The arrival of both Beauden Barrett and Dan Carter in Auckland ensured that Blues fans entered the new season of Super Rugby Aotearoa with positive attitudes. A packed-out crowd was on hand to watch Barrett’s debut – although they’ll have to wait a few weeks for Carter to make an appearance – and they were hoping for a considerably better flowing match than the season opener between the Highlanders and the Chiefs on Saturday evening.

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Fortunately, fans won’t have been disappointed with the quality of the match. Yes, there were a few more penalties than most would have hoped for – but there were also some exceptional tries. Ultimately, the Blues came out on top, winning 30-20.

Who were the Blues’ top performers in their first match of the new Super Rugby Aotearoa season?

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Jonah Lomu plays for Wesley College during the final of the 1993 New Zealand Secondary Schools Condor rugby Sevens tournament in Auckland.

1. Alex Hodgman – 6

Not as busy as his front row partners but did honest work. Off in 66th minute.

2. James Parsons – 6.5

Led the Blues’ defensive line. Apart from one little blip, helped the Blues lineout function very efficiently. Off in 66th minute.

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3. Ofa Tu’ungafasi – 7.5

Topped the Blues’ tackle charts with 13. Earned a scrum penalty in the 36th minute to put the Blues hot on attack then was done over by Tevita Mafileo in the second half. Off in 66th minute.

4. Patrick Tuipulotu – 8

Physical. Exactly what the Blues needed from their captain. Threw himself into tackles and cleaned out more than Hurricane breakdown threat. Not used too much by the Blues for their own throws into the lineout but made a nuisance of himself when the Hurricanes were feeding. Off in 71st minute.

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5. Josh Goodhue – 7

The Blues’ key lineout forward and reliable on defence. More graft than glamour for the first 79 minutes then came alive, forcing a breakdown penalty then giving a nice offload to Papalii out wide.

6. Tom Robinson – 8.5

Constantly disrupted the Hurricanes’ set-piece throughout the match, managing three steals. Showed good pace to cover Vince Aso’s attacking grubber kick and prevented a sure try. Popped up everywhere.

7. Blake Gibson – 6

A couple of big tackles early on – showed more physicality than we’re traditionally seen from him. Busy on defence. Off in 30th minute.

8. Hoskins Sotutu – 7.5

Didn’t clock up as many metres on attack as we’ve become accustomed to (still the most of any Blues forward though) but showed off his wider range of skills. Surprisingly disruptive in the breakdowns, forcing a few penalties.  Nice cover tackle on Ngani Laumape.

9. Sam Nock – 7.5

Maintained the pace exceptionally well – especially in the lead-up to the Blues’ second try. One of the best performances from a Blues halfback in recent years. Off in 66th minute.

10. Otere Black – 8

Didn’t see too much of his running game but kept the score ticking along with perfect goal kicking and was a calming presence in the backline. Cleverly timed passing gave Rieko Ioane the space for the Blues’ first try. Bumped by Asafo Aumua then promptly left the field. Off in 71st minute.

11. Caleb Clarke – 8.5

The Blues’ biggest metre-eater with over 100 to his name. Very dangerous and deceptively fast but perhaps a bit too greedy at times. Burst onto a Rieko Ioane ball in the 13th minute then broke two tackles to score a well-taken try. Had the opportunity to send Beauden Barrett away not much later but held on a smidge too long. Forced one ruck penalty. Off in 66th minute.

12. TJ Faiane – 6.5

Faiane is normally a quiet operator, leaving the flashy stuff to his teammates. Scored one try this afternoon and put in one expertly weighted grubber to set up Dalton Papalii’s try but probably still didn’t have quite as much an impact throughout the game as he would have liked. First man of the game to get hit for a breakdown infringement, which the Hurricanes promptly converted into points. Bowled over by Asafo Aumua.

13. Rieko Ioane – 7.5

Looked deadly,  a completely different player to last year. Great cover tackle on Ben Lam in the 10th minute after the Hurricanes winger almost escaped Mark Telea’s grasp. Great burst set up Clarke’s first try of the afternoon.

14. Mark Telea 7.5

Swapped onto the right wing after making such a big impact on the left earlier in the season – it didn’t faze the 23-year-old. Created space for himself with expert sidestepping and physicality. Broke two tackles then offloaded to Faiane for the Blues’ second try. Sent Chase Tiatia to the shadow realm with a beautiful fend.

15. Beauden Barrett – 7

Lovely inside ball to create the Blues’ second try. Brilliant tactical kicking throughout the match. Rushed out to try cut down Hurricanes attack which created the overlap for Ben Lame to score. Pinged once in the breakdowns.

Reserves:

16. Kurt Eklund – N/A

On in 66th minute.

17. Ezekiel Lindenmuth – N/A

On in 66th minute.

18. Marcel Renata – N/A

On in 66th minute.

19. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti – N/A

On in 71st minute.

20. Dalton Papalii – 7.5

On in 30th minute. Almost immediately won a penalty. Maintained Gibson’s physicality in defence then showed good pace to capitalise off Faiane’s grubber.

21. Finlay Christie – N/A

On in 66th minute.

22. Harry Plummer – N/A

On in 71st minute. Slotted in at fullback, unusually.

23. Matt Duffie – N/A

On in 66th minute. One nice clearance kick.

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