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

By Nick Turnbull
Billy Harmon and Finlay Christie. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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The final of the inaugural Super Rugby Trans-Tasman Competition was played out between the Blues and Highlanders at Eden Park on Saturday evening.

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The hosts, eager to get their hands on a title after and end an 18-year drought had to contend with an Aaron Smith and Ash Dixon-led outfit, with Dixon, their talismanic stalwart running out for his 100th cap for the men from Dunedin.

However, the beer would have been flowing at the Viaduct post-match as the Blues clinched an epic final, 23-15, against a very determined and resilient Highlanders who may not have won the match, but certainly won respect for their efforts tonight.

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This is how the Highlanders rated.

1. Ethan De Groot – 6.5/10
Toiled hard after some torrid encounters in the set-piece and managed to establish some parity at times but struggled against the might of Nepo Laulala. To his credit, he continued to exert himself in general play and was a workhouse in defence.

2. Ash Dixon – 6.5
Rattled Otere Black’s cage a couple of times, yet sadly one came with a yellow card as a result that compounded pressure onto his side. He returned after 10 minutes, however, and looked to rally his troops. A credible performance despite the card.

3. Siate Tokolahi – 7
Was rock-solid in defence and looked to take his physicality to the Blues. Played on after an early knock to his knee that further illustrates, he is one determined bugger.

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4. Pari Pari Parkinson – 6
Had a fair crack at the Blues but he didn’t disturb their lineout and was guilty of an amateur infringement that robbed his side of defensive pressure and gave the Blues some attacking momentum. Has had better nights.

5. Bryn Evans – 6.5
The old man of the pack showed he is ever-young with a credible workhorse performance tonight. Toiled away in the tight and was a real presence in the Highlanders lineout tonight.

6. Hugh Renton – 6
He went hard but the execution didn’t always meet the effort. Dropped off the odd tackle and really didn’t win the physical battle with the Blues but, to his credit, he spent himself trying.

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7. Billy Harmon – 7.5
He might be a Highlander, but he played like a Border Reiver tonight stealing anything he could on any number of raids into the Blues breakdown. This, coupled with a try-saving tackle on Hoskins Sotutu and an all-around exhaustive performance earned him best Highlander forward on the park for mine.

8. Kazuki Himeno – 6
Was outplayed by the Blues back row and never really found a way to impose himself on the Blues. Still, has already won himself over to the Highlanders faithful in the deep south and will be sorely missed if he doesn’t return in 2022.

9. Aaron Smith – 7.5
Put in another intelligent performance tonight, particularly with his kicking options. When the Blues were looking to squeeze the Highlanders and the pressure was mounting, Smith found a way to find a pressure release and rallied his team admirably.

10. Mitch Hunt – 7.5
He was industrious, he was tough, he was combative and he really kept the Highlanders in it. It was a ‘Follow me’ type performance as he didn’t shirk any duty bestowed upon him. Quality shift.

11. Jona Nareki – 6
Just didn’t happen for him tonight but even with the game not flowing his way, he didn’t go into a shell. Looked for work as he seldom received any front-foot ball in space. Has had better defensive performances.

12. Scott Gregory – 6.5
Played tough through the middle and had some traffic down his channel that he largely dealt with but had a few misreads. Certainly, looks better closer to the ball.

13. Michael Collins – 6.5
He had his moments and caused the Blues some issues and never stopped looking for a way to unlock the Blues defensive system. A solid night out. Will be missed next season.

14. Patelesio Tomkinson – 5.5
Similar to Nareki, he didn’t seem to get many opportunities in attack, but he didn’t appear to go looking for enough work tonight. Has better rugby in him, but credit to the Blues, they suffocated the Highlanders attack.

15. Josh Ioane – 5.5
Iced a long-distance penalty and had some nice touches but this game needed Ioane to unleash some of his attacking brilliance, and we really only saw snippets of this man’s potential tonight. It wasn’t enough.

Reserves:

16. Liam Coltman – 6.5
Brought some energy when he came on and looked good around the park and in the tight. Despite facing some lineout pressure, he battled on. Credible performance.

17. Ayden Johnstone – 5.5
Did his best to hold up the scrum and hold the line in tight but didn’t really feature much beyond that.

18. Josh Hohneck – 5.5
Was guilty of a scrum infringement that gave the Blues some field position and momentum but he stayed in the fight and was a contributor in tight.

19. Josh Dickson – 6
A worker – and that’s what he did when came onto the park. A no-frills performance in the engine room.

20. James Lentjes – 6
Came on and provided some starch around the breakdown and was unlucky to have a turnover penalty reversed on him. Worked himself hard and shouldn’t be disappointed in his efforts despite the result.

21. Kayne Hammington – N/A
Unused.

22. Sam Gilbert – N/A
Didn’t see enough.

23. Teariki Ben-Nicholas – N/A
Didn’t see enough.

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

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