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Highlanders player ratings vs Crusaders | Super Rugby Pacific

By Alex McLeod
(Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

Despite a rapid start to each of the two halves, the Highlanders have fallen to a 34-19 defeat at the hands of their South Island rivals, the Crusaders, in their Super Rugby Pacific derby in Dunedin on Friday.


Here’s how the Highlanders rated:

1. Ethan de Groot – 6

Coupled up well with Manaaki Selby-Rickit to stop Will Jordan in his tracks with a thumping tackle. Pinged for being offside midway through the first half, and was lucky not have cost his side three points. Held the scrum up well, but hobbled off with a possible ankle injury before half-time. Off in the 36th minute.

2. Liam Coltman – 6

Strong, aggressive defence and stole a turnover penalty up after Jordan was smashed by De Groot and Selby-Rickit. Heavily involved on both sides of the ball, although was a bit rocks and diamonds at the lineout. Off in the 55th minute.

3. Jermaine Ainsley – 6

Perhaps not as busy as he was last week, but still showed glimpses of surprising fleet-footedness for a man of his size. Scrummaged well up until the 52nd minute, when he was folded by replacement prop George Bower just after having received some medical attention, which gift-wrapped three points for the Crusaders. Off in the 55th minute.

4. Manaaki Selby-Rickit – 6

Formed one half of a crunching double tackle with De Groot to annihilate Jordan. For the second week running, he proved himself as a mobile and robust player. Off in the 59th minute.

5. Josh Dickson – 6

In the thick of things in and around the ruck in the opening stages of the match. Coughed up a penalty near the half-hour mark at a rolling maul, which ultimately resulted in Sevu Reece’s second try. Ill-discipline cost his side three more points on the stroke of half-time. Led his side defensively with 18 tackles.

6. Shannon Frizell – 7.5

Rolled his sleeves up and ripped into things in typically committed fashion. Sensational footwork to stand up Braydon Ennor and charge through the middle of the park to open the second half. Continued to look threatening when in possession. A good performance with this effectively being a make-or-break season for his All Blacks career. Off in the 55th minute.

7. James Lentjes (vc) – 6

While he isn’t the slickest operator on attack, he was warrior on defence, making 17 tackles from as many attempts. Unfortunately ended in a world of hurt late in the match after he clashed heads with Scott Barrett.

8. Gareth Evans – 6

Guilty of giving away a penalty to halt his side’s momentum inside the opening couple of minutes in the second half. Probably his personal highlight was his barnstorming run over the top of Simon Hickey off the back of a scrum. Off in the 75th minute.


9. Aaron Smith (c) – 7

Was brilliant in helping lift his side’s tempo to the level it was at when they rocketed out to a stunning early lead. Should have released Sam Gilbert with a cut ball as the Highlanders had the Crusaders on the back foot early in the second half. Redeemed himself by winning an heroic turnover as his side felt immense pressure from the Crusaders deep inside his own half. Looked at home back under the roof of Forsyth Barr Stadium. Off in the 49th minute.

10. Mitch Hunt (vc) – 7

Wonderful ball-playing to put Sam Gilbert away for his try. Lovely searing run down the left-hand flank early in the second half. Endured a mixed bag with his kicking out of hand, but enjoyed an unblemished record off the tee. Unlucky not to have scored midway through the second half, when he was held up by the opposition defence. Similarly to Smith, the firm track and dry ball suited him well.

11. Josh Timu – 6

Good backtrack to halt David Havili after he burst into enemy territory early on. Succumbed to an injury not long afterwards, though. Off in the 19th minute.

12. Thomas Umaga-Jensen – 6

Curiously under-utilised when the Highlanders went through their dominant spell early in the first half, and remained quiet for most of the rest of the match. Struggled to replicate the impact he offered off the bench against the Chiefs last week, but didn’t really put a foot wrong either.

13. Fetuli Paea – 6

Provided more in the first minute of this match by stripping Jordan of the ball than he did in the entire opening half of last week’s match. Continued to get involved frequently in all facets of the game. Perhaps ran the wrong line right into traffic when the Highlanders had the opposition under the pump well inside enemy territory with 15 minutes to play and lost the ball as a result. Still a far more imposing display than last week, though.

