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Highlanders player ratings vs Moana Pasifika | Super Rugby Pacific

By Jordan King
Mitch Hunt. (Photo by Derek Morrison/Photosport)

The Highlanders nabbed their first win in 2022 after taking down Moana Pasifika 37-17 at Forsyth Barr on Friday evening.

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A lopsided penalty count and numerous advantages should’ve seen the hosts put their opposites away early, but poor skill execution combined with the visitor’s refusal to roll over saw the result hang in the balance up until the last quarter.

It was a must-win game for the southerners and their hopes of playing in the knockout stages, however it came at the heavy cost of potentially losing Shannon Frizell and Manaaki Selby-Rickit to the injury ward.

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Here’s how the Highlanders rated:

1. Ethan De Groot – 7/10
Had a little extra oomph with his carries tonight, providing his team with front-foot ball to work off of. Didn’t shy away from confrontation on defence either after finishing with just over a dozen tackles.

2. Andrew Makalio – 6
A handy pick up for the Highlanders after being let go by the Crusaders. Threw his weight around and after nailing his throws

3. Jermaine Ainsley – 6
Not quite as involved as De Groot, although he too seemed to have more venom in the contact area than in previous outings. Banged bodies and took care of his side of the scrum.

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4. Manaaki Selby-Rickit – 5
Helped off in the 25th minute after copping some friendly fire to the knee, but got himself busy in his time on the field.

5. Josh Dickson – 6
The primary line-out target for most of the night, setting his hooker up with multiple scoring opportunities from a rolling maul. Trudged away with the drudgery during open play as well.

6. Shannon Frizell – N/A
Forced off with an apparent knee injury after taking the kick-off.

 

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7. James Lentjes – 6
The toiler amongst this evening’s loosie trio. Expended the majority of his energy chopping down the giants in front of him, 15 tackles all up, and securing the ruck following his teammates’ runs.

8. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u – 7
Wasn’t afforded the same game time last year as he was in 2020 with Japanese skipper Kazuki Himeno in the mix, but has made every post a winner when pulling on the jersey this season. Was somewhat of a Swiss army knife having had touches in all facets of the game.

9. Aaron Smith – 7
Picked apart the Moana Pasifika defensive line with his pin-point accuracy from the base and had a hand in all side’s momentum swinging sequences. Subbed off for Fakatava with a quarter to play.

10. Mitch Hunt – 5
Showed his class by weaving his way through the defence to put Dawai away in the corner and others into space on occasion. Was guilty of a few aimless kicks which put them under pressure though, and an off night from the tee kept the opposition within striking distance up until the closing stages.

11. Mosese Dawai – 6
Opened the scoring after a nice bit of handy work from Hunt and made sure to exploit the mismatch close to the line before the oranges for another. Still has a ways to go with his option taking, however, his improvement week to week shows he’s on the right path.

12. Scott Gregory – 5
Had the unenviable task of getting in front of Danny Toala and Levi Aumua while also having to cart it up in their direction. Took care of business with the former, but some better footwork may have meant he is less sore tomorrow morning.

13. Fetuli Paea – 5
A real rocks and diamonds sort. Has a knack for getting in behind the defence, which is good, only to undo all his work by not freeing it up to those in support or forcing an offload. Should learn to pick his moments better as he gets more reps under his belt.

14. Sam Gilbert – 5
Didn’t see a lot of action when working within the train tracks, so made himself useful by running off shoulders in the middle of the paddock. Reliable as always under contestable.

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15. Connor Garden-Bachop – 5
One of those days where things weren’t quite going his way. This was more a result of the poor ball flung his way than a lack of trying. Covered the kick space well and was dangerous on the return.

Reserves:

16. Rhys Marshall – 6
Picked up where his fellow rake left off with a try via rolling maul with one of his first few touches and closed out proceedings with another dot from the same platform.

17. Ayden Johnstone – N/A

18. Saula Ma’u – 6
Some big charges and eye-catching use of the shoulders in his cameo.

19. Max Hicks – 5
On for his debut in the 25th minute after Selby-Rickit hobbled off. Did his job and secured the pill when jumping at the set-piece.

20. Gareth Evans – 6
Called into action straight after the opening whistle for Frizell and wasted no time getting

21. Folau Fakatava – 6
Lifted the tempo in the final quarter and picked up a try for his efforts after getting his hands on the pill a metre out from the chalk.

22. Vilimoni Koroi – N/A

23. Denny Solomona – N/A

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