Written by Max Sharp.
Some real drama has happened in Canberra, but it's not from the Australian Federal Election, it's from the Blues' 2-point clutch win of 21-19 at the death! With 64% possession and 70% territory, the Blues made over twice as many metres as their opponents, attempting less than half the Brumbies' tackle count! We had a true case of stats not telling the whole story though; as the Blues were comprehensively outplayed up front and tactically. Despite the pressure, a Beauden Barrett drop-goal has confirmed the victory. This is a game in need of true analytical dissection, so we'll read through the Blues from jersey numbers 1 through to 23 and see how this win happened!
Blues Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Alex Hodgman (3/10)
Absolutely torn to pieces in the scrum by his opponents. Hodgman was a member of a front-row unit who won just 10/17 scrums. Often pushed back in his 6 carries (for 14 metres); while his tackle total was just 3. Outmuscled in the ruck too, not his best work.
Hooker - Kurt Eklund (6/10)
Grit and determination from the 30-year-old as per norm. Gained 62 metres and beat 2 defenders off 8 carries, made 5 passes and 9 tackles. Botched a couple of lineouts and got roughed up in rucks, so Eklund will probably consider this just a slight above par game.
Tighthead Prop - Ofa Tu'ungafasi (5/10)
Similarly had a hard time in the scrum, but got the team goof front-foot ball with 28 metres off 5 carries. The big number 3 made 5 tackles, but wasn't at his best when it came to cleaning opponents out. A bit of an average game for Tu'ungafasi, who deserves a rest before the playoffs.
Lock 4 - James Tucker (8/10)
Stood tall and proud going into battle with the carries. Tucker's 66 metres and 1 defender beaten were off 11 carries, working hard to get over the gain line. Worked well in the lineout, dominated the rucks and made 10 tackles. Is a test debut still possible?
Lock 5 - Sam Darry (4/10)
May want to bulk up more after this game; having been outmuscled in the scrum and rucks. Just 2 carries (for 7 metres) despite his team's high possession rate, though he was active with 5 passes and 7 tackles. A young man, so will take a lot of positives from the result.
Blindside Flanker - Anton Segner (4/10)
Some will praise the German's 48 metres and 1 defender beaten off 7 carries out wide, but he too was outmuscled in tight spaces. Segner made just 4 tackles and 1 turnover, while he was nullified at the breakdown. Will be another who looks to bulk in order to reach his athletic potential.
Openside Flanker - Dalton Papali'i (9/10)
Captain Fantastic has won 10 straight as the Blues' skip. Papali'i was immense again with 80 metres and 1 defender beaten off just 3 carries. Made 3 passes and 1 offload to open up play, was his team's top tackler with 12 and his single turnover lead directly to the win.
Number 8 - Hoskins Sotutu (10/10)
Likely ended Pita Gus Sowakula's hopes of a black jersey. Sotutu was easily the best player on the pitch and was a workhorse. Ran a team-high 175 metres and beat 1 defender off the team-high 18 carries, despite the jersey on his back. Generated go-forward with 8 passes and 3 offloads, while being the second-to-top tackler with 11; won 1 turnover too. A perfect game, career-best performance, nothing short of unimaginable.
Halfback - Finlay Christie (8/10)
For all of the heroics surrounding his halves partner's drop-goal, this Blues side showcased all of the negative symptoms of a Beauden Barrett team. Christie responded to these well and was able to manage everything coming off 9, his 113 passes and 2 offloads had precision. Went himself for 40 metres and 1 defender beaten off 4 carries, while bringing courageous defence with 8 tackles and 2 turnovers. Could be world-class if paired with someone like Marcus Smith.
First-Five - Beauden Barrett (3/10)
This rating will likely anger some, but there's substance to it. Barrett well and truly lacked game management, with most carriers selected by Christie's 113 passes. Despite the substantial possession difference, Barrett made just 19 passes, while he did not contribute any defending to the match. Casuals will likely rave over his try, 150 metres, clean break and 6 defenders beaten off 11 carries, but these and the drop goal cannot paper over his poor leadership. A 10 needs to be far more hands on, whereas we found Barrett kick possession away inside the opposition half 3 times. He was much better last week.
Left Wing - Caleb Clarke (7/10)
Hopefully his leg strain isn't serious. Dangerous attacking outing in 52 minutes, with 98 metres, 5 defenders beaten and 1 clean break off 6 carries. Though he also failed to contribute defence, we can put this down to him being on the pitch for less time than Barrett.
Second-Five - Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (3/10)
Looked very much out of his depth, had made just a single carry until the second half. Finished with 74 metres and 5 defenders beaten off 10 carries, as well as 10 tackles, but passed just once which is unacceptable. Also had a few handling errors, one of these almost lead directly to a try; Tuivasa-Sheck's subsequent try-saving tackle was then ruled high. I was looking forward to potential success from him this season, so such a performance was disappointing.
Centre - Bryce Heem (5/10)
Found himself pushed back by the Brumbies' forwards numerous times, though a bit of space helped Heem make up for this, with 50 metres and 1 defender beaten off 7 carries. 4 passes was disappointing too, though he managed 6 tackles and 1 turnover. An average game.
Right Wing - Mark Telea (10/10)
Another player that was massive in the win. Telea carried hard with 100 metres, 8 defenders beaten and 1 clean break off 15 carries, while he made 7/8 tackles, 1 turnover and was brilliant under the high ball. Like Sotutu, Telea had a perfect game. World class.
Fullback - Stephen Perofeta (6/10)
Bought up 100 points for the season with a mixed performance, his goal-kicking was 2/4. Perofeta also made a few knock ons and made just 4 tackles, but ran hard and passed well 9 times, gaining 128 metres, 3 defenders beaten and 1 clean break off 10 carries.
Reserve Hooker - Ricky Riccitelli (No rating)
The South African-born hooker was named in jersey 16 but did not play after Eklund lasted the whole match, so won't be rated.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Karl Tu'inukuafe (7/10)
Fresh from announcing a deal with Montpellier, "Big Karl" came off the bench in the 60th minute and scored his third Super Rugby try, his most important one. Not his best scrum or ruck effort, but ran 9 metres off 3 carries, made 1 pass and 1 tackle.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Nepo Laulala (6/10)
Also buckled a little in the scrum, but bought great energy to the rucks in the dying moments. Laulala made himself a stat board of 3 metres from 1 carry, 1 pass and 5 tackles, so will likely be pleased with that effort.
Reserve Lock - Luke Romano (8/10)
The 36-year-old's experience was important in his 21-minute appearance. Romano added useful weight to the scrum and ran hard with 24 metres and 1 defender beaten from 4 carries. This is a perfect example of a useful impact player.
Reserve Loose Forward - Adrian Choat (No rating)
Named in jersey 20 for the Blues, but also did not play. Hopefully Choat gets a run next week.
Reserve Halfback - Sam Nock (No rating)
Nock, a potential Māori All Blacks captain, surprisingly did not come on to bring his experience. Nock won't be rated as he did not play.
Reserve Utility Back - Tanielu Tele'a (No rating)
Tele'a came on for Clarke with 28 minutes to go, before he was replaced himself just 8 minutes later. Won't be rated, as he only made 1 carry for 14 metres.
Reserve Outside Back - Zarn Sullivan (5/10)
Sullivan, at number 23, came on to the right wing with 20 minutes left and was given limited opportunities, getting to run just 7 metres from 1 carry. Attempted to get off the wing, with 2 passes and 1 tackle, will want more game time next week.