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Highlanders player ratings vs Hurricanes | Super Rugby Pacific

By Mike Rehu
Gareth Evans. (Photo by Joe Allison/Getty Images)

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The Highlanders couldn’t even up the count against the Hurricanes for 2022, finishing 0 and 2 after losing in Dunedin 22-21. They had lost the earlier clash against the Hurricanes 21-14, and both teams were coming off impressive wins against the over-worked Moana Pasifika team.

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Much was made of the Hurricanes playing their third game in a week and the southerners surged in the third quarter after they got back to their full complement of 15. Earlier, Josh Dickson had been shown a red card in the 20th minute. The lead see-sawed in the last 13 minutes and when Saula Mau piled over in extra time, the decision went to the video ref and it looked like the Highlanders may have pulled off a last-minute victory, but were denied. For now, they remain dwelling in the cellar of the points table with the two new Pacific Island squads.

Here’s how the Highlanders rated.

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1. Ethan de Groot – 7
Awesome first scrum earning a penalty and some good physical mahi making his presence known on both sides of the ball. Off at 45.

2. Liam Coltman – 8
Looked back to the form that last made him an All Black in 2019. Threw some beautiful lineout darts, forming a snazzy combo with his jumpers. Staunch turnover in the 31st minute. Off at 45.

3. Jermaine Ainsley – 7.5
Has become an important cog in the pack, good scrummaging and gave Xavier Numia a pummeling when he came on to earn a penalty. Off at 58.

4. Bryn Evans- 8
Made it a tough day at the office for Asafo Aumua with some canny defensive lineout jumping. Has an amazing engine for a 37-year-old and was still ploughing into it in the last moments.

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5. Josh Dickson – 3
Got a red card in the 19th minute; hard to know how he could have avoided contact as Mafileo was running at him and he had nowhere to go. The law is clear though and players know the score now after the checklist is ticked off.

6. Gareth Evans – 8.5
Definitely the player of the day for the Highlanders – and can’t think of a Hurricane who bettered him either. Saved a try with a heroic tackle on a bus called Julian Savea, then got him a moment later after the wing had bumped two of his teammates off. Teamed up with Coltman in the 37th minute for another save on the tryline. Secured some peachy turnovers in the 38th and 57th minutes and made some important yards.

7. James Lentjes – 6
A couple of unfortunate incidents where he got his body position wrong smeared his performance. He was bullied by Ardie Savea in the 11th minute at ruck time and then with ball in hand in the 29th minute as he was marmalised by Aumua and the Canes captain. Redeemed himself with a better stab with the ball in hand in the 50th and was battling hard in the collision zone all day.

 

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8. Hugh Renton – 6.5
Brought in at the last minute for Marino Mikaele-Tu’u. Missed a tackle on Bailyn Sullivan for the first try of the match but gives his all in the contact area. Off at 51.

9. Aaron Smith – 6.5
Got hustled by Savea at the ruck and Jordie Barrett with the high ball early on. He had a very animated period in the 25th minute as the Landers went on attack but it wasn’t the greatest outing from the halfback. Meanwhile, Fakatava put his hand up big time for a starting spot. Off at 58.

10. Marty Banks – 6.5
He didn’t let anyone down in his 50th Super rugby match. Kicked well from hand and at goal and distributed astutely. Off at 62 but was back for a cameo after Gregory’s dilemma.

11. Scott Gregory – 5.5
Both wings were outplayed by their opposites and marking Julian Savea with his form at the moment is not an easy prospect. Got up at kick-off time well but misread a Canes set-piece to allow Salesi Rayasi a clear run to the line. Made a poor kick to touch at the 62-minute mark after the ball had been carried back into the 22 but made amends a minute later with a quality turnover. Then a bizarre situation unfolded where he went down with a nasty-looking shoulder complaint, walked off claiming an HIA check then trotted back on for the last moments of the match.

12. Thomas Umaga-Jensen – 7
Kept Jordie Barrett very quiet and made some inroads of his own. Managed 50 metres off 10 carries and for the last quarter-hour got to mark up against his brother, showing some ingenuity with an unbelievable flick in-field on the left flank to Mitch Hunt that led to Max Hicks’ try.

13. Denny Solomona – N/A
Was penalised for playing the ball on the ground in the 12th minute, caught Moorby from behind, closing down a break but that saw him limping off with a leg injury after just 17 minutes.

14. Sam Gilbert – 5.5
A frustrating day for the right wing, he was chasing shadows marking the elusive Rayasi all match. Missed 6 tackles, pretty much all on his opposite and couldn’t wind up very often to go on his remarkable runs.

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15. Connor Garden-Bachop – 4.5
Disappointing game from the fullback. Was sound at the back, but his sophomore year hasn’t been a mind-blower. Has lost his Kolbe-like slipperiness with the ball in hand and was the prime culprit on defence in the final Morgan try.

Reserves:

16. Andrew Makalio – 6
On at 45. Scored a masterful lineout maul try in the 52nd minute. He may look like a cuddly teddy bear but he has claws and teeth, that’s for sure!

17. Daniel Lienert-Brown – 6.5
On at 45. Showed great speed to join the attack that led to Hicks’ try. Always a game carrier and solid at set-piece.

18. Saula Ma’u – 5.5
On at 58 and denied the try that would have seen him get free Speights for life!

19. Max Hicks — 7
On at 39 when Dickson’s red card ran out. Nice save of 5 points on Julian Savea in the 61st minute then backed himself to score six minutes later. Is definitely one to watch.

20. Billy Harmon – 5.5
On at 51. Lost ball in contact in the 77th minute but Tony Brown will be happy to see him back as he adds some starch.

21. Folau Fakatava – 7
On at 58. Worked well covering some chip kicks into his 22. Did excellently to turn over Ardie Savea in the 67th minute to help get the Highlanders in the lead. In some ways his combative game seems to suit the southerners more than Smith’s excellent distribution; a real brain-teaser for the selectors.

22. Mitch Hunt – 6.5
On at 62. Set up the comeback try from Hicks and added some spirit.

23. Fetuli Paea – 7
On early after Solomona’s demise and made a real difference with straight hard running and muscular defence.

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