The Hurricanes’ victory over the Crusaders the night before was the perfect tonic to add spice to this match. If the Blues could garner a bonus point victory they could sit just a point behind the Crusaders team with three rounds to play in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

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The Blues moved from three to one playmakers with Beauden Barrett at 10 and Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, Blake Gibson, Matt Duffie and TJ Faiane getting their chances in the starting lineup.

The Blues started with a bang but had to hold on as the determined Chiefs came back, final score 21-17, no bonus point but a hard earned victory. Here’re the Blues player ratings.

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The next generation of All Blacks hookers

1. Alex Hodgman – 6.5      

Good round the park, helped his captain crash over the line and some carries and tackles. Scrum wasn’t smooth on his shift so he will be under pressure from a resurgent Tu’inukuafe.

2. Kurt Eklund – 8

Try saving tackle 26 minute on Alaimalo. Has been solid on the set piece and energetic round the paddock. Played the full 80 so has gained full trust from the coaching team.

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3. Ofa Tuungafasi – 7.5

Was good to see the two best tightheads in the country showing not only their scrumming prowess but their finer skills as well. 12th minute put a great shot on O’Neill. Powerful break led to Christie try.  7 carries and even a clearance from the base of the ruck. Off at 63.

4. Patrick Tuipulotu (c) – 7.5

Good to see big Patrick getting the ball in his hands as well as executing his core role. Some powerful running and a fine try.

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5. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti – 8

Looks like he’s returning to hot form. Good work lifting either side of halftime with big tackles, line out steals and carries. Enviable headaches for selectors with him and Goodhue firing as other teams flag.

6. Dalton Papalii – 7

Made the switch to blindside, kept Boshier quiet at the tackle. Had some adjustment issues at the scrum with Weber running down the blind gaining yards, leading him to lose his bind the next scrum where Hodgman conceded penalty without his weight.

7. Blake Gibson – 7.5

Had a strong outing in his 50th for the Blues. Top tackler with 16 and didn’t give up. Good example of that was at 27 minutes when he got run around by DMac but tracked back and seconds later flew like Superman to drag down Weber.

8. Akira Ioane – 7

Good defence out wide on players like Lienert-Brown and and Wainui. Twelve meaty tackles but conceded 4 penalties at breakdown. Nice little grubber to get Blues on attack for Christie’s try. The best thing about Akira this season, can anyone remember when he was involved in pushing and shoving after the whistle? He has matured immeasurably.

9. Finlay Christie – 7

Canny display from the halfback. Low and hard snipe for important try at 55 minutes.  Off at 63.

10. Beauden Barrett – 7.5

It was priceless to see him in the 10 jersey again. Great first kickoff finding grass, a 50 metre clearing kick off his left foot. Brilliant touches on attack in the lead up to Tuipulotu try in the 16th minute. Interesting to see him move to the backfield with 15 to play.

11. Caleb Clarke – 7

Always muscular with ball in hand.

12. TJ Faiane – 7

Love the urgency of his defence. Good foil for his outsides.

13. Rieko Ioane – 7.5      

Anyone who doubts Rieko has the subtlety to be a world class centre can watch the no look pass to Duffie for his first try. Love seeing him smash over the advantage line and have the patience to go to ground and recycle if there’s nothing on.

14. Mark Telea – 7

Goes looking for work and doesn’t shirk defensively. Only black mark was in the 43rd minute where he lost the ball on attack.

15. Matt Duffie –  7

Ran a fantastic line for the first try. Off at 65.

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16. Luteru Tolai – N/A

17. Karl Tu’inukuafe – 8         

On at 48. Very good bid for a starting role next week. Beefed up the scrum and gave the tiring Laulala a torrid time.

18. Sione Mafileo – 7.5

On at 63 minutes and earned penalties in his first two scrums.

19. Josh Goodhue – 8

On at 63 and relished having the fresh legs as everyone else felt fatigue. Two big carries straight up, a good attempt at maul turnover and then the last gasp penalty win at the breakdown in the 80th minute.

20. Tony Lamborn – N/A

On at 65

21. Sam Nock – 7

On at 63 and added some zip.

22. Otere Black – N/A

On at 65

23. Harry Plummer – N/A

On at 72 yellow carded after 78

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