The rampant Blues took on the Highlanders in Round 3 of Super Rugby Aotearoa. The southern men came off a bye and a last gasp victory vs the Chiefs while the home team were sitting on 6 wins from their last 6 outings.

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The persistent rain stopped before kick-off but right from the get-go, it was apparent the Eden Park surface was very greasy. After a few early slips, the players coped well.

In the end, the Blues scraped through 27-24 after a brave comeback from the Highlanders in the second half.

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Auckland Blues winger Caleb Clarke talks about being a part of the back to back wins his team have enjoyed to begin Super Rugby Aotearoa.

Here’s how the Blues players performed.

1. Alex Hodgman – 7.5/10

Got put on his bum on his first carry but moments later punching through straight as an arrow to set up the Caleb Clarke try. The fact he lasted until the 68th min before being subbed was a testament to his hard work, topped the tackle count for his team.

2. James Parsons – 6.5

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Continued his error-free professional play in 1st half but missed an important tackle on Pari Pari Parkinson early in the 2nd half that led to Mitch Hunt try, then missed a line out throw moments later. Sneaky little grubber at 57 to garner a penalty, then unselfishly slipped the ball to Dalton Papalii off the line out maul that led to a try.

3. Ofa Tu’ungafasi – 7

Gave Sam Gilbert a warm, shuddering welcome after 8 mins and was solid at set-piece.

4. Patrick Tuipulotu – 6.5

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Not as influential as previous weeks, but put in some big hits – notably one chassis shaker on Parkinson in the 31st minute.

5 Josh Goodhue – 6

Good solid performance but taken off at halftime with a wrist injury

6. Akira Ioane – 5

The fear that Akira might not be up for the work rate expected at 6 didn’t surface last week but appeared against the Highlanders. Outplayed by Frizell and dragged at 55.

7. Dalton Papalii – 7.5

Great player with good game sense and power, he made a reasonable fist of 7. Rewarded for a solid chase to score try in 24th minute after a Hoskins Sotutu charge-down and a second at 58 minutes off the line out maul. Some bruising runs down the right flank defying the cover defence to stay in play.

8. Hoskins Sotutu – 7

Some lovely touches during the game. An energetic chase and charge down for the first Papalii try. Outplayed by Tu’u in the open but crucial defensive play for maul turnover as Highlanders pressed in 78th minute.

9. Sam Nock – 6

Some nice touches in the first half including some heady cover defence to deny Jona Nareki in the 18th minute. After halftime, he had two little slips that led to Mitch Hunt’s try and was pulled after 59 minutes.

10. Otere Black – 6.5

Some really good wipers kicks into the corners in the first half that created pressure that led to points. Placekicking a little askew, he’ll be looking over his shoulder with Dan Carter getting up to match fitness.

11. Caleb Clarke – 8.5

Take a google of some video of Bryan Williams from the 70s and the resemblance is starting to get uncanny. Every game he looks more and more like the great All Black; the thighs, the sidestep and the acceleration! Power personified to score the first try at 6 minutes, amazing run in the 28th min to set up Rieko Ioane.

12. TJ Faiane – 6

Mils Muliaina described him as methodical pre-kickoff; he is crucial in the balance of the Blues backline.

13. Rieko Ioane – 5.5

Had the good finish, running a great line of the Clarke break but other than that, found it hard to break through the Tomkinson and Thompson midfield defensive screen.

14. Mark Telea – 5.5

Maybe the opposition has seen more tape of him since the start of the season but he seems to be struggling to continue to make the yards in open play.

15. Beauden Barrett – 8

Taunted Scott Gregory with his kicking game and inserted himself into the game well.

Reserves:

16. Kurt Eklund – N/A

17. Marcel Renata – N/A

18. Sione Mafileo – N/A

19. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti – 5.5

On at halftime for Goodhue and didn’t seem to be up to speed. Caught out a couple of times in defence as Highlanders surged back with two tries after halftime.

20. Tony Lamborn – 6.5

On at 56 and made a big difference at the breakdown.

21. Finally Christie – 6.5

On at 59 and upped the energy.

22. Harry Plummer – N/A

23 Joe Marchant – N/A

On in the 67th minute for his last hurrah before his return to England. Interesting to see how his experience at the Blues translates into his Harlequins performances.

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