Player ratings from the Blues win over the Highlanders.
1. Alex Hodgman – 7.5/10
Got put on his bum on his first carry but moments later punching through straight as an arrow to set up the Caleb Clarke try. The fact he lasted until the 68th min before being subbed was a testament to his hard work, topped the tackle count for his team.
2. James Parsons – 6.5
Continued his error-free professional play in 1st half but missed an important tackle on Pari Pari Parkinson early in the 2nd half that led to Mitch Hunt try, then missed a line out throw moments later. Sneaky little grubber at 57 to garner a penalty, then unselfishly slipped the ball to Dalton Papalii off the line out maul that led to a try.
3. Ofa Tu'ungafasi – 7
Gave Sam Gilbert a warm, shuddering welcome after 8 mins and was solid at set-piece.
4. Patrick Tuipulotu – 6.5
Not as influential as previous weeks, but put in some big hits – notably one chassis shaker on Parkinson in the 31st minute.
5 Josh Goodhue – 6
Good solid performance but taken off at halftime with a wrist injury
6. Akira Ioane – 5
The fear that Akira might not be up for the work rate expected at 6 didn't surface last week but appeared against the Highlanders. Outplayed by Frizell and dragged at 55.
7. Dalton Papalii – 7.5
Great player with good game sense and power, he made a reasonable fist of 7. Rewarded for a solid chase to score try in 24th minute after a Hoskins Sotutu charge-down and a second at 58 minutes off the line out maul. Some bruising runs down the right flank defying the cover defence to stay in play.
8. Hoskins Sotutu – 7
Some lovely touches during the game. An energetic chase and charge down for the first Papalii try. Outplayed by Tu'u in the open but crucial defensive play for maul turnover as Highlanders pressed in 78th minute.
9. Sam Nock – 6
Some nice touches in the first half including some heady cover defence to deny Jona Nareki in the 18th minute. After halftime, he had two little slips that led to Mitch Hunt's try and was pulled after 59 minutes.
10. Otere Black – 6.5
Some really good wipers kicks into the corners in the first half that created pressure that led to points. Placekicking a little askew, he'll be looking over his shoulder with Dan Carter getting up to match fitness.
11. Caleb Clarke – 8.5
Take a google of some video of Bryan Williams from the 70s and the resemblance is starting to get uncanny. Every game he looks more and more like the great All Black; the thighs, the sidestep and the acceleration! Power personified to score the first try at 6 minutes, amazing run in the 28th min to set up Rieko Ioane.
12. TJ Faiane – 6
Mils Muliaina described him as methodical pre-kickoff; he is crucial in the balance of the Blues backline.
13. Rieko Ioane – 5.5
Had the good finish, running a great line of the Clarke break but other than that, found it hard to break through the Tomkinson and Thompson midfield defensive screen.
14. Mark Telea – 5.5
Maybe the opposition has seen more tape of him since the start of the season but he seems to be struggling to continue to make the yards in open play.
15. Beauden Barrett – 8
Taunted Scott Gregory with his kicking game and inserted himself into the game well.
16. Kurt Eklund – N/A
17. Marcel Renata – N/A
18. Sione Mafileo – N/A
19. Gerard Cowley-Tuioti – 5.5
On at halftime for Goodhue and didn't seem to be up to speed. Caught out a couple of times in defence as Highlanders surged back with two tries after halftime.
20. Tony Lamborn – 6.5
On at 56 and made a big difference at the breakdown.
21. Finally Christie – 6.5
On at 59 and upped the energy.
22. Harry Plummer – N/A
23 Joe Marchant – N/A
On in the 67th minute for his last hurrah before his return to England. Interesting to see how his experience at the Blues translates into his Harlequins performances.
1. Ayden Johnstone – 7/10
Applied himself well against stiff opposition. Impressed with his work rate and physicality but is prone to dropping off a tackle when coming off the line too hard. Still a very solid performance.
2. Ash Dixon – 7
A solid skipper's performance. Brought his experience and drove his forwards in and around the breakdown and middle of the park and had the Blues on the back foot at times. Secured a try early in the match but a poor defensive misread on the right edge lead to a Blues try. This coupled with some infringing around the ruck tarnished his night.
