The Blues and the Hurricanes cracked into Super Rugby Aotearoa on a beautiful evening in Wellington. The Savea clan provided the crowd a poignant moment as Ardie marched out with his brother Julian and two children to commemorate 100 games for his franchise.

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The Blues couldn’t convert dominance, chances and an extra man for 10 minutes into points, to trail at halftime 11-7.

Things improved in the second half as timing became a little slicker and the northerners edged to a flattering 31-16 victory.

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Highlanders vs Crusaders | Super Rugby Aotearoa | Round One

Here’re the Blues’ ratings.

15. Stephen Perofeta – 7.5

As a result of having Dan Carter and Beauden Barrett in the squad last year, looks like a more consistent, mature player. No glaring errors, good positionally and top runner in the match. Flew in for try to get the Blues out to a decent 21-11 lead after 53 minutes.

14. Mark Telea – 6.5

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No space early on and knocked on a highball 23rd minute. Turned it around though with great evasive run out from try line pressure in the 40th minute. Had one of the longest runs of the match in the 73rd minute as he again ran from deep.

13. Rieko Ioane – 6

After a frigid first half, he got such a surprise to get the ball early in the second half he dropped it cold. Finally saw some space with a 63 metre run to the line to seal the deal for the Blues. Looks like he’d been practising his downward pressure on the try and his post-try poses……

12. Harry Plummer – 5

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Solid at best, anonymous at worst. First sighted at 58 minutes with a good clearing kick. Held grimly on to Laumape a couple of times. Short with his only kick at goal at 66 minutes.

11. Caleb Clarke – 6.5

Heavy boned runs in the first and 18th minutes. Sometimes defenders off a cartoon look as they bounce off his bumper. Silly delaying tactics cost his side a free kick early in the 2nd half but banked a try moments later. Having trouble judging kick offs close to sideline. Off at 73.

10. Otere Black – 8

Otere is a cool customer and he’s courageous too with a telling head on tackle on Aumua and showing no nerves dealing with dodgy passes and high balls. Decision-wise, lovely cross kick to Caleb Clarke for his try then minutes later great option taking on attack to set up Perofeta’s try. He really is a key to the Blues chances of improving even more this year.

9. Sam Nock – 5.5

Given a pretty comfortable ride by his pack but outplayed by his novice opponent Taumateine. Subbed out after 51 minutes.

8. Hoskins Sotutu – 6.5

Off the back of his powerful scrum Sotutu showed his running skills but couldn’t convert it to points. Round the park he was shaded by his opposite Flanders. Off at 66.

7. Dalton Papalii – 6

Perfect start to the season swooping on a Hurricanes error to score the first Blues try of the season. Couldn’t defuse Ardie at the tackle but has a great engine. Great defence around the 60 minute mark with a slew of powerful tackles. Only negative was the Aussie Rules shorty shorts! Off at 65.

6. Akira Ioane – 7

Powerful effort from the loosie. Interesting period in the game for him early in the second half. Cut in half by Kirifi 47th minute but then shrugged off Ardie off to set up the Clarke try in 50th minute. Ten minutes later he conceded two penalties in a row. A younger Akira might have had a melt-down but kept his nose clean to finish the Hurricanes off.

5. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti – 6

Good aerially apart from one kick off error after 5 minutes. Off at 66.

4. Patrick Tuipulotu – 6

Strong as in the contact zone and a leading carrier. Credit must be given to his leadership as he managed to extract his team from a sticky situation.

3. Nepo Laulala – 6.5

Gave Fraser Armstrong a headache with an ox-like performance at scrum time. From the 13th minute on the Blues had the ascendancy mostly due to Nepo’s tighthead moves. And then off at 44 minutes and replaced by Tu’ungafasi…. nightmares for the other Kiwi packs.

2. Kurt Eklund – 6

Eklund looked like the guy in the mechanic’s workshops who checks under the cars as he inspected Julian Savea and Aumua’s undercarriages as they ran over him. No questioning his bravery and he was rewarded with a turnover after 17 minutes. Off at 54.

 

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1. James Lay – 5.5

Got penalised in a 17th minute scrum but other than that added to a good pack effort. Was useful around the field. Off at 44 to make way for Big Karl.

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16. Luteru Tolai – 6

On at 54 and was solid. Has a good work rate round the field.

17. Karl Tu’inukuafe – 6

On at 44 and was his normal no-nonsense self.

18. Ofa Tuungafasi – 6.5

On at 44 and does everything in a very bruising manner.

19. Josh Goodhue – 6

On at 66 and added some vigour

20. Tom Robinson – 7

On at 66. Two big runs in 69th and manic on defence. Must be an inspiration to his flagging mates who started.

21. Adrian Choat – 6

On at 65, tried to bodysurf a few tackles but couldn’t get a turnover. Solid in the tackle.

22. Jonathan Ruru – 6

On at 51. Didn’t look interested at all to have a go at Aumua as he charged towards the line off a maul for a try. Has improved his speed and agility.

23. Tanielu Tele’a – N/A

On at 73.

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