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Highlanders player ratings vs Crusaders | Super Rugby Pacific

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Kelly Defina/Getty Images)

The Highlanders have started their season with a disastrous set of results. After losing to the Blues by 40 last week, the team from the south were beaten 52-15 by the Crusaders in Melbourne.


Playing in the first match of Super Round at Melbourne’s AAMI Park, the Highlanders would’ve been hungry to avenge their disappointing season opener against the Blues last Saturday.

But it didn’t go to plan.

Fullback Sam Gilbert kicked an early penalty goal for the Landers, but that’s about as good as it got as the Crusaders ran rampant with the ball.

The Highlanders scored two tries to the Crusaders’ seven, as the defending Super Rugby Pacific champions recorded a convincing win. Here’s how the Highlanders rated.


  1. Sam Gilbert – 5.5

Sam Gilbert had a mixed night for the Highlanders. After kicking the opening points of the match from a penalty attempt, the fullback went a bit quiet. Gilbert went down with what appeared to be a shoulder injury in the 24th minute, and was eventually replaced in the second-half.

Gilbert battled through the pain, and ended up running the most metres out of an Highlanders player from eight carries.



  1. Jonah Lowe – 4.5

Winger Jonah Lowe had some promising involvements during his time out in the middle, but his night was ultimately cut short. After running the ball twice for 27 metres, and beating three defenders, Lowe was subbed off late in the first-half for a HIA. The 26-year-old didn’t return to the field after failing the assessment.


  1. Josh Timu – 6.5

Centre Josh Timu scored the Highlanders’ only try of the night late in the piece, following a clever kick in-behind the Crusaders defensive line from halfback Folau Fakatava. On the defensive side of the ball, he also showed his class – making nine tackles from 10 attempts.

Timu added another try to his tally in the dying stages of the match after running onto a tidy kick from midfield partner Thomas Umaga-Jensen.


  1. Thomas Umaga-Jensen – 7

If you watched the broadcast on Stan Sport or Sky Sport in New Zealand, you would’ve seen how impressed the commentators were with Thomas Umaga-Jensen. The No. 12 ran the ball 14 times with purpose and fury, and also made 8 tackles.


The Highlanders’ first try of the night wouldn’t have come about had it not been for Umaga-Jensen’s brilliance. Making a powerful burst through the heart of the Crusaders defence, the midfielder forced the defending Super Rugby champions on the back-foot.

Umaga-Jensen also had a try-assist late in the piece, kicking a ball in-behind the Crusaders defence to set up midfield partner Josh Timu.


  1. Connor Garden-Bachop – 6

Not everything went his way tonight – the same can be said for the whole team really – but that didn’t stop the winger from doing all he could to change that. Garden-Bachop made 10 tackles on the defensive side of the ball, but only ran the ball three times.


  1. Freddie Burns – 6

Former England flyhalf Freddie Burns looked cool, calm and collected throughout his maiden start at Super Rugby level. The star pivot kicked well, and also ran the ball with purpose when called upon.

But any first-five is going to struggle without front-foot ball. As the Crusaders took control, Burns began to drift out of the game – although he never threw in the towel. Despite the result, Burns is exactly what the Highlanders need this season.


  1. Kemara Hauiti-Parapara – 5

Highlanders halfback Kemara-Hauiti-Parapara showed glimpses of promise against the Crusaders, but couldn’t really make his mark on the match – and he’s not necessarily to blame for that. While Hauiti-Parapara showcased his rapid passing game, the Crusaders dominance made his job ten times harder.

The scrum-half was replaced by All Black Folau Fakatava inside the opening 10 minutes of the second-half.


  1. Ayden Johnstone – 6.5

Throughout an otherwise disappointing performance from the Highlanders, one shining light was their dominance at the scrum. Especially throughout the opening 40, the Landers were in control – but just couldn’t make the most of their success in this area of the game.

Packing down alongside Makalio and Ainsley, prop Ayden Johnstone contributed to the Highlanders’ three scrum penalties in the first 40. However, he otherwise failed to make his mark around the field.


  1. Andrew Makalio – 4

Playing against his former Super Rugby teammates, hooker Andrew Makalio had a quiet night. The Super Rugby Aotearoa champion was mostly inaccurate at the lineout, and missed a key tackle on Sevu Reece in the first-half – with the Crusaders winger running in for his first try of the season.


  1. Jermaine Ainsley – 7

The Highlanders fell well short against the Crusaders on Friday, but the result doesn’t have to reflect in every rating – although it shouldn’t be forgotten. Prop Jermaine Ainsley was simply sensational during his time on the field.

Ainsley was especially dominant in his matchup against All Black Moody, as the Highlanders won three first-half scrum penalties to the Crusaders’ one. The prop also made eight tackles – at 66.66 per cent accuracy though.


  1. Pari Pari Parkinson – 3

Second-rower Pari Pari Parkinson had an unusually quiet first 40 minutes, and couldn’t bounce back in the second-half. In fact, the 26-year-old was yellow carded for a dangerous cleanout.


  1. Will Tucker – 4.5

Watching from the sideline, there was one Highlanders forward who seemed to stand out above the rest during the opening 40 – both literally due to his height, and figuratively.

While Tucker didn’t necessarily make his mark on the stat sheet, his work rate was quite promising. The second-rower was in the thick of the action; showcasing an abundance of energy as he held his own attack and defence.


  1. Billy Harmon (c) – 6

Captain Billy Harmon had made the second-most tackles of any player in the match at half-time with eight – just one behind teammate Sean Withy. Harmon carried this form into the second-half with another strong defensive performance.


  1. Sean Withy – 6.5

The Highlanders were made to defend on Friday, and Sean Withy led from the front in that regard. The openside flanker was leading the tackle count at half-time with nine to his name, and continued this defensive effort after the break.

Withy made the most tackles of any player on the park with 12.


  1. Nikora Broughton – 5

Former New Zealand Barbarians Under-20s captain Nikora Broughton entered the fray of Super Rugby on Friday night, but his debut didn’t exactly go to plan. While the Crusaders ran riot on the scoreboard, the backrower tried tirelessly to get involved in the match.

Broughton finished the match with the most carries out of any Highlanders forward – four better than second-best Sam Withy – and also made some strong tackles.

In the 28th minute, the loose forward proved to be the hero for the Highlanders, but so easily could’ve been the villain. Chasing a bouncing ball, the debutant did just enough to ground the ball in the in-goal – beating Ethan Blackadder to the prize.



  1. Rhys Marshall – 5
  2. Daniel Lienert-Brown – 5
  3. Saula Mau – 5
  4. Max Hicks – 4.5
  5. James Lentjes – 4
  6. Folau Fakatava 7 – The All Black was fanatic once he came onto the field – he was exactly what the team needed, but by then it was too late. Fakatava had a try assist too, as he kicked the ball behind the Crusaders defensive line for Josh Timu.
  7. Mitch Hunt – N/A
  8. Mosese Dawai5 – Came on earlier than he probably expected, as he placed Jonah Lowe during the first-half.


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