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Chiefs player ratings vs Highlanders | Super Rugby Pacific

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The Chiefs have extended their unbeaten run to 10 games with a convincing 52-28 win over the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium on Friday night.


Things didn’t quite go to plan for the ladder-leaders early on, with the Highlanders scoring in just the seventh minute through All Blacks prop Ethan de Groot.

But led by the likes of Damian McKenzie, Danial Rona and Shaun Stevenson, the Chiefs showed their class with an incredible try-scoring blitz. Here’s how the Chiefs rated.

  1. Shaun Stevenson – 9/10

There’s three certainties in life: death, taxes, and Shaun Stevenson scoring tries for the Chiefs. The competitions top try scorer added another five-pointer to his season tally, and also set up teammate Anton Lienert-Brown for a score.

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Stevenson was sensational at both wing and fullback, having run for almost 90 metres from 11 carries. The All Blacks XV representative also kicked quite well, and was safe under the high ball. Another quality performance from one of the players of the season so far.

  1. Emoni Narawa – 9

There was plenty of interest and intrigue following Chiefs winger Emoni Narawa coming into Friday night’s clash. All Blacks coach Ian Foster has highlighted the winger as a potential Test bolter, and the boss was in the crowd at Forsyth Barr Stadium as well.

Narawa didn’t do his All Blacks chances any harm with his performance tonight – far from it, in fact. The winger scored a sensational try midway through the first half which simply has to be seen in order to be believed. Narawa sliced his way through the Highlanders defence as he ran about 60 metres to the house, and beat a few defenders en route to the try line as well.

The winger ended up running for a staggering 99 metres from nine carries, and beat eight defenders as well.

  1. Daniel Rona – 8.5

Rising star Daniel Rona is getting better every week for the Chiefs. After getting an opportunity to join the squad during preseason as an All Blacks replacement player, Rona has found himself a home in the Chiefs’ No. 13 jersey.


Rona was sensational against the Highlanders, and was certainly in the conversation for player of the match honours. The outside centre scored two tries, including a 75 metre runaway score, and a try assist as well. Rona ended up running the ball for 94 metres, which included three clean breaks and three defenders beaten.

  1. Anton Lienert-Brown – 7.5

As the sports adage goes, form is temporary but class is forever. Milestone man Anton Lienert-Brown celebrated his 100th Super Rugby appearance with a sensational display on Friday night, which included a first half try at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Running a clever support line off Shaun Stevenson, the All Black reaped the rewards as he crossed for a five-pointer in the 28th minute.

Lienert-Brown ran for 40 metres and beat one defender on the night, but was especially impressive in defence – having made all 11 of his tackle attempts in Dunedin. For a world-class talent who hasn’t played since round one, Lienert-Brown didn’t look out of place after returning to competitive rugby.

  1. Peniasi Malimali – N/A

Peniasi Malimali only ran the ball once before going off injured inside the opening 20 minutes of the match. The winger received a brilliant pass from Shaun Stevenson around the halfway line, and limped his way about 25 metres down the field. Malimali was replaced immediately after.

  1. Damian McKenzie – 8.5

It wasn’t quite a game of two halves for Damian McKenzie, but there was certainly a turning point for the playmaker following a slow start to the clash. Lining up at first five, McKenzie threw a forward pass inside the opening 20 seconds of the contest – not a great start. The pivot struggled to make an impact in the 20 minutes or so that followed.

But once Bryn Gatland came on, McKenzie began to play with some more freedom. The 40 Test All Black began to express himself with the ball, having set up two tries on the night. McKenzie ran for a game-high 112 metres from 11 carries, beat five defenders, and also finished with no missed tackles.

  1. Brad Weber – 8

Brad Weber was hot and cold against the Highlanders – and when I say cold, that’s not to say he was poor. Weber was good without overplaying his hand for a majority of this clash, but certainly came alive as the Chiefs began to take control.


Weber led the Chiefs’ attack around the park with clever passing and kicking games, also scored one of his sides many tries on the night. Weber ended up running for 72 metres, and also beat four defenders.

  1. Aidan Ross – 6.5

Any prop who plays 61 minutes of any Super Rugby match deserves some praise. Aidan Ross put in an admirable shift down south against the Highlanders, which included a solid effort at the set-piece. Ross ran the ball four times and made seven tackles.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t all smooth sailing though. The loosehead prop was penalised more than once.

  1. Samisoni Taukei’aho – 7

All Black and Chiefs star Samisoni Taukei’aho had an uncharacteristically quiet night against the Highlanders. Taukei’aho missed his second lineout throw, but was otherwise perfect at the set-piece.

Around the ground, Taukei’aho ran the ball seven times for a hard-fought 18 metres, and also got busy in defence with 10 tackles. To say this was an ‘uncharacteristically quiet night’ like I did above is saying something – Taukei’aho is a world-class player, and he was good without being great tonight.

  1. George Dyer – 7

Chiefs prop George Dyer put in a solid shift against the Highlanders, which included an impressive score just before the half-time break. Following some brilliant lead-up play from All Blacks Damian McKenzie, Brad Weber and Pita Gus Sowakula, Dyer managed to finish off a brilliant team try.

The prop also scrummed quite well, and got busy on the defensive side of the ball. While Dyer made seven tackles on the night, the 23-yar-old also missed three attempts.

  1. Tupou Vaa’i – 8

In some ways, all that needs to be said is this: 17 tackles. It’s incredible. All Blacks and Chiefs lock Tupou Vaa’i worked tirelessly in defence as he made a majority of his 20 tackle attempts. Vaa’i was also the go-to man for Samisoni Taukei’aho at the lineout.

  1. Naitoa Ah Kuoi – 7

Following a quiet start to the contest, Naitoa Ah Kuoi made his first memorable impact in the 23rd minute by winning a penalty at the breakdown. While the lock worked tirelessly around the field, he couldn’t quite steal the show in Dunedin.

Lining up alongside All Black Tupou Vaa’i in the second row, Ah Kuoi finished with 100 per cent tackle accuracy from eight attempts. But again, while he managed to recover from a long start with some moments of promise, it was far from his best performance in Chiefs colours.

  1. Pita Gus Sowakula – 7.5

Backrower Pita Gus Sowakula had another great game on Friday night. As he has done all season, the All Black just seemed to have a towering presence about him in both attack and defence – and certainly made the most of this with moments of brilliance against the Highlanders.

  1. Sam Cane – 7

Chiefs co-captain Sam Cane has been very impressive this season, but the flanker was kept quiet against the Highlanders. Cane struggled to make an impact as the Highlanders took control early on, and the Chiefs backs led the resurgence later on.

Cane did impress on the defensive side of the ball though, having made an impressive 10 tackles on the night.

  1. Luke Jacobson – 7.5

Luke Jacobson just didn’t stop running at Forsyth Barr Stadium. The All Black did everything he could on both sides of the ball, which included a staggering amount of tackles (13) in defence. Jacobson also ran the ball 11 times for 55 metres.


  1. Bradley Slater – 6.5
  2. Ollie Norris – 6.5
  3. John Ryan – 7
  4. Josh Lord – 6
  5. Kaylum Boshier – 7
  6. Cortez Ratima – 6.5
  7. Bryn Gatland – 8 – Came on after just 18 minutes. Played a key role in some of the Chiefs tries, and also kicked quite well around the park.
  8. Alex Nankivell – 6.5


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