliable under the high ball, a solid option off the boat, and looked lethal with the ball.

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But to start the second half, it didn’t quite go to script for the exciting outside back. Sullivan sent the kick-off into touch on the full, and then game away an advantage for a high tackle shortly after. After 17 phases, Sullivan ended up scoring the Blues’ second try after the break in the 52nd minute.

  1. Mark Telea – 9

Mark Telea was outstanding once again for the Blues. The competitions top try-scorer this season added another to his tally on Friday night, and was otherwise running riot with the ball around the park.

Telea didn’t get the ball in space early on, but that didn’t matter. Even with half a chance, or defenders crowding his personal space, Telea showcased his strength and speed off the mark to make some clever half-breaks.

The All Black ended up for more than 100 metres from 13 carries, made two line breaks, beat eight defenders and had one offload. Another top performance from the Blues No. 14.

  1. Rieko Ioane – 8

There’s no denying the fact that Rieko Ioane is now a world-class outside centre. Going into this year’s Rugby World Cup, Ioane is playing in some superb form for the Auckland-based Blues. Ioane was electric from the get-go, as he contributed to the Finlay Christie try early in the contest.

On top of that one try assist, the All Black also ran the ball nine times for more than 80 metres, made one line break and beat six defenders.

  1. Bryce Heem – 7.5

There’s nobody in the world who can rate an inside centres performance better than Wallabies legend Tim Horan. On commentary for Stan Sport, Horan described Bryce Heem and Zarn Sullivan as the “glue” of the Blues’ attack. In a way, that sums up Bryce Heem and his importance to this team perfectly.

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But let’s build on that. Heem did his job without making any highlight plays – the inside centre didn’t overplay his hand, and that contributed to the teams’ success. Heem played his part in some clever set-piece moves from the Blues, and even stepped into first-five on occasion.

  1. AJ Lam – 7.5

The Waratahs silenced the Blues crowd with a try inside the opening few minutes, but things took a turn shortly after. Winger AJ Lam broke a tackle and threw a brilliant offload, which ultimately laid the platform for Finlay Christie’s try.

Elsewhere, Lam had some solid involvements – finishing the match with 44 running metres, six defenders beaten, three offloads, and 100 per cent tackle accuracy in defence.

  1. Beauden Barrett – 8

Back in the starting side this week after overcoming a nasty cut on his heel, Barrett didn’t skip a beat at flyhalf. From literally minute one, the All Black was in the middle of everything for the Blues.

Playing unstructured rugby in the opening five minutes, Barrett had his hands on the ball the most out of any player. Whether it was kicking or passing the ball onto one of his teammates, the All Blacks was certainly in the thick of the action – clearly, Barrett was involved more than any other player.

This trend continued throughout of the match, with Barrett finishing with an impressive 11-point haul, the third-most runs out of any Blues player, and no missed tackles.

  1. Finlay Christie – 8.5

Halfback Finlay Christie was certainly in the conversation for player of the match honours, and would’ve caught the eyes of All Blacks selectors. Christie crossed for a try, prevented Tahs winger Dylan Pietsch from scoring too, and contributed to Zarn Sullivan’s try with a brilliant cut-out pass after the break.

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Christie looked cool, calm and collected in a high pressure game for the Blues, and that’s music to the ears of All Blacks selectors and supporters going into this year’s World Cup.

  1. Ofa Tu’ungafasi – 7

All Blacks and Blues prop Ofa Tu’ungafasi was nothing short of superb during a tense first term against the Waratahs. Tu’ungafasi contributed to multiple scrum penalties late in the half, and had made the second-most tackles out of any Blues player by the time he made his way to the sheds.

  1. Ricky Riccitelli – 8

Without a doubt, Ricky Riccitelli was one of the Blues’ best players on Friday night. By the time the hooker was replaced midway through the second half, he had well and truly earned a rest on the sidelines – especially after his effort in the second half.

The Blues carried a 10 point advantage into the second term, but Riccitelli helped the hosts raced out to an unconquerable scoreline. Riccitelli scored the first try of the second half, and also put in a solid shift around the park.

