The wait is over, Super Rugby Aotearoa finally kicked off on Saturday under the roof in Dunedin.

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A late drop goal by Bryn Gatland sealed the deal for the Highlanders in a penalty-ridden affair as the Chiefs failed to get any flow to their game with some of their star power in the backline starved for go-forward ball and space.

RugbyPass rates the individual performances of the Chiefs:

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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. Aidan Ross – 5/10

Not a man for the highlights package, Ross (like his mate Laulala) didn’t get much opportunity to test his power at scrum time but will be disappointed to have been a part of poor execution fighting against the Highlanders driving maul.

2. Samisoni Taukei’aho – 3

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Now the senior hooker in the environment, Taukei’aho disappointed with his lack of accuracy at lineout time early in the game and ultimately never recovered. Poor performance by his standards.

3. Nepo Laulala – 4

In his first outing since January, Laulala went about his work in typical fashion with graft, aggression and composure but had limited scrums to work his real magic.

4. Mitchell Brown – 4

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Having to leave the field in the 21st minute due to injury, it brought an early half to a match of some importance for Brown as the senior lock but he did play well in parts, securing a rare lineout win for the Chiefs.

5. Tupou Vaa’i  – 6

A very impressive (and very long) debut from the Taranaki big man. Looking strong at the breakdown, Vaa’i was a constant menace for the Highlanders who could’ve been forgiven for thinking they’d have the wood over the Chiefs in this area.

6. Luke Jacobson – 4

Struggling to have much of a say at all on proceedings, Jacobson fell off a few tackles, including one on Shannon Frizell which led to the Highlanders second try. Looks like a man who hasn’t played much rugby lately, which isn’t surprising – it’s been over a year since he had any significant minutes.

7. Lachlan Boshier – 5

Many eyes were on Boshier heading into this match, but his impact was minimal all the while coming up with some handy wins at the breakdown. Looks like the new rules could be tailor-made for Boshier but will need more support from his fellow loosies.

8. Pita Gus Sowakula – 6

Putting in some big hits on defence and finding himself with space to run, discipline really let the Fijian No.8 down at key times in the first half, giving away three penalties before the break. With ball in hand, Sowakula found himself with opportunities, carrying metres that rivalled some of the flashy backs.

9. Brad Weber – 6

A quiet night for the skipper, the Highlanders managed to cut down any space Weber had to work his magic and slowed down enough ball at the ruck to keep the passing speed down.

10. Kaleb Trask – 6.5

There is a lot to like about this youngster. For every mistake, Trask bounced back with solid defensive efforts against much bigger opponents. Showing strength with ball in hand, Trask also showed a lack of fear when carrying which can only be positive for a versatile young back.

11. Sean Wainui – 7.5

One of his best in the Chiefs jersey, Wainui’s first half try was just the icing on the cake in a performance where the winger got involved, showed decisiveness, and a good showing of his nifty footwork which has led many to believe there is still much to be met at this level.

12. Anton Lienert-Brown – 6

Carrying hard as usual, Lienert-Brown will be disappointed with his work tonight despite getting a score. Handling errors coupled with a lack of space, the All Black midfielder played with all the heart fans are used to seeing but simply didn’t have any room to do much of anything.

13. Quinn Tupaea – 5

Tupaea put in a solid shift tonight, getting involved right from the get go and carrying hard. Like many in the backline, Tupaea was flogged for room but showed the right level of intensity that is fitting.

14. Shaun Stevenson – 6

Strength was a big part of Stevenson’s game tonight, often working his way forward for critical metres in the face of tacklers. Always looked for an offload and always looked dangerous.

15. Damian McKenzie – 8.5

Scoring 17-points on the night, including that late drop goal kick which looked to have sealed it for the Chiefs (if not for Bryn Gatland doing the exact same thing down the other end of the field), McKenzie was the main menace on attack at all times that fans have come to love.

Reserves:

16. Bradley Slater – 3

Had his issues throwing into the lineout as well, enjoying fleeting success but not having the impact in other areas as needed late in the game.

17. Ryan Coxon – 3

18. Ross Geldenhuys – 3

19. Naitoa Ah Kuoi – 7

Forced to come on the field in the 21st minute, Ah Kuoi put in another reasonable shift, including a big run ending in a lifting tackle which sent Highlanders fullback Vilimoni Koroi to the sin bin. Into everything, Ah Kuoi is a long term prospect for the Chiefs and showed tonight just some of the skills in his arsenal and appeared to love having more time on the park.

20. Dylan Nel – N/A

21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi – N/A

22. Aaron Cruden – 5

Time just appears to slow down when Cruden has the ball, and tonight he again always looked like making something happen but will be disappointed with a few last touch passes.

23. Etene Nanai-Seturo – N/A 

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