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Super Rugby Aotearoa: Highlanders player ratings vs Chiefs

By RugbyPass
Marino Mikaele Tu'u.(Photo by MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

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There was plenty of anticipation leading into the inaugural match of Super Rugby Aotearoa, played under the roof of Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, and the fast-paced derby between the Highlanders and the Chiefs did not disappoint – though there were a few too many penalties for most people’s liking.


With both sides known for their attacking games, it’s no surprise that the two teams kept the ball in hand and minimised kicking – chalking up plenty of running metres in the process. Both sides struggled for continuity, however, due to the decreased leniency at the breakdown, which prevented any momentum from really being built.

The home side, who entered the match as outside favourites, started strongly and took a 6-point lead into the break – and held the same lead entering the final 10 minutes of the match. A flurry of drop goals in the final minutes ultimately gave the Highlanders a narrow two-point win.

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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. Ayden Johnstone – 7/10

Safe in the scrums and on defence, beavered around the park and may well have enjoyed the stop/start nature of the game. Off in 52nd minute.

2. Ash Dixon – 8

Safe as houses – more than justified his selection ahead of Liam Coltman. At the back of an excellently constructed maul for the Highlanders’ first try. Off in 56th minute. (1 try, 17th min)


3. Siate Tokolahi – 6

Not called upon much to carry but was reliable on defence. One of many Highlanders to fall victim to the ref’s whistle. Off in 52nd minute.

4. Pari Pari Parkinson – 7.5


A strong showing in return from injury – a pest in the lineouts. Copped a few penalties related to the new law interpretations and adjustments but it’s a bit tough moving such a sizeable body out of the dark spaces. Off in 73rd minute.

5. Josh Dickson – 7

Reliable in the lineouts. Big presence that probably helped put the Chiefs’ lineout throwers off their games.

6. Shannon Frizell – 7

Menacing presence on kick-offs and ranged wide on attack. Struggled with the new breakdown clampdown but who didn’t?

7. Dillon Hunt – 8

Big effort on defence, making 15 tackles – almost twice the number of the next busiest Highlander. Made a good steal in the 57th minute to shut down some quick Chiefs ball.

8. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u – 8

Deceptively elusive. Forced a good penalty in the 38rd minute which ultimately paved the way for the Highlanders to take back the lead before halftime.

9. Aaron Smith – 8

Slick passing all night, including (and especially) for the Highlanders’ second try. Was hampered a little bit by the slow pace of the game and probably made the mistake of trying to speed up via a quick tap. Made a perfectly timed tackle on Brad Weber (at least according to the man in the middle) to prevent a certain try.

10. Mitch Hunt – 6.5

Found good distance with his kicks but made a bad error immediately after Vilimoni Koroi’s yellow card, sending the kick-off out on the full. Never really threatened at first receiver then shifted to fullback when Bryn Gatland joined the fray. Kicked his goals, missing just one conversion. (2 penalties, 2 conversions, 4/5 goal kicks)

11. Jona Nareki – 5.5

Great cover tackle to keep Shaun Stevenson out early. Looked like he could cause some problems for the Chiefs but needed to get more ball. Carelessly barged into Damian McKenzie in the air and rightfully received a yellow card.

12. Patelesio Tomkinson – 6.5

Nice support line off Rob Thompson’s shoulder to score in the 22nd minute. Called upon to make a huge number of hit-ups in the midfield. Not quite as safe as needed to be on defence but wasn’t made to pay. Off in 73rd minute.

13. Rob Thompson – 6

Gave the final ball for Tomkinson to score the Highlanders’ second try after running an excellent angled line. Made a poor call to cut in on defence which handed the Chiefs a numbers advantage and gifted them their first try.

14. Sam Gilbert – 5.5

Covered kicks well, monstered by Pita Gus Sowakula at one point. Tidy debut.

15. Vilimoni Koroi – 5

Dangerous – but probably not in the way Highlanders fans would have hoped. Not the best debut but certainly showed a few signs of promise. Off in 60th minute.


16. Liam Coltman – 7

On in 56th minute. Continued Dixon’s accurate work at the lineout, hitting targets at all distances.

17. Dan Lienert-Brown – 7

On in 52nd minute. Carried on good work of starters – strong in the breakdowns.

18. Jeff Thwaites – 6

On in 52nd minute.

19. Manaaki Selby-Rickit -N/A

On in 73rd minute.

20. Teariki Ben-Nicholas – N/A

Did not play.

21. Kayne Hammington – N/A

Did not play.

22. Teihorangi Walden – N/A

On in 73rd minute.

23. Bryn Gatland – 11/10

On in 60th minute. Absolutely clutch drop goal – not a high quantity of involvements, but the quality was sublime.

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Super Rugby Aotearoa: Highlanders player ratings vs Chiefs