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Highlanders Player Rating v Blues | Super Rugby Pacific

By Jack O'Rourke
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

For their season opener, the Highlanders welcome the Blues to Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin to kick off their 2023 campaign. In front of a boisterous home crowd, The Blues punished the Highlanders early, piling on the points in the first half.

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From there the Highlanders were hard-pressed to wrestle back any advantage. The Highlanders had a chance at halftime after scoring two quick tries, but ill-discipline and thier inability to get over the gainline stifled any momuntum they were able to build. In the end they were comprehensively kept out of the game and were exposed easily by the Blues in defence.

While the Highlanders struggled, there were a few bright spots. Here’s how the Highlanders rated.

 

1. Ethan de Groot – 6

Proved difficult to bring down with some powerful runs in tight. His scrummaging continues to be a major asset to the Highlanders team.

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2. Rhys Marshall – 5

Was on target from all his throws at lineout time, contributing to a good out by his locks. In the first half he threw a wayward offload that resulted in a Caleb Clarke try at the other end of the park.

3. Jermaine Ainsley – 4

Very solid at scrum time, gaining the Highlanders ascendancy at the set piece. Got close to the tryline right on half time but was held up over the line.

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4. Paripari Parkinson – 4

Carried plenty for his team, with varying degrees of success. Was part of a forward pack that struggled to get over the gainline and keep possession. Was perfect at lineout time, winning four of his receptions.

5. Josh Dickson – 5

Not a glamorous performance but every team needs a hard-working lock like Dickson. Won all the lineout throws that went his way, made 14 tackles and carried it 10 times. His support off the ball was impressive, supporting his team at the breakdown. He did concede two penalties and missed three tackles.

6. Shannon Frizell – 5

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Got the Highlanders over the advantage line for the Highlanders at times during the match. Operated as the general at the back of the scrum and controlled his forward pack well to keep the ball in tight. Delivered an offload from the scrum to put in Timu for a try which kept the Highlanders in touch.

7. Billy Harmon – 6.5

Skippering the team, Harmon showed heart and determination, leading by example by taking the hard carries into contact. He caused the Blues headaches by battling away at the breakdown.

8. Marino Mikaele Tu’u – N/A

Left the field with a painful-looking rib injury in the 3rd minute.

9. Folau Fakatava – 6.5

Returned from an ACL injury sustained last year. Early in the game, Fakatava challenged the Blues forwards around the ruck with sniping runs. Tried to spark his team into action but couldn’t rally his troops when it counted. Unlucky not to be awarded a try after it was deemed a double-movement.

10. Mitch Hunt – 4.5

Was pressured a lot by the Blues fast rush defence. Scored the Highlanders opening try, which sparked a minor comeback by the Highlanders just before half time. He wasn’t a huge driver of ball play for the Highlanders, opting to shovel it to centres in an attempt to crack the line.

11. Connor Garden-Bachop – 4

Started on the wing, replacing Jona Nareki who was pulled from the team with an injury just before kick-off. Had a hard time containing Mark Telea, who ran rampart on the Highlanders. Put in a handy little kick right on half time to pin the Blues on their own tryline. It eventually lead to a Highlanders try.

12. Thomas Umaga-Jensen – 4.5

Showed glimpses of his power by making some hard runs into the teeth of the Blues defence but was well contained by his opposition centres. Made nine carries for 15 hard-fought metres.

13. Josh Timu – 4

Wasn’t afforded much time and space by the opposition. Scored an important try right on half time to give the Highlanders a sniff but wasn’t able to enforce himself on the game, only managing 20 metres from nine carries.

14. Jonah Lowe – 4

Didn’t get many opportunities with ball in hand to demonstrate his speed and evasiveness. He was outshone by his opposite number in Caleb Clarke.

15. Sam Gilbert – 4.5

Was the Highlanders main goal kicker. Carried eight times for 54 metres.

 

Replacements:

16. Andrew Makalio – 3

Entered the fray in the 52nd minute to replace Marshall.

17. Daniel Lienert-Brown – 3

Entered the fray in the 52nd minute to replace De Groot.

18. Saula M 3a’u – 2

Replaced Ainsley in the 58th minute.

19. Will Tucker – 3

Came on in the 55th minute for his Super Rugby debut.

20. Sean Withy – 6

Came on earlier than expected to replace Mikaele Tu’u and performed admirably. Led his team in the tackle with 18, only missing one.

21. Kemara Hauiti Parapara – N/A

Debuted in the 72nd minute.

22. Freddie Burns – N/A

The English playmaker came on in the 63rd minute for his first ever Super Rugby game but couldn’t provide the spark.

23. Martin Bogado – 2

Came on for his Super Rugby debut in the 59th minute.

 

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