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Highlanders player ratings vs Blues | Super Rugby Pacific

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

The Highlanders remain winless this season after falling to a 32-25 Super Rugby Pacific defeat at the hands of the Blues at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday.

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Here’s how they rated:

1. Daniel Lienert-Brown – 6.5

Strong scrummaging to wheel it and put pressure on Hoskins Sotutu, leading to a penalty. Good turn of pace to gallop in for his fifth try in Highlanders colours. Certainly not the best prop on the park, but produced a credible showing. Off in the 64th minute.

2. Liam Coltman – 5

Sloppy handling inside his own 22 early in the match. Fortunate not to have conceded points. Shaky at the lineout. Showed good strength to stop a dangerous Blues rolling maul, but still a few yips in his core roles. Off in the 50th minute.

3. Jermaine Ainsley – 6

Missed tackle on Mark Telea, allowing him to break through. Quality clean out work in the lead-up to Sam Gilbert’s try. Part of a Highlanders front row that largely struggled at scrum time against their all-star counterparts. Off in the 64th minute.

4. Manaaki Selby-Rickit – 6

Stole a lineout to instigate a sequence of play that led to Sam Gilbert’s try. Aside from that important piece of play, provided little else for the southerners. Off in the 58th minute.

5. Josh Dickson – 6

Started off poorly but worked his way into things. Poor hands and a joint missed tackle with Ainsley on Telea led to a line break inside the opening quarter. Good muscle to force a turnover from the re-start. Led his side’s tackle count, with 10 to his name.

6. Shannon Frizell – 5.5

Was involved often with ball in hand, running for 30 metres from 12 carries. Was quite a subdued performance compared to previous weeks, though.

7. James Lentjes – 6

A classic performance from the hearty vice-captain. Threw himself into everything without actually playing a starring role. Should have scored with five minutes to play, but the pass that was thrown to him by Fetuli Paea was well forward.

8. Gareth Evans – 6

Early offside penalty gifted the Blues an easy three points. Top speed off the back of the scrum to put the Blues on the back foot and catch them out for Lienert-Brown’s try. Most running metres of any Highlanders forward and worked hard on defence. Off in the 65th minute.

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9. Aaron Smith (c) – 7.5

Wasn’t provided the quality service of ball that he needed from the forwards to play with the kind of pace that he flourishes in during the first half. That changed in the second half, which began when he harassed Sotutu at the back of a scrum to win his side a penalty. Then sparked a super-charged attack with some sniping runs off quick ball leading up to Lienert-Brown’s try. Should have had a try assist were it not for Mosese Dawai’s knock on. Off in the 68th minute.

10. Mitch Hunt – 7

Showed his defensive frailties by slipping off a few tackles, but was equally as slippery as a broken field runner. Nice ball to Gilbert for his try. Same again for Lienert-Brown’s try. Grew into the game as it wore on.

11. Mosese Dawai – 6

Made one good run early after being put into a bit of space. Was clobbered by Ofa Tu’ungafasi and Kurt Eklund in a thumping tackle not long afterwards. Should have bagged himself a try, but denied by an earlier spillage. Off in the 72nd minute.

12. Scott Gregory – 7

Sucked in defensively, resulting in overlap that led to Caleb Clarke’s try. Good half-break and flick pass to send Fetuli Paea through a gap. Strong defence to hold Sotutu up over the tryline. When he did make a good defensive read, he was superb with his tackle efficiency, keeping numerous Blues players at bay.

13. Fetuli Paea – 6

Busy defensively and applied himself with a strong sense of determination. Wasn’t enough to provide his side with much impact, though. Could have sent Lentjes through for an easy try with five minutes to play, but threw a forward pass. That may have cost his side the game.

14. Ngatungane Punivai – 4

Caught out by Beauden Barrett after jamming in from a Blues scrum on his own tryline. Wasn’t the only time he left his wing to make a tackle after Gregory mishap. Off in the 43rd minute.

15. Sam Gilbert – 7.5

Lovely finish to score his first try not long after the break, and was on hand to bag his second later in the half on the back of some great ball-playing work by his teammates. His finishing quality leaves him as his side’s top try-scorer this season.

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Reserves

16. Andrew Makalio – 6.5

On in the 50th minute. Strong carrying, solid on defence and effective at the set piece. A challenger for a starting role moving forward.

17. Ayden Johnstone – 6

On in the 64th minute. Acquitted himself well in his first match for the Highlanders in a long time.

18. Josh Hohneck – 6

On in the 64th minute. Carted himself around the park and scrummaged as expected.

19. Fabian Holland – 6

On in the 58th minute. The first Dutch player to grace Super Rugby Pacific. Expect to see more of the 19-year-old in the coming weeks and years.

20. Hugh Renton – 5.5

On in the 65th minute. Not overly effective when injected into the match.

21. Folau Fakatava – 6.5

On in the 68th minute. Brought plenty of impetus to the match upon his induction to the match, and put Gilbert away for his second try of the match. Exactly what the Highlanders would have wanted from the youngster.

22. Vilimoni Koroi – N/A

On in the 72nd minute. Got one touch in back play and put boot to ball.

23. Freedom Vahaakolo – 5.5

On in the 43rd minute. Great burst up the middle of the park to get his side back into the contest in the phase before Lienert-Brown’s try. Poor decision-making to take Caleb Clarke on by the sideline in the dying stages of the match, though.

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