14. Sam Gilbert – 6.5

Outstanding running line to dot down under the sticks off the back of set-piece backline move. Ran the most metres of any Highlanders player with 65 to his name, was dependable under the high ball and booted the ball tidily. Fell off a tackle he probably should have made on Jordan in the lead-up to his try, but the same could be said for the other four defenders who were beaten.

15. Connor Garden-Bachop – 6

Solid early take against Will Jordan. Found himself in an unfortunate and isolated position in the lead-up to Reece’s first try. Shifted to the wing after Timu left the field, and applied himself well, whether that was on attack or scrambling as a defender. A welcome return to Super Rugby.

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16. Rhys Marshall – 5

On in the 55th minute. Nice wee half-break immediately upon his induction into the match. Was a bit off at the lineout, and was punished for that when Will Jordan scored what was effectively the game-changing try.

17. Daniel Lienert-Brown – 6

On in the 36th minute. Thrust himself into the thick of things, as he did last week.

18. Josh Hohneck – 5

On in the 55th minute. Carried with passion, but was pinged for folding a scrum in the dying stages of the encounter.

19. Bryn Evans – 6

On in the 59th minute. Great lineout steal right by his own tryline.

20. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u – 6

On in the 55th minute. Won a great turnover to halt the Crusaders’ progression into the Highlanders’ half. Made note in last week’s ratings that he should have started this week, and he should come into the reckoning next week if Lentjes is unavailable.

21. Folau Fakatava – 6

On in the 49th minute. Offered some zip with his trademark sniping runs around the fringes of the ruck.

22. Marty Banks – 7

On in the 19th minute. Came on at fullback. Skinned on the outside by Reece en route to his second try. Acquitted himself well as he negated the aerial threat posed by the Crusaders. Fronted up defensively as well. Couldn’t ask much more of him in his Super Rugby return after a three-year absence.

23. Hugh Renton – N/A

On in the 75th minute.


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Jon 1 hours ago
Sam Cane was unfairly cast in Richie McCaw's shadow for too long

> McCaw’s durability and sustained excellence were unique, but we seemed to believe his successors were cut from the same cloth. It’s easy to forget McCaw was just as heavily critiqued for the last two years of his career. The only real difference was his captaining criticisms and his playing criticisms happened at different times, where Cane was criticized for a few things in both areas for all of his last 4 years. This was also heavily influenced by another McCaw esque presence, in Ardie Savea, being in the team and pushed out of his original position. It could be said we essentially didn’t have the 3 prior years with Ardie as world player of the year because he was changing into this new role. I say “original” position as despite him never coming out and saying his desire is to perform his role from, that I know of, clearly as part of a partnership with Cane as 7, I don’t think this was because he really wanted Cane’s playing spot. I think it most likely that it comes down to poor All Black management that those sort of debates weren’t put to bed as being needless and irrelevant. It has been brought up many times in past few months of discussions on articles here at RP, that early calls in WC cycles, to say pigeonhole an All Black team into being required to have a physical dynamo on defence at 7 (and ballplyaer at 8 etc) are detrimental. In the end we did not even come up against a team that threw large bodies at us relentlessly, like why we encountered in the 2019 WC semi final, at all in this last WC. Even then they couldn’t see the real weakness was defending against dynamic attacks (which we didn’t want to/couldn’t give 2019 England credit for) like the Twickenham Boks, and Irish and French sides (even 10 minutes of an English onslaught) that plagued our record and aura the last 4 years. It really is a folly that is the All Blacks own creation, and I think it pure luck, and that Cane was also such a quality All Black, that he was also became an integral part of stopping the side from getting run off the park. Not just rampaged. > The hushed tones, the nods of approval, the continued promotion of this nonsense that these men are somehow supernatural beings. I bet this author was one of those criticizing Cane for coming out and speaking his mind in defence of his team that year. Despite the apparent hypocrisy I agree with the sentiment, but I can only see our last captain as going down the same road his two prior captains, Read and McCaw, have gone. I am really for Cane becoming an extra member to each squad this year, June, RC, and November tours, and he is really someone I can see being able to come back into the role after 3 seasons in Japan. As we saw last year, we would have killed for someone of his quality to have been available rather than calling on someone like Blackadder. Just like the Boks did for 2023.

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