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Super Rugby Aotearoa: Highlanders player ratings vs Chiefs

By Alex McLeod

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The Highlanders have bounced back from last week’s season-opening defeat to the Crusaders by overcoming a 14-point deficit to thump the Chiefs 39-23 at FMG Stadium Waikato in Hamilton.

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A Jona Nareki hat-trick was the highlight of the match as the Highlanders rocketed up the standings to lie in first place at the time of writing.

Here’s how they rated:

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15. Mitch Hunt – 7.5

Pierced the Chiefs’ defensive line as part of a sweeping set move off a lineout and nearly put Jona Nareki in for the opening try of the game. Showed some good ticker around the park. Polished performance all-round.

14. Connor Garden-Bachop – 6.5

Much quieter than last week. Made a good tackle deep in his own half in a bid to shut down a Chiefs attack. Was the victim of a vicious yet innocuous tackle in the air. Off in the 72nd minute.

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13. Ngatungane Punivai – 6

Mixed bag defensively. Weak tackle attempt on Luke Jacobson to unsuccessfully stop him from scoring. Quiet on attack.

12. Patelesio Tomkinson – 6.5

Rocked Sam Cane with a thumping tackle about a quarter of the way through the match. Was sent to the sin bin for cynical play right by his own tryline, which ultimately cost his side a try. Did well upon his return.

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11. Jona Nareki – 9.5

Started off poorly, falling off many a tackle throughout the first half, a couple of which led to tries. However, after bagging a 93-metre intercept try to close the gap at half-time, Nareki exploded in the second half, bagging a well-taken turnover, wreaking havoc with the opposition defence in the lead-up to Shannon Frizell’s try, and then showed some good poise to score a brace. Used his booming left boot to good effect and even managed to bump Brad Weber off – no mean feat for someone standing at 1.75m and 80kg. Got a well-deserved hat-trick with about 10 minutes to go. Keep this up and he’ll be well in the All Blacks conversation.

10. Josh Ioane – 7

Showed off his boulder of a shoulder on defence, but was shaky kicking off the tee. Showed his quality as a ball playing first-five, though, as he constantly asked questions of the Chiefs’ defence.

9. Folau Fakatava – 8

Brought impetus on attack and staunch on defence. Even proved his worth as a lineout thrower while Dixon was in the bin. Showed his footwork and abrasiveness around the ruck to score his try. Off in the 51st minute.

8. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u – 6

Pinged for a breakdown infringement in the first play of the game which cost his side three points. Tried hard from there on out, but couldn’t deliver the type of impact we’ve come to expect from him. Off in the 46th minute.

7. Billy Harmon – 6.5

Busy defensively. A constant menace for the Chiefs’ attackers. Looks a like-for-like replacement to Dillon Hunt and seems to have a lockdown on the Highlanders’ No. 7 jersey.

6. Shannon Frizell – 8

Bumped off Brad Weber to devastating effect. Showed his capabilities as a powerful loose forward option. Good support play to back-up Nareki’s scintillating second half break. Off in the 59th minute.

5. Jack Regan – 5.5

Good smothering tackle on Brad Weber to prevent him from scoring. Dominated in the collision zone though. Off in the 55th minute.

4. Josh Dickson – 6

Confrontational on defence. Typically reliable at the set piece. Never faded throughout the contest.

3. Siate Tokolahi – 6

Got through his work well. Didn’t shy away from his defensive duties. Impressive for a man as big as himself to stay on the park for as long as he did. Off in the 65th minute.

2. Ash Dixon – 6

Mostly reliable at the lineout. Was unfortunate in the extreme to be yellow carded for a breakdown infringement. Off in the 59th minute.

1. Daniel Lienert-Brown – 5

Wasn’t particularly noticeable until his injury-enforced departure from the game. Might be gone for the season with what looked to be a dislocated shoulder. Off in the 46th minute.

Reserves:

16. Liam Coltman – N/A

On in the 40th minute while Dixon was in the bin. Off in the 41st minute. Back on in the 59th minute.

17. Josh Hohneck – 6.5

On in the 46th minute. Worked well in tandem with Jeff Thwaites at scrum time.

18. Jeff Thwaites – 6.5

On in the 65th minute. Read above.

19. Manaaki Selby-Rickit – N/A

On in the 55th minute.

20. Liam Squire – 6.5

On in the 59th minute. Made himself known on defence. Might have enough minutes under his belt at this stage to earn starting role next week.

21. Aaron Smith – 6.5

On in the 51st minute. Injected plenty of pace upon his arrival into the game. A definite correlation between the Highlanders’ comeback and his arrival into the match.

22. Solomon Alaimalo – N/A

On in the 71st minute.

23. Hugh Renton – N/A

On in the 46th minute.

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Super Rugby Aotearoa: Highlanders player ratings vs Chiefs

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