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Highlanders player ratings vs Crusaders | Super Rugby Pacific

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The Highlanders came within just three points of their first win of the year in the unlikeliest of circumstances, but were denied by a determined Crusaders outfit in Christchurch on Friday.


Here’s how they rated:

1. Daniel Lienert-Brown – 7

Quality turnover steal at the breakdown early on, one of two he won during the match. Pinged shortly after half-time for an obstruction. Thumping tackle on Will Jordan early in the second half. Off in the 53rd minute. Back on in the 78th minute after Ethan de Groot as sent for an HIA. A more than suitable replacement for the four-test All Black.

2. Andrew Makalio – 7

Tricky lineout move earned him a try against his former team in his first start for his new team. Can thank his enormous frame for powering his way through some limp defence en route to that try. Was largely accurate with his lineout throws and showed good distribution skills in general play. Should really challenge for a starting role from here on out. Off in the 52nd minute.

3. Josh Hohneck – 4

Endured a terrible day at the set piece. Pinged for collapsing a scrum inside his own half, laying the groundwork for the Crusaders’ first try. Was then guilty of another scrum infringement near the half hour mark, and then clipped Will Jordan with a dubiously-called high tackle in the same sequence of play. Collapsed another scrum just before half-time, but wasn’t punished as David Havili missed a long-range shot at goal. Off in the 55th minute.

4. Bryn Evans – 6

A reliable lineout target, although he conceded a free kick for crossing the mark at the set piece. Was otherwise largely quiet. Off in the 60th minute.

5. Josh Dickson – 8

Pinched the ball from the Crusaders at a lineout inside the opening two minutes. Rock solid tackle on a Crusaders attacker defused a threatening attack as he dislodged the ball and forced a turnover on his own 22 near the end of the first half. Followed that up with another lineout steal a minute or two later. Cantered upfield after being put into acres of space by Folau Fakatava late in the match. The main lineout target whenever his side had the throw. A standout performance.

6. Shannon Frizell – 5

Wasn’t as destructive as we’ve come to expect from him in the first half, where arguably his biggest contribution was penalty for not releasing the ball at the breakdown. In saying that, he put a Crusaders defender on his backside as the half neared a close, but was inaccurate defensively, completing only six of his 13 tackle attempts, which is far below that what is acceptable. Produced a barnstorming run up the guts just as the Highlanders needed it in the final 10 minutes. That demonstrated why he is so useful for the Highlanders, but he needed more consistency across other facets of his game.

7. Sean Withy – 6

Came up with a powerful tackle in his first action as a Super Rugby player. A touch overzealous a wee while afterwards when he was penalised for being offside, handing the Crusaders three points. Led the charge for his side on defence, topping the tackle count with nine tackles from as many attempts. Not a bad effort in an unexpected debut. Off in the 61st minute.

8. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u – 7

Lovely pop pass to put Sam Gilbert into space early in the first half. Carried well, making the most metres in the match (76), and defended strongly. Overeager while defending one lineout maul and cost his side a penalty, and coughed the ball up after fielding a hospital pass from Rhys Marshall, but was otherwise impressive and should start again next week.


9. Aaron Smith (c) – 5

His quest to find some early season form continued without a ton of success. Box-kicked often, with varying results, and wasn’t his crisp self on the passing front. Outshone by Fakatava after he came off. Off in the 67th minute.

10. Mitch Hunt – 6

Some great things and some not so great things. Started off with an aimless kick while in a promising position, but redeemed himself by showing good awareness and footwork to put Scott Gregory away for his try. Mostly dependable under the high ball, made good decisions with ball in hand in the backfield and was brave on defence. However, he missed an important shot at goal from a reasonable range early in the second half, and then spurned a shot at goal late in the match from a handy position to instead kick for the touchline, only to boot it dead. Both of those instances cost his side a chance to equalise or take the lead.

11. Mosese Dawai – 6

Looked determined to get involved, but struggled to do so when he shanked a clearing kick into touch about five metres from where he booted it. Was a bit more troublesome for the opposition defence in the second half as he put frontline defenders under pressure with his carries and half line breaks. Still not the complete package, but showing signs of improvement from his horror debut two-and-a-half months ago.

12. Scott Gregory – 6

Well-taken try midway through the first half. Wasn’t his usual dependable self on defence in the lead-up to Leicester Fainga’anuku’s try as he was used as a speed bump by the All Blacks prospect. Conceded a vital penalty in the last few minutes that allowed the Crusaders to kick their way out of danger.

13. Fetuli Paea – 6

Got involved without ever really standing out from the crowd. Ended the match with two tackles from four attempts, and carried often, but to little effect.

14. Sam Gilbert – 7

Tore the opposition defence to shreds with a searing run up the middle of the park inside the opening quarter. Looked dangerous with most touches of the ball. Was probably the most threatening of anyone in his team. A poor kick into touch on the full in the last few minutes blotched an otherwise impressive showing in what was a continuation of his good early-season form.

15. Connor Garden-Bachop – 6

Had a very quiet first half. Began the second half with a charging run to try and pierce the opposition defence, which was followed by a shocker of a midfield bomb. Stunning floated ball to pick out Dawai on the left flank not long after that. Off in the 56th minute.

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16. Rhys Marshall – 3

On in the 52nd minute. First involvement in the match was to concede a penalty for collapsing a maul. First lineout throw was the picked off by Cullen Grace. Shovelled a needless pass towards Mikaele-Tu’u, who duly dropped it. Then dropped to the ground and conceded a penalty for collapsing a scrum. Not the impact the Highlanders wanted or needed.

17. Ethan de Groot – 6

On in the 53rd minute. Outmuscled Tamaiti Williams in one of his first scrum contests. Off in the 78th minute due to an HIA.

18. Saula Ma’u – 6

On in the 55th minute. Used his massive frame well. Did the job when called up at short notice.

19. Manaaki Selby-Rickit – 7

On in the 61st minute. Stole a lineout well inside his own half, and then showed his athletic prowess by supporting Dickson in his line break and turning a Crusaders defender inside out with ball in hand.

20. Gareth Evans – 6

On in the 61st minute. Superb work to snaffle a breakdown penalty inside the final 15 minutes.

21. Folau Fakatava – 8

On in the 67th minute. Injected the impetus that head coach Tony Brown would have wanted. A constant threat with his snipes around the fringes, making one half break and setting Josh Dickson up for one of his own. Did his absolute best to steal the win for his side, and could be rewarded with a start next week as a result.

22. Marty Banks – N/A

23. Denny Solomona

On in the 56th minute. Quality kick-chase from a Hunt bomb kick to win his side possession deep in enemy territory in his first act as a Super Rugby player. Looked right at home and wouldn’t be surprised to see him feature regularly over the next few weeks.


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