The Highlanders came off the bye to host the Hurricanes and celebrate Aaron Smith’s 154th cap, breaking Ben Smith’s record for the most games for the southerners; Pari Pari Parkinson and Freedom Vahaakolo joined the starting XV for the first time this season.
The Hurricanes were excited about a veteran as well. Dane Coles was back and they were looking for some starch and leadership from him after three losses to start 2021.
The Highlanders had a glut of territory and possession but they just could not convert the abundance into points. Jordie Barrett was immense with all of the Hurricanes’ 30 points as they garnered their first victory of the season 30-19.
Here’re the Highlanders’ ratings.
1. Ethan de Groot – 6
He’s developing quickly and played well. Had a good period in the second quarter. Earned a scrum penalty in the 23rd minute, a bunting run at 28 and smart defensive work at the lineout in the 32nd minute which led to the reversed penalty. Off at 48.
2. Ash Dixon – 5.5
Technically adept but was out-passioned by Coles. Has lost a bit of his swagger as oppositions have worked out the Highlanders’ lineout mauls.
3. Siate Tokolahi – 6.5
He’s having a good season. In the last two games he’s been an ox disrupting opposition scrum ball and getting round the paddock. Off at 54.
4. Bryn Evans- 6.5
The old-timer may look like an extra out of Deliverance but that character and experience really adds some heft in this young squad. He’s a go-to lineout option, loved his smart reposition at the maul in the 33rd minute to go over for try.
5. Pari Pari Parkinson – 6.5
Strong comeback performance. There’s a lot to love with his puncturing of the line but also his soft hands in tight spaces. Off at 48.
6. Shannon Frizell – 7.5
Gargantuan effort from the big bear. Top metres from either team and went to beast mode in the 17th minute as he man handled several defenders aside but typical of the team’s performance made a meal of the touchdown.
7. Billy Harmon – 5.5
Accurate performance but a bit like Ash Dixon was out-passioned by his opposite who looked like he wanted it more. Brilliant cover tackle on Laumape in the 43rd minute but couldn’t tag Jordie moment later on the way to his third try. Off at 73.
8. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u – 4
Subdued outing, missed a couple of tackles, blew a try they desperately needed running behind Tomkinson. Lost the ball in the 37th minute in contact. Off 48 and Himeno looked good.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 26, 2021
9. Aaron Smith – 6
As he conceded this week, he’s missing the zip he displayed last year. Caught out and a little discombobulated on Jordie’s second try with Rayasi’s magic ball. Sparked the team at the start of the last quarter with a quick tap that led to Garden-Bachop’s 5-pointer and that was his game at 63 minutes. Emotional times pre and post match; what a legend!
10. Mitch Hunt – 4.5
Must take some of the blame after the team’s profligacy but showed some good skill at times. Great run and pass to Vahaakolo in 29th minute but questions around some of the failures to exit, then a hash up under high ball in the 42nd minute that led to a crucial Hurricanes try.
11. Connor Garden-Bachop – 5.5
Energetic athlete with quick feet and solid ball-playing skills. Good finish for the try. I’m checking his family tree as Nisbo the commentator reckons he’s Graham’s brother. Maybe nephew….
12. Patelesio Tomkinson – 4
Nailed Laumape in the 8th minute but couldn’t snuff out the attack which led to lineout and Jordie’s first try. Missed a load of tackles.
13. Michael Collins – 4
Seemed to have a target on his chest as he ran into the train that is Tyrel Lomax in the 4th minute, then ten minutes later got hammered by Proctor. Off at 54.
14. Freedom Vahaakolo – 5
His performance was indicative of the Highlanders outing. Tons full of natural ability but lacking in game savviness and wise option taking. He looked good with ball in hand and some lovely skill with a clever touch-finder. Pulled in to Proctor’s dummy cut and couldn’t get out to stop Jordie from scoring his first try. Failed to stretch out and score at 29 minutes after being brought down in the corner. In the 47th minute he passed to a Hurricane with the line in sight. And offside at the lineout at the 56th, coming inside the 15 before the lineout was over. Will get better.
15. Josh Ioane – 7
Enjoyed the licence at the back and spurred a number of attacks from the backfield.
Fans have taken to social media to express their outrage over a ludicrous penalty reversal during Friday's Super Rugby Aotearoa clash between the Highlanders and Hurricanes in Dunedin. #HIGvHUR #SuperRugbyAotearoa https://t.co/28am3p2bhm
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) March 26, 2021
16. Liam Coltman – 4.5
On 63. Quiet.
17. Ayden Johnstone – 5.5
On at 48 and did some handy work around the field, especially in defence. The last scrum penalty wasn’t flash.
18. Josh Hohneck – 3.5
On at 54 and smashed out a scrum penalty first up. Then was penalised a couple of times himself, the error at 64 when he came in the side off the ruck on attack was a coach killer.
19. Josh Dickson- 5
On at 48 and money at the lineout. Gave away a silly penalty napping in a ruck.
20. Kazuki Himeno – 7
On at 48 and underlined his ability. Great play at 58 minutes with a big tackle on Laumape and then a turnover on Walker-Leawere 10 seconds later. Led the rearguard action with a bundle of carries to Garden-Bachop’s try.
21. Folau Fakatava – 6
On 63. Brought some urgency with quick taps and go forward.
22. Thomas Umaga-Jensen – 6.5
On at 54 and showed the starting centres how to run straight and direct. Opened up like the Red Sea for his try in the 75th minute.
23. James Lentjes- N/A
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