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Highlanders Player Ratings vs Chiefs | Super Rugby Pacific

By Ned Lester
Freddie Burns issues instructions for the Highlanders. Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images

Round 10 offered the Highlanders a shot at a Chiefs side that have well-established themselves as the top team in the competition.


Highlanders coach Clarke Dermody said the team was excited to be back home in Dunedin with their fate still in their own hands.

While the Highlanders did a better job of managing territory and putting themselves in the right positions to score, they struggled to execute and didn’t come away with points while the Chiefs scored some absolute rippers by creating opportunities out of thin air.

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Here’s how the Highlanders rated:

1. Ethan de Groot – 8.5

The big body of Ethan de Groot makes for a finishing machine close to the line and the Chiefs found that out the hard way in the sixth minute. Fired a beautiful pass out from the bottom of the ruck when Aaron Smith was otherwise engaged. The All Black was an absolute force in the scrums, winning his side a number of penalties.

2. Andrew Makalio – 5

Makalio’s lineout throws were a mixed bag on the night, not offering his side the platform needed for any continued building of pressure. His tackling numbers also left a lot to be desired.

3. Jermaine Ainsley – 7

Ainsley offered himself as a ball carrier early and managed to get over the gain line. The Highlanders’ scrum has been firing in 2023 and tonight’s matchup with the Chiefs further proved their credentials and took one of the Chiefs’ weapons out of the equation.


4. Fabian Holland – 5

A start for the 20-year-old against the best of the best is a huge vote of confidence from coach Clarke Dermody. Had limited opportunities before getting injured early.

5. Josh Dickson – 5

A quiet match for Dickson, who was a late call-up to the starting XV. Frizell and Renton handled much of the lineout work.

6. Shannon Frizell – 7.5

Moved to lock after 20 minutes with the injury to Fabian Holland and stepped into the role as well as Clarke Dermody could have hoped. Frizzell’s fitness stood out towards the end of the game, keeping his head and spotting an opportunity to score in the closing minutes.

7. Billy Harmon – 8.5

Harmon looked just as proficient tackling Shaun Stevenson as he did Samisoni Taukei’aho, setting a strong example for his side. His work at the breakdown slowed the Chiefs down and forced the table toppers to commit multiple players in the ruck, punishing them with a number of turnovers otherwise.


8. Hugh Renton – 8

Renton is not a player who waits for the game to come to him, he was again active early on both sides of the ball tonight as well as hitting a heap of breakdowns. He contributed some fine work in the lineout with a rare steal against the Chiefs throw.

9. Aaron Smith – 7

Handed the ball over on the Highlanders’ first scoring opportunity of the match but was pretty superb after that. While the passing was snappy, the Highlanders’ kick strategy of putting up contestables so far within their own half didn’t bare many fruit and in a number of instances, was poorly executed.

10. Freddie Burns – 6

Burns’ game management had the Chiefs pinned in their own half for much of the opening passages, his side struggled to execute and that territory advantage slipped through their fingers as the game wore on. The former England international challenged the line just once or twice as he looked to facilitate the damaging runner Thomas Umaga-Jensen on his outside.

11. Scott Gregory – 5

The Highlanders’ wingers were rarely seen in this match, they chased the multitude of contestable kicks that were put up but had limited success in retrieving them and the Chiefs’ wingers proved difficult to pin down on their counterattacks. Gregory missed as many tackles as he made on the night.

12. Thomas Umaga-Jensen – 8

A diamond in the rough that was the Highlanders’ backline, he looked to spark attacking opportunities with every touch. His physicality saw him march through defenders, drawing attention and setting up runners off his shoulder. A try assist was one play that will make the highlight reels but each of Umaga-Jensen’s touches were profitable for the Highlanders.

13. Fetuli Paea – 5

Paea’s tackle statistics from this one aren’t pretty. His few touches on attack looked promising but the predominant strategy of kicking off nine or feeding Thomas Umaga-Jensen for a hit-up didn’t give their attacking threats many opportunities.

14. Connor Garden-Bachop – 5

A quiet night for the wiley winger, who struggled to inject himself within the Highlanders’ conservative attack.

15. Sam Gilbert – 6

Gilbert racked up some significant running metres while challenging the Chiefs’ line, some of the half gaps he decided to hit put his teammates under pressure as he was in danger of getting isolated. Finding counterattacking opportunities against this Chiefs defence is no easy task and Gilbert did his best but couldn’t find any significant gains throughout the match.


16. Rhys Marshall – 6

17. Daniel Lienert-Brown – 6

18. Saula Ma’u – 7

19. Josh Dickson – 7

20. Sean Withy – 6

On early for Fabian Holland, made some strong tackles.

21. Folau Fakatava – 7

Will rue missing the tackle on Brad Weber as the Chiefs’ halfback went on to score. Otherwise provided some of the usual X-factor off the bench, setting up attacking opportunities and winning turnovers.

22. Mitch Hunt – 6

23. Jona Nareki – 7.5


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Dunnos 413 days ago

I really don’t get why we kept deciding to kick it back to the most dangerous back three in the comp. Every time we did it we were punished for it.

Mark 414 days ago

So Josh Dickson got a 5 and a 7? What’s it gonna be?

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