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Highlanders player ratings vs Chiefs | Super Rugby Pacific

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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The Highlanders have fallen to the Chiefs 26-16 in their first match of the 2022 Super Rugby Pacific season at Wakatipu Rugby Club in Queenstown.

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In a rusty performance, the Highlanders couldn’t assert their authority over their domestic rivals as they opened their campaign with a disappointing defeat in their own backyard.

With that in mind, here’s how the southerners rated:

1. Ethan de Groot – 5

A mixed bag for the four-test All Black. Showed some deft touches in the backline, but was equally liable to some handling errors, one of which ultimately led to Sam Cane’s try. Anchored the scrum well. Off in the 50th minute.

2. Liam Coltman – 7

A mostly strong performance by the ex-All Black as a lineout thrower, something that has been a weakness of his game in recent times. An energetic showing around the park. Off in the 63rd minute.

3. Jermaine Ainsley – 7

Showed his prowess as a ball-running front rower, showing some tidy footwork for a big man, although he did give away an innocuous obstruction penalty that resulted in Pita Gus Sowakula’s try. The former Wallabies prop held his own at the scrum. Off in the 63rd minute.

4. Manaaki Selby-Rickit – 6

Showed some good toe out wide to keep pace with Josh Ioane when presented with an early try-scoring opportunity. Looks a good fit for the Highlanders in the injury-enforced absence of Pari Pari Parkinson. Off in the 54th minute.

5. Josh Dickson – 5

Busy on defence with 14 tackles, and won the most lineouts for the Highlanders, but not much else to write home about.

6. Shannon Frizell – 6

Carried strongly throughout, although he couldn’t quite punch through the defensive line as he would have hoped. Can’t question his commitment and effort with ball in hand, though. One lineout steal to his name. Off in the 54th minute.

7. James Lentjes – 5

Dropped Dawai’s offload in one of the opening passages of play, and then did the same when Ainsley looked to put him into space from a half-break in the middle of the park. Looked to have scored his side’s first try, but was denied by Fetuli Paea’s forward pass. Topped his side’s tackle count with 17.

8. Gareth Evans – 6

Produced a quality lineout steal to relieve his side of some pressure during the first half, but was arguably the most ill-disciplined Highlanders in the first half. Still managed a decent showing in his first appearance back at the Highlanders since 2017.

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9. Aaron Smith (c) – 5

Directed the backline sharply early on, but faded away as the first half wore on. Outplayed by his opposite, Smith was also guilty of a defensive misread that enabled Sowakula to skip over the top of him and score off the back of a scrum from five metres out. Hardly a vintage performance, which could be put down to early season rust. Off in the 56th minute.

10. Mitch Hunt – 5

An understated performance by the franchise’s main playmaker. Stood up by Xavier Roe in the lead-up to Cane’s try, and then guilty of a wayward clearing kick. Certainly not his best work, and he will look for an improved effort next week.

11. Josh Timu – 6.5

Lively all match long and hardly put a foot wrong. Proved that the Highlanders coaches were right to entrust him with a surprise starting role, but he will be eager for better service from his insides next time round.

12. Scott Gregory – 6

Ran hard and straight, but wasn’t given a strong platform to shine on as he did in last year’s Super Rugby Trans-Tasman in the first half. Switched to the wing at half-time, but his involvement out wide was limited.

13. Fetuli Paea – 4

Virtually absent in the first half. Very little to write home about in the opening 40 minutes. Burned badly by Sowakula as he broke the lineup to instigate the attack that resulted in Emoni Narawa’s try. Looked to have shown good hands under pressure to set Gregory away for Lentjes’ try, but his pass was later ruled to have been forward.

14. Mosese Dawai – 3

Not the Super Rugby debut he would have envisaged. His first touch was a misguided offload to Lentjes, and he was then held up off the ground by a raft of Chiefs defenders shortly afterwards. Another loose offload not long after that halted his side’s momentum, while a wayward chip and chase saw the ball sail into touch on the full. Off at half-time.

15. Sam Gilbert – 6

Largely quiet in the first half, except for a dodgy tip tackle on Jonah Lowe deep inside his own half, which piled more pressure on his side and eventually led to Pita Gus Sowakula’s try. Was reliable, for the most part, under the high ball and owned his role as one of his side’s primary kickers in general play.

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Reserves

16. Rhys Marshall – 6

On in the 63rd minute. Added some impetus and looked to get his mitts on the ball frequently.

17. Daniel Lienert-Brown – 7

On in the 50th minute. Pinged for wheeling the scrum when the Highlanders were in a prime attacking opportunity, although he can feel hard done by that call. Redeemed himself shortly afterwards with a clutch piece of defensive work at the breakdown to win his side a penalty just 10 metres from their own line. Rewarded with a try in the 69th minute.

18. Josh Hohneck – 6

On in the 63rd minute. Carried strongly.

19. Bryn Evans – 5

On in the 54th minute. Tried a tricky lineout play with Coltman upon his induction into the match, but a sloppy pass brought the play to a standstill. Received plenty of medical attention with a series of niggles.

20. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u – 6

On in the 50th minute. Was surprisingly benched for the season-opener, and probably should start next week given the power he offers with ball in hand. Didn’t get too many chances to show that against the Chiefs, but he acquitted himself well enough.

21. Folau Fakatava – 6.5

On in the 56th minute. Looked to challenge the Chiefs’ defence with his typical sniping runs and sped the pace of the game up a bit, but couldn’t quite conjure up his best work. Outpaced by Samisoni Taukei’aho in a foot race for the ball, which is perhaps an indication that he is still working his way back into from from the ACL injury that sidelined him for much of last year.

22. Marty Banks – N/A

23. Thomas Umaga-Jensen – 7.5

On at half-time. Introduced himself impressively by earning a breakdown penalty within the first five minutes of the second half. Followed it up with a barnstorming carry through the midfield to put the Chiefs on the back foot in the 56th minute. Was by far the most impactful Highlanders substitute and should really start next week.

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