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Highlanders player ratings vs Chiefs | Super Rugby Pacific

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

The Highlanders tough start to the season has gone from bad to worse as they were beaten 28-7 by the Chiefs at FMG Stadium in Hamilton on Friday evening.


Chiefs winger Etene Nanai-Seturo broke the deadlock inside the opening 10 minutes, but the remainder of the first-half was a chess match.

Neither team gave an inch as they went into the half-time sheds separated by just eight points.


But the second-half was Shaun Stevenson’s, as the in-form fullback crossed for two tries. The Highlanders hit back with a try after an hour, but it was too little too late.

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However, the Highlanders showed plenty of fight and improvement throughout the defeat. Here’s how they rated.


  1. Freddie Burns – 6.5

Moving from flyhalf to fullback, former England international Freddie Burns didn’t look out of place in the No. 15 jersey. Burns started the match with a brilliant exit kick inside the opening two minutes, and was consistent off the boot for the remainder of his time out in the middle.

Burns ran the ball for the most metres out of any Highlanders back (62) from his five carries, and also managed to beat two defenders.


  1. Martin Bogado – 6

The Highlanders didn’t have much attacking ball for a lot of the match tonight, which makes it hard to impress as a winger. Bogado only had three carries for 17 metres, but did beat two defenders.



  1. Fetuli Paea – 4

Paea was a late callup to the starting side for the Highlanders, and didn’t quite make the most of his opportunity in the No. 13 jumper. The centre only made two tackles, but missed a further eight attempts. As for his attacking performance, Paea only ran the ball twice for two metres.


  1. Thomas Umaga-Jensen – 6.5

Inside centre Thomas Umaga-Jensen has had better performances in the Highlanders jersey. The 25-year-old couldn’t quite make the impact that he would’ve wanted, as the Chiefs took control of the fixture.


  1. Mosese Dawai – 7

When the Highlanders needed a hero, when they were desperate for a try, winger Mosese Dawai answered the call. Dawai wasn’t going to be stopped after receiving the ball about seven metres out from the try-line – bumping off a couple of defenders en route for the score. Dawai had six carries on the night, and ran for 53 metres.


  1. Mitch Hunt – 6

Flyhalf Mitch Hunt didn’t start the game too well. After the referee had blown time on, Hunt sent the first kick-off of the match into touch on the full. From there, the pivot was somewhat inconsistent throughout the match.


The Highlanders couldn’t really get much going with the ball-in-hand – failing to score a point until the 60th minute – and that has to somewhat reflect on the flyhalf. In the dying stages of the match, Hunt appeared to leave the field with a hand injury of some description.


  1. Aaron Smith – 7

After missing the first two rounds of the season, the Highlanders were certainly boosted by the return of legendary halfback Aaron Smith. Smithwasn’t at his best against the Chiefs – but it was far from an average display as well.

There is a reason Aaron Smith is world-class, and has been for quite some time. The No. 9 just sees things that others don’t, and rugby fans saw glimpses of this on Friday. With his quick passes and accurate kicking game, the veteran helped settle the Highlanders against the ladder-leading Chiefs.

Late in the contest, Smith even tried his hand at flyhalf.


  1. Ethan de Groot – 6

All Black Ethan de Groot had a quiet match against the Chiefs, after returning to the starting line up ahead of the round three clash. De Groot is a workhorse, and that side of his game can’t be criticised following the match on Friday. But overall, the prop flew under the radar in Hamilton.

The Highlanders – for the most part – controlled the scrum battle against the ladder-leading Chiefs. De Groot and the Landers won a penalty just late in the first half, but conceded one of their own shortly after. While he showed glimpses of his destructive best on the defensive side of the ball, de Groot didn’t get his hands on the ball too much – running for just five metres from two carries.


  1. Rhys Marshall – 6.5

Highlanders hooker Rhys Marshall did what he needed to do on Friday night without really standing out. Marshall hit most of his targets at the lineout, but a couple failed to hit the mark.

Around the field, Marshall was in the thick of the action in defence. The hooker made 10 stops in defence, but missed another four attempts – finishing with 71 per cent tackle accuracy.


  1. Jermaine Ainsley – 7

When the Highlanders lost to the Crusaders in Super Round, prop Jermaine Ainsley was a shining light for the team from the south. While the result got away from the Landers, Ainsley managed to do his job quite well – and the same can be said about his performance in Hamilton.

By the time the star prop was subbed off about 15 minutes into the second half, he’d made the equal second-most tackles of any Highlanders player with 15. Ainsley had also done his core quite well, having helped the Landers win a scrum penalty late in the first half.


  1. Pari-Pari Parkinson – 6.5

Highlanders lock Pari-Pari Parkinson left the field late in the first-half after copping a head knock, and did not return after failing his HIA. But in his 35 minutes out in the middle, Parkinson had made his presence known.

Parkinson was one of the go-to options at the lineout for the Highlanders, and he’d also made his mark around the field. By the time he was replaced, the 26-year-old hadn’t missed a tackle from his six attempts on the defensive side of the ball. As for attack, the Maori All Blacks representative had carried the ball four times for 21 metres.

It was a promising start to the match from the towering second-rower – it was just unfortunate that his night was cut short.


  1. Josh Dickson – 7

They may not have won tonight, but the work rate and efficiency of the Highlanders’ players can’t be faulted – especially their forward pack. Josh Dickson was among the four players on the team who had made 15 or more tackles.

Dickson’s work at the lineout can’t be ignored, either. After a yellow card to Shannon Frizell, the loc won the set-piece against the throw – putting an end to what could’ve been a lethal attacking opportunity for the hosts.


  1. Shannon Frizell – 7

To properly analyse Shannon Frizell’s performance, we first have to look at what went wrong. A turning point in Friday nights match was Frizell’s yellow card in the second-half. The Chiefs made the most of their one player advantage, scoring two tries in quick succession. Clearly, the Landers were missing one of their key enforcers.

When he was on the field, the All Blacks flanker was a force to be reckoned with in defence. Frizell had made 10 tackles at 100 per cent accuracy, but was otherwise relatively quiet around the field of play. Frizell was a general at the lineout for the Highlanders, and put plenty of pressure on the Chiefs’ throw as well.


  1. James Lentjes (c) – 7.5

Returning to the No. 7 jersey this week, Lentjes produced a true captains knock against the Chiefs. In a losing side, the flanker refused to throw in the towel at any stage – even when he looked injured, tired, or worse for wear.

Lentjes was replaced with about 10 minutes to play in the match, and he’d well and truly earned a rest by that stage. The 32-year-old had made the second-most tackles of any player with 18, and had also made an impact around the breakdown.


  1. Hugh Renton – 8

Across the 80 minutes, there was one player who just seemed to be everywhere for the Highlanders. No. 8 Hugh Renton worked tirelessly around the field, his team chased their first win of the campaign. While they pulled short, the loose forward deserves plenty of praise for his display.

Renton made 19 tackles on the night, which must have been one of the best defensive performances from anyone this season so far. The backrower just refused to give up, and this carried over to the other side of the ball as well.

In attack, Renton ran for the most metres out of any Highlanders player – carrying the ball seven times for more than 80 metres, and beating one defender as well.



  1. Leni Apisai – 5
  2. Ayden Johnstone – 5
  3. Saula Mau – 5
  4. Fabian Holland – 6 – Replaced Pari-Pari Parkinson late in the first-half.
  5. Sean Withy – 4.5
  6. Kemara Hauiti-Parapara – N/A – Wasn’t on long enough to accurate grade his performance.
  7. Jake Te Hiwi – 4.5
  8. Connor Garden-Bachop – N/A

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