The beer and break dancing were on ice in Christchurch as the Crusaders knew they could snatch the first Super Rugby Aotearoa title with a week remaining. All they had to do was beat the Highlanders but Southern derbies are never that straight-forward.
The Highlanders gave their all and with twenty minutes left they were in the driver’s seat. However the Crusaders slipped into their famous final quarter surge with three tries to finish at a canter 32-22.
Here are the Highlanders player ratings.
1. Ayden Johnstone – 6
Highlanders played smart with quick scrum ball and Johnstone held his side up well. Off at halftime.
2. Ash Dixon – 7.5
Continued the solid work at the line out from the simple, to two extravagant looping long throws to Nareki. Lovely turnover at 35 minutes to shut down Crusaders attack. Off at 57 minutes just as the wheels came off, proving he’s a good, calming counter as a leader to the pepped up Smith.
3. Siate Tokolahi – 6.5
Great tackle on Jordan in 32nd minute as he almost perforated the line. Off at 50.
4. Pari Pari Parkinson – 7.5
Good bust and pop at 30 minutes to Aaron Smith. Is a real menace with ball in hand, it must be like trying to tackle a 120 kilo octopus when he’s on the run. Struggled in the second half with his sticks and off at 55 minutes.
5. Jack Whetton – 7
Great aggressive tackle after one minute that lit the fuse for the Frizell try. Couldn’t stay away from the ball in the first stanza with wonderful link work finding Aaron Smith. Off at halftime.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) August 9, 2020
6. Shannon Frizell – 8
There’s no more physically intimidating player in Aotearoa than the Highlander’s flanker. Great try, and took genuine delight in smashing all the Crusaders power runners and defenders.
7. Dillon Hunt – 6.5
Came in to his own after half time as other’s legs tired.
8. Marino Mikaele-Tu’u – 6
Solid but missed a chance to shine in a big match. Off at 65.
9. Aaron Smith – 7
Is the passionate, driving force of the Highlanders no doubt and a stand-out player. Sometimes as a leader and decision maker, you need a calmness and there were three or four times during the game that Smith’s decisions or execution let his team down. A kick into touch on the full off a quick tap penalty, a chip kick on attack when Dillon Hunt was on his shoulder, a kick out on the full at 60 minutes from just outside his 22 were moments where a cool head may have reaped more dividends.
10. Josh Ioane – 7.5
Is a nifty threat with ball in hand and a sure tackler on defence. Set up the Collin’s try with some balletic moves and the stop-step at 65 minutes were breath-taking.
11. Jona Nareki – 7
Got caught out in defence for the Mo’unga try. Amazing offload to Whetton in 18th minute. Swooped in for the intercept try at the 24th minute. A very unorthodox player so you have to take the rough with the smooth. Off at 55 minutes.
12. Patelesio Tomkinson – 7.5
Ran a delicious dummy run for Frizell’s try. Up like an exocet in defence, no more than his mash of Goodhue in the 50th. Got the yellow card for the hit on Jager which drove a nail into the southerner’s coffin but he had an outstanding game.
13. Michael Collins – 6.5
Flew under the radar until 53 minutes and finished well for his try in the 55th.
14. Josh McKay – 7
Good run that led to Frizell try. Determined tracking back to drag down Ennor just before halftime. Then again in the 46th minute put an abrupt halt to Crusaders celebration with a steal on Hall.
15. Mitch Hunt – 6.5
Lovely kick along the touchline at 34 minutes for a 50 metre gain, a good link in set up to Collins try.
16. Liam Coltman – 5.5
On at 57 minutes, Coltman’s a good player but the Highlanders seemed to miss Dixon.
17. Daniel Lienert-Brown – 6
On at halftime and played well.
18. Jeff Thwaites – 6
On at 50. Great turnover at 52 and some skilful play.
19. Manaaki Selby-Rickit – 6
On at halftime. Good first up tackles but just lost his bearings in the line for the 2nd Bridge try.
20. Teariki Ben-Nicolas – N/A
On at 65.
21. Folau Fakatava – N/A
22. Ngatungane Punivai – 5.5
On at 55 and some good defence.
23. Jesse Parete – 5
On at 55 and his hands let him down.
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