Riccitelli was a work horse – making 100 per cent of his tackles from 14 attempts, and the 28-uear-old also ran the ball eight times for hard-earned metres. But, importantly, Riccitelli also hit 11 of his targets at the lineout. The Blues couldn’t have asked for too much more from their star No. 2.

  1. Nepo Laulala – 7

Similarly to his front row teammate Ofa Tu’ungafasi, All Black Nepo Laulala deserves some praise for the Blues’ dominance at the set-piece. Laulala was also solid around the grounds, which his best moment coming late in the first half – crossing for his first try of the Super Rugby Pacific season in the 38th minute.

  1. Tom Robinson – 7

For periods of the match, Tom Robinson was outstanding. The lock was the primary at the set-piece for Ricky Riccitelli, and also made his mark with some eye-catching carries and tough defence. But, for stretches of the match at least, the dynamic forward seemed to go missing for periods.

  1. James Tucker – 7

Blues lock James Tucker put in a solid shift on Friday night. In a team full of superstars and world-class talent, Tucker was contribute to the Blues’ success in a meaningful way. The second rower was a reliable option at the set-piece, but also made his mark on the defensive side of the ball – finishing with an equal-team high 14 tackles.

  1. Akira Ioane – 7

Akira Ioane was good without being great on Friday night. The All Blacks and Blues flanker is able to wreak havoc on his day, but it just wasn’t one of those nights for the 27-year-old. Ioane made eight tackles and ran the ball six times.

Ioane showed glimpses of promise after the break, and had some positive involvements, but was replaced by Anton Segner about 15 minutes into the second half.

  1. Dalton Papali’i – 8

Once again, just as he does every week, Dalton Papali’i led by example for the Blues. At first glance, the flanker seemed to go missing a little periods of the contest – but looking closer, Papali’i was making some crucial plays at the breakdown. Papali’i also ran the ball for almost 50 metres, and finished with 100 per cent tackle accuracy from eight attempts.

  1. Hoskins Sotutu – 7.5

All Black Hoskins Sotutu got better and better as the match went on. Especially after the break, Sotutu was able to make some meaningful carries and monstrous tackles. In the end, Sotutu ran the ball seven times and also finished with 100 per cent tackle accuracy.

Replacements:

  1. Kurt Eklund – 7
  2. Jordan Lay – 6
  3. Marcel Renata – 6
  4. Cameron Suafoa – 7
  5. Anton Segner -7
  6. Sam Nock – 6.5
  7. Harry Plummer – 6.5
  8. Stephen Perofeta – 6.5
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finn 9 hours ago
Massive red flag raised by weakened Champions Cup teams – Andy Goode

I wonder if the problem of some teams not taking it that seriously would be helped by making performance in the champions cup count towards qualification and/or seeding in the following year’s competition. Eg. top four seeds would be winners of the URC, premiership, and top 14, plus best performing team in the previous year’s CC who have not otherwise qualified. Doing that the seedings for this years comp. would have been: Tier one: Saracens - Munster - Toulouse - la Rochelle Tier two: Sale - Stormers - Racing 92 - Leinster Tier three: Leicester - Connacht - Bordeaux - Exeter Tier four: Northampton - Ulster - Lyon - Sharks Tier five: Harlequins - Glasgow - Stade Francais - Edinburgh Tier six: Bath - Bulls - Toulon - Ospreys The competition would probably work better with fewer teams, so I’d probably favour only the first 4 tiers being invited, and then going straight to a quarter final without a round of 16. On the one hand this would possibly incentivise teams to take the champions cup seriously, and on the other it would mean that the latter stages would be more likely to involve teams that have demonstrated a willingness to take the competition seriously. The main differences between my proposed system and the actual draw is that mine would give la Rochelle a fairly easy ride to the quarters, and would either exclude the Bulls entirely or would give then an insurmountably difficult draw. As it happened Exeter got quite an easy pool draw but that was a bit of a fluke. My system would reward Exeter for being one of the teams that demonstrably devote a lot of attention to the CC by guaranteeing them a good draw.

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