3. Siate Tokolahi – 6.5
Solid scrummager and has some ball play about him. Played with the right intent and has the makings of a very decent front row forward.
4. Pari Pari Parkinson – 7
Building on his reputation as a high work-rate lock. Impressed with his work in the tight, but needs to address his body height as, at times, he arrived into the contact too high. Good support play when team was in possession and clearly has a big future in the game.
5. Josh Dickson – 8
Put in a shift befitting of a South Island tight forward of yesteryear. No fuss, just hard work and driving defence and always in the thick of it. Every tight five needs a player like Josh Dickson. Impressed in the lineout, stealing two in the second half. Made 11 tackles and missed none. Best Highlanders forward on the park.
6. Shannon Frizell – 7
His opening minutes were average with body height and body position into contact being questionable but as the match went on, he found his rhythm and was strong in the carry and tackle and deserved his try as reward for his efforts. Needs to build on this performance.
7. Dillon Hunt – 6.5
There was nothing exceptional about his performance but it was a very respectable night out for Hunt. Worked hard on and off the ball but couldn't say he ever truly imposed himself in any particular area.
8. Marino Mikaele Tu'u – 7
Whilst all the talk midweek had been about Hoskins Sotutu, Tu'u impressed with several power carries. He brought the energy as the game progressed and lead his team over the advantage line. Prone to coming into contact too high and needs to improve his defence
9. Aaron Smith – 7.5
Started a little quiet but his option taking and execution was, as usual, exceptional. Possibly underplayed his hand in the first half. Dropped off a cover tackle that contributed to a Blues try that would be the only significant blemish. Second half was his. He made a crucial clean out to secure his side the ball when the Blues had been pressuring deep in the Highlanders half and nearly rallied his team to a win.
10. Mitch Hunt – 7.5
Much to like about his performance. His general kicking game was solid as was his positional play. Scored a wonderful second half try when he took on the line. A busy player who would benefit by having another playmaker at 12 or 15 as too much comes off Hunt.
11. Jona Nareki – 7
Started poorly and looked apprehensive. Exited poorly that lead to a turn over in possession but appeared to find his feet as the match progressed and had some solid touches and chased the kicks. Plenty to work on but there is some class there.
12. Patelesio Tomkinson – 7.5
Worked hard for his team all night in defence making 9 tackles and only dropping off 1. Carried well into tight spaces and got his side over the advantage line. Solid night out.
13. Rob Thompson – 6
Not his best performance. Had a poor defensive read that contributed to Caleb Clarke's try. Needed to find a way to influence the match but failed to do so. Quality player who will no doubt improve from this.
14. Sam Gilbert – 7
His 20 minutes prior to injury were encouraging. A courageous player who throws himself into the collision and was looking for work, looking to impose himself on the game from the outset. Appeared to have sustained a serious leg injury but a good performance up until that point. A good prospect indeed.
15. Scott Gregory – 3
Dreadful. Nothing really went right for him. Had a kick charged down kick that lead to a Blues try, did some aimless kicking that turned over possession which led to another Blues try. This coupled with handling errors is everything you don't want from a full back.
16. Liam Coltman – 6
Came on and brought some no-frills steel to the Highlanders pack.
17. Daniel Lienert-Brown – 5
Was there for about the last 20 but didn't impose himself enough.
18. Jeff Thwaites – 7
Nearly scored a wonderful try that any back would have been proud of after storming onto a short ball in the midfield but was felled just short of the line. Did his job elsewhere. One to watch.
19. Manaaki Selby-Rickit – 5
Didn't see much of him but was found to be too high in body height when the Highlanders were driving for the line off an offensive line-out. Needs to fix this.
20. Teariki Ben-Nicholas – 5.5
Had limited impact on the game.
21. Kayne Hammington – N/A
22. Bryn Gatland – 6
Had a few classy touches after coming on for Gregory.
23. Ngane Punivai – 6.5
Scored a wonderful disallowed try out wide on the right flank and did all the work to beat his man on the outside. Has something to offer.