Updated: Jun 19
Written by Max Sharp.
Going into this game, the Blues had won 16 games in a row, their longest-ever streak, this included a tight, convincing win over the Crusaders in the streak. However, Leon MacDonald's side ran out to their home crowd, not quite matching their opposition's tenacity. With the set-piece demolished and a 37% possession rate in the first-half, the Blues were held scoreless to a 0-16 margin at half time. No comeback arrived and the Blues finished as the runners up in a 7-21 loss. The team were out-performed in their ruck-win %, lineout win % and their scrum win %. We'll run through the players from jersey 1 through to 23, for one last time this season and see how the Blues went.
Blues Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Alex Hodgman (3/10)
Aside from his 16 tackles, it was a bit of a horror show for the number 1. Hodgman made just 4 metres from 4 carries, with his team lacking possession. Hodgman was also on for one of the lost scrums and struggled as a lineout lifter. He will be disappointed.
Hooker - Kurt Eklund (3/10)
Easily the best hooker of this season, Eklund didn't manage to take that form into the final. The Blues won just 9 of 19 lineouts, 2 of these were not straight from Eklund. Though he did make 23 tackles and present a good attitude around the field, it wasn't enough.
Tighthead Prop - Nepo Laulala (4/10)
An effective carrier with 15 metres off just 2 carries, with a tackle count of 17. Laulala's ruck speed wasn't quick enough however, while he also struggled as a lineout lifter. After such an outstanding season in 2021, we must wonder what's happened.
Lock 4 - Josh Goodhue (3/10)
Made 4 metres from 4 carries and 11 tackles, but spilled lineout ball easily. There isn't much else to say aside from the fact that Goodhue didn't have a good performance; he was substituted for Luke Romano in just the 44th minute.
Lock 5 - Tom Robinson (7/10)
The lone tight-five forward in the starting XV who had a good game. Robinson's 16 metres were off 5 strong carries, while he attempted to generate attack with 3 passes off the lineout. 16 tackles were a strong contribution despite the losing margin too.
Blindside Flanker - Akira Ioane (8/10)
One of the season's most underrated performances. Ioane made the most metres in his team, with 52, despite his jersey number and also beat 3 defenders from his 9 carries. Defended strongly too, with 15 tackles.
Openside Flanker - Adrian Choat (5/10)
Shut down in the breakdown completely by the Crusaders' tight five. 9 metres is acceptable for 2 carries, as was 14 tackles. Choat was however, thoroughly outplayed by Tom Christie. After having an average performance, he was subbed off for Papali'i after 44 minutes.
Number 8 - Hoskins Sotutu (9/10)
"Big players stepping up in big games" is becoming strongly associated with Sotutu. He carried hard 7 times with 37 metres, 1 defender beaten and 1 clean break. 8 passes too, as much as his team's starting midfield combined. Won 1 turnover and was the team's top tackler with 26.
Halfback - Finlay Christie (9/10)
The best player in a losing team. Scored his team's only try with some quick-thinking and ran 13 metres. Christie's 61 passes were a high amount despite the possession rate, while he made 11 tackles and 1 turnover in a strong defensive game. He must start for the All Blacks if Aaron Smith is still injured.
First-Five - Beauden Barrett (4/10)
Missing in action for most of the game. A low defensive effort again, with 5 tackles, while the Crusaders managed to confine Barrett to 26 metres and 1 defender beaten off 5 carries. He passed 21 times and made 2 offloads but couldn't get any decent ball to work off thanks to his tight-five. Barrett's kicking was well and truly figured out. Ian Foster will still start him though.
Left Wing - Mark Telea (6/10)
Casual observers may have forgotten that Telea was playing, as he could only run 7 metres off 4 carries. A spirited player, Telea got to work and made a strong defensive contribution, with 12 tackles and 2 turnovers, while passing inside twice.
Second-Five - Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (3/10)
Well and truly outplayed. With just 12 metres from 4 carries, he was given no space to work with. Made just 4 passes thanks to the possession rate and looked out of his depth. Replaced by Bryce Heem after 44 minutes, I still genuinely fear for Tuivasa-Sheck ahead of his test debut. Single redemption was in 12 tackles.
Centre - Rieko Ioane (4/10)
The number 13 was yet another member of the backline who had no chances thanks to the pack's performance. Ioane did manage to make 23 metres and 1 defender beaten off 5 carries. Held to just 4 passes; possession rate is at fault for this, but 6 tackes isn't a good enough defensive effort. Ioane will no doubt return to form for the tests.
Right Wing - AJ Lam (5/10)
Fearlessly ran down his wing but to no avail. Attempted to bring his all-round skill with 32 metres off 7 carries, while making 1 pass and 1 offload. 4 tackles could have definitely been improved upon. Lam well and truly had an average game.
Fullback - Stephen Perofeta (7/10)
Kicked his team's only goal for the day and was the sole tactical kicker to make good moves for his team. Attempted counter-attacks with 46 metres and used them to beat 3 defenders in his 5 carries. Proved himself worthy of a black jersey with his 9 passes too. One weak area was his 5 tackles.
Reserve Hooker - Soane Vikena (4/10)
Came on to charge forward with 20 metres off 4 carries. Not ideal to only see 2 tackles, while Vikena failed to improve on Eklund's lineout throwing. At just 20 years old, Vikena will be able to improve by huge amounts after taking this set-back.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Karl Tu'inukuafe (4/10)
Didn't have a good performance at all, with just 1 tackle and 1 metre off 1 carry. The scrum, ruck and lineout issues followed the Blues into the second half and Tu'inukuafe will be disappointed that this was his final game for the team.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Ofa Tu'ungafasi (4/10)
Tried to get the team some go-forward with 5 metres off 2 carries. The moment of the game which confirmed the loss though, was when Tu'ungafasi was torn to pieces in the scrum by young Tamaiti Williams. Made just 1 tackle in 27 minutes as well.
Reserve Lock - Luke Romano (7/10)
Strong, physical carries were somehow confined to just 7 metres off 5 carries. Romano's 8 tackles were all effective in getting in the Crusaders' way, while he made 1 turnover. Looked frustrated with his lifters' difficulties.
Reserve Loose Forward - Dalton Papali'i (7/10)
Just 2 weeks after the removal of his appendix, Papali'i was on almost immediately in the second half to re-gain captaincy and had a blinder. Defended with grit, making 1 turnover and 8 tackles, while his big frame got him forward for 41 metres and 2 defenders beaten off 2 carries.
Reserve Halfback - Sam Nock (No rating)
On for the last 9 minutes. Nock didn't have enough game time to be rated.
Reserve Midfielder - Bryce Heem (4/10)
With Tuivasa-Sheck read like a book, Heem joined the field and ran 26 metres off 3 carries but failed to defend as hard as the team, with just 3 tackles. Do the Blues need to give more game time to Corey Evans next year?
Reserve Utility Back - Zarn Sullivan (No rating)
Played for just 2 minutes so won't be rated. Deserves far more game time.