Both teams were desperate to win this game in a bid to avoid the wooden spoon in Super Rugby Aotearoa. The Chiefs 0 wins from 4 outings and the Highlanders with just their 1 point victory over the Waikato-based franchise earlier in the competition.
The Chiefs got a cracking start with a point a minute in the first quarter but they didn’t count on Aaron Smith leading the resilient Highlanders back to a heart-breaking 33-31 last gasp victory.
Here’re the Chiefs player ratings.
1. Aidan Ross – N/A
Lasted a minute with a leg injury. Sad as the last few rounds he’s looked like he’s getting his mojo back.
2. Bradley Slater – 8
Has grown massively with his extended spell starting. Has been strong and reliable at the set piece but displaying some presence in open play now too. Two tries from rolling mauls, classic, bullish Mooloo from the man from Ferdinand land. The Chiefs missed him in the last quarter.
3. Nepo Laulala – 7
A rock. Funny moment when he gave Aaron Smith a big bear hug to slow him down off a quick tap. Got away with it.
4. Tupou Vaa’i – 6.5
Looks a little coltish but showed he was tough taking one to the chin from Thompson. Still learning his trade but obviously brimming with potential. Did well in defence making some good spot tackles, the most obvious one on the wing to deny Ash Dixon.
5. Mitchell Brown – 6.5
Good piston in the Chief’s V8 forward performance.
6. Lachlan Boshier – 8
Try in the 5th minute running a smooth line. Big source of line out ball. Lovely display of defensive rucking over Scott Gregory at 52 minutes and some classic turnovers at 72 and 78 minutes that seem to seal the Chief’s victory…… but the Rugby Gods thought otherwise!
7. Sam Cane – 6.5
Lovely last pass to Boshier for his try. Yellow carded for an indiscretion at the breakdown and couldn’t grab Mitch Hunt as he scurried for his try in the 47th minute. Obviously frustrated he can’t spark his team.
8. Pita Gus Sowakula – 7.5
Slow start but storming run at the end of the first half just after a poor option off a scrum. That seemed to spark him up as he got his demolition derby runs and some spirited defence into action. Off at 66 which was a turning point.
9. Brad Weber – 6.5
Topped the tackle count with Wainui and provided good service. Nasty swinging arm on Aaron Smith and a brilliant tackle on Thompson to snuff out a Highlanders attack at the end of the first half. Looks to be getting back some of that attitude that made him a standout last year.
10. Kaleb Trask – 6
Started the game with a natty little netball pass to Boshier, played flat in the first quarter but couldn’t make a difference to stem the tide in the second half.
11. Solomon Alaimalo – 5
The play didn’t come his way and he didn’t show much inclination to find work.
12. Alex Nankivell – 7
Keeps it simple and uncomplicated. Runs straight lines, good pressure at the tackle at 19 minutes to effect turnover. Off at 51
13. Anton Lienert-Brown – 7.5
Seemed to enjoy playing at centre again, strong running and pilfering early and then smashing over for a well deserved try in the 11th minute. Faded on attack after that but a great defender.
14. Sean Wainui – 7
Spent the game on the left wing with 14 on his back and is a cruncher on defence. It’s not often a winger tops the tackle count but is solid as.
15. Damian McKenzie – 7
Set up ALB with a snappy inside pass early on. What a shame no one kicks to him anymore in open play. We saw a glimpse of what he can do around the 59 minute mark with some high balls coming his way and then the explosive run on the way to his disallowed try.
16. Samisoni Taukei’aho – 5
On at 58. Line out hiccough again and gave up a crucial penalty under pressure.
17. Reuben O’Neill – 7
Must have been a shock after a minute to get on the paddock. Acquitted himself well.
18. Ross Geldenhuys – N/A
On at 60
19. Adam Thomson – N/A
On at 60
20. Mitch Karpik – N/A
On at 66
21. Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi – N/A
On at 65
22. Aaron Cruden – N/A
23. Quinn Tupaea – N/A
On at 51
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