The Highlanders have shocked the Crusaders in Christchurch. As so often when a team feels under pressure, the visitors relished the physical clash and intimidated the champions off their game; they just couldn’t couldn’t get in to gear after a bye.
The great southern men were leading 16-0 after 33 minutes, the Crusaders managed to peg a try back before halftime but if the home crowd were expecting their team to come out and walk over the men in blue in the second half they were disappointed as hero after hero stepped up for the Highlanders to push the margin out to 33-12.
Here’re the Highlanders’ ratings.
1. Ethan de Groot – 8
Has become one of the form looseheads in the competition. A 6th min scrum penalty over Alaalatoa and managed to keep his side of the scrum up under pressure. Smashed into first ruck in second half and cleaned 3 or 4 out and looked up for it but was subbed shortly after.
2. Ash Dixon – 7.5
Was well up for the battle against Taylor and displayed aggression and defiance. Lineouts were smooth, scrum held together and angry carries. Off at 52.
3. Siate Tokolahi – 8
An unsung hero for the Highlanders all season. Very safe player in every facet. Got some claret at 42 minutes but didn’t look like he wanted to go off. Proved his worth winning a penalty over Moody seconds later and then off at 46.
4. Bryn Evans- 8
What an asset the 36 year old has been for his team. Like a classic car; purring along after a few kilometres on the clock. Amazing tackle tracking back in 39th on Codie Taylor and spirited run at 50 minutes.
5. Paripari Parkinson – 8
Was one of the top carriers alongside Frizell and Umaga-Jensen although it would be good to see him hit the line with more momentum. Good lineout option as usual and showed against Barrett and Whitelock he would not be out of his depth in an All Black pack. Off at 54.
6. Shannon Frizell – 8.5
Continued his menacing form in the trenches. Unmatched on either side of the ball in terms of strength.
7. Billy Harmon – 7.5
Had some good linking play before his try in the 24th minute. Freakish steal on Barrett at the 38th minute and top tackler in his team. I’m sure he will derive a load of pleasure with that win over his old side.
8. Kazuki Himeno – 7.5
Hit the ball flatfooted a couple of times early on but tireless as a carrying option. Cool turnover in 37th minute. Bumped his head during Taylor’s try but got up and continued working. Off at 52.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 2, 2021
9. Folau Fakatava – 8
Incredible moments of individual skill. Amazing turnover at 15 minutes to deny the home team their first try. Loved the relaxed play on the back foot in the 27th minute as he cleared the from inside the 22. Led the line a lot in defence, a magical pass between the legs at 28. Must continue the Smith apprenticeship on the All Black scrum bench this year. Off at 49.
10. Mitch Hunt – 9
Seemed to channel Phil Bennett, Carlos Spencer and Dan Carter all in one match! Led the Highlanders game plan. None of his team mates gained giant amounts of metres but with Hunt’s cool distribution, passing (e.g. sparking attacks form inside the 22) and kicking (e.g. great grubber in the 72nd minute for position), it meant the Crusaders were left dumbfounded and had no answer.
11. Jona Nareki – 7.5
The team will thank Nareki for his left foot clearances during the game and attacking pokes into the corner towards the end. Didn’t get much chance with the ball in hand.
12. Thomas Umaga-Jensen – 8
Always looks good when he runs straight and hard. Worked well as a strong carrier down the blind in the second half. Hobbled off 55th minute.
13. Michael Collins – 7.5
Solidity and maturity throughout, some good linking to the first try. Toe kicked in broken play in the 57th minute and finished the try from a challenging pass moments later.
14. Scott Gregory – 8
It was the perfect type of game for the sturdy wing. Good drift defence on Goodhue and Fainga’anuku in first half. Loved the lineout take in the 45th minute over the back that gave the attack some good momentum and the perfect bear hug defence in the 62nd minute to deny Blackadder a try.
15. Connor Garden-Bachop – 8.5
Should have been indignant that after being taken in the air by Jordan, his team got penalised. All season I’ve been impressed with his quick feet and reactions. He is quicksilver in everything he does. Some lovely runs throughout the match and topped off with a well-deserved try in the 74th minute.
Falling just short in their first meeting, Melbourne feel they've got now got more "arrows in their quiver" as they attempt to deliver Queensland's first Super Rugby AU defeat. #SuperRugbyAU https://t.co/nWrPmkwXCE
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) April 2, 2021
16. Liam Coltman – 7.5
On at 52. Played with great resolve and tackled his heart out.
17. Ayden Johnstone – 7.5
On at 42. Looked like he wasn’t going to last long after getting a knock but he ran it off and battled on.
18. Josh Hohneck – 8
On at 46. Had been a bit of a liability in the last few weeks with some brain explosions but was pitch perfect this week. Looked unphased as he played first receiver many times. Bower was penalised in a crucial scrum at the 64th minute and Hohneck can take a load of credit for the pressure he exerted.
19. Josh Dickson- 7
On at 54. Solid and reliable.
20. Hugh Renton – 6
On at 52. Got penalised for lifting the legs of Dunshea and looked a little anxious with the ball.
21. Aaron Smith – 8
On at 49. Orchestrated proceedings thoughout, particularly in the lead up to the second try to get the southern men out to 26-7. What a guy to bring off the bench!
22. Caleb Makene – 7.5
On at 54. Good covering at 72 minutes on wing to snuff a chance out. A debut he’ll never forget!
23. James Lentjes- N/A
Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.Sign Up Now