Leon MacDonald will be absolutely fuming at the Blues after their loss at Orangetheory Stadium. The Head Coach will no doubt be giving the match-day footage of this effort a brutal post-match review, with several issues in his team's game being taken advantage of by the Crusaders. After being stuck behind at half-time by 3-10, they failed to score any points in the second-half, with their set-piece notably imploding.
While several viewers have taken issue with the refereeing, let's keep the discussion constructive and on my end, professional, by rating the Blues from jersey number 1 through to 23.
BLUES PLAYER RATINGS
22-test All Blacks flanker Akira Ioane (pictured in 2021) played for just 16 minutes in his 100th Blues match, having only recently returned from injury. Photo: Max Sharp.
Loosehead Prop - Ofa Tu'ungafasi (6/10)
A 59% possession rate for the Crusaders meant Tu'ungafasi touched the ball just five times in the game; for 4 metres off 2 carries, 2 passes and 1 turnover. His inflated tackle count of 13/17 was also proof of his team's lack of ball. Taken off at the right time, with the scrum starting to buckle.
Hooker - Ricky Riccitelli (5/10)
Thrilled the crowd early on with his surprising clearance kick, from deep inside the 22. Made 4 robust carries but got confined to 4 metres. Produced some world-class defence for 15/16 tackles and 1 turnover, but got hooked after 52 minutes due to a shocking lineout rate.
Tighthead Prop - Marcel Renata (5/10)
Bullied big time in the scrum from the 40th minute and until his substitution, with Tamaiti Williams charging like a rhino. Renata did give himself some redemption with a huge work rate of 17/17 tackles and 1 turnover in just 53 minutes to make up for the scrum.
Lock 4 - Patrick Tuipulotu (3/10)
While Tuipulotu failed to impose himself in the scrum and lineout, fear not. The number 4 is simply short of match-fitness after injury, so will be able to build off his 10 metres and 2 defenders beaten from 8 carries. His tackle ratio of 11/15 will also hopefully improve with game time. The same can't be said of his 3 penalties conceded, that needs quick fixing.
Lock 5 - Sam Darry (No rating)
The up-and-comer had already made 5 tackles within 14 minutes, so likely would have had a strong game before he came off with a broken arm. Darry won't be rated as he wasn't on for long enough.
Blindside Flanker - Adrian Choat (9/10)
Perhaps the only forward in his team's starting lineup with an above average performance; given the average rating for a professional player would likely be 7. With 15 metres off 7 carries, Choat had a decent metre-to-carry ratio, while with 24 tackles, he near-doubled the Crusaders' most prolific tackler, Scott Barrett; who made 13 in the game.
Openside Flanker - Dalton Papali'i (1/10)
Aside from 9 total tackles, Papali'i had been having a quiet game prior to a clear red card in the 42nd minute (the TMO upgraded the referee's yellow ruling). His shoulder charge on Richie Mo'unga was redder than a Crusaders' jersey; direct contact to the head with force and no mitigation.
Number 8 - Hoskins Sotutu (4/10)
Hardly had a handle on the ball due to his team's lack of possession, but needs to back his own frame more; rather than throwing needless passes. With 5 passes and 1 offload compared to 14 metres off 3 carries, opportunities went begging on attack. Made 21/23 tackles, but needs to be more aggressive at the breakdown like in his early career.
Halfback - Finlay Christie (9/10)
Having gone the season without a "signature" performance that fans seem to demand from inside backs, Christie stood up for this one. 16 metres ain't bad for 3 carries and neither is 17/19 tackles and 2 turnovers for a bloke that's just 82kg. Made strong passes and kicks too.
First Five - Beauden Barrett (4/10)
While the casuals continue to love Barrett's running game; his 61 metres off 7 carries were heavily distorted by his back-field positioning and cannot outweigh the stat that was 500 metres' worth of aimless kicking. This stat was displayed in the 75th minute of the game. Plummer may also feel undermined by Barrett's 34 passes. While games need to be won in the air, this needs to have strategy behind it.
Left Wing - Caleb Clarke (3/10)
Having strung together some strong performances lately, Clarke had a shocker this time. A 7/11 tackle rate won't be looked on by the coaches, while his lack of ball meant he only ran for 34 metres off 5 carries. Has learned to kick which is great, but he now needs more accuracy on this front.
Second Five - Harry Plummer (6/10)
Selected for the purposes of shifting the ball; Plummer touched it just five times aside from his average tactical kicking. He'll be gutted after just 10 metres off a single carry, but was effective on defence for 9/10 tackles. Start him at 12 again next week and give him more ball; he used it well the few times he had it.
Centre - Rieko Ioane (6/10)
Used in a "sweeper" role on defence, to slow down back-field carriers, Ioane's 7/10 tackle rate can be taken with a grain of salt. Made 10 strong passes and 1 turnover, but failed to penetrate the defence aside from one run on the outside in his 8 carries.
Right Wing - Mark Telea (8/10)
Kicked far less than the other backs and ran with venom for 72 metres, 3 defenders beaten and 1 clean break off 11 carries; the Crusaders' 89% tackle rate still failed to contain Telea. Telea showed his low error rate again, for 3 solid passes, 1 offload and 7/8 tackles.
Fullback - Zarn Sullivan (4/10)
His development as a distributor is coming along nicely, as seen with the 10 passes and 1 offload; compared to 7 carries. Similarly to Barrett though, Sullivan's 63 metres are merely distorted by his back field position. His aimless kicking and three handling errors also cost the team dearly. He's young, so will continue to improve.
Reserve Hooker - Kurt Eklund (7/10)
On in the 53rd minute and helped the lineout very much aside from a botched throw. Eklund's game stats were an all-round effort of 6 metres, 3 carries, 4 passes, 1 offload and 3 tackles. Wasn't hitting rucks as quickly as usual, was perhaps a bit sore pre-match?
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Jordan Lay (4/10)
I felt bad for the Lay brothers, who were monstered by Williams and Jager at scrum time. The scrum becomes such an unforgiving area of the game and it was just one of those days in the office. Jordan Lay's around-the-park effort was 4/4 tackles and 1 turnover.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - James Lay (4/10)
Similarly to his brother, Lay was given a torrid time in the scrum, as the game experienced several set-piece resets underneath the rain. Appears to still be finding his rhythm after a huge injury layoff, but Samoa will instead look for him to peak at the World Cup.
Reserve Lock - Cameron Suafoa (5/10)
While Suafoa made more tackles (12) in 66 minutes than Tuipulotu (11) did in 80 minutes, he did produce unnecessary passes. Did his best to cross the gainline with 10 metres and 1 defender beaten off 5 carries, but like the props, crumbled at scrum time.
Reserve Loose Forward - Akira Ioane (6/10)
Ioane should have replaced Sotutu, but was forced on insultingly late for his 100th Blues match in the 64th minute after Papali'i's red card. Did his best on the pitch and improved the shape of his team's attack by running 9 metres off 5 carries.
Reserve Halfback - Sam Nock (6/10)
While Christie was definitely the team's best, Nock still impressed with his 16 passes in attempt to close out the game, with the team looking more structured. Not too bad for a 10-minute cameo!
Reserve Utility Back - Bryce Heem (5/10)
Replaced Plummer with 22 minutes left to go and made a few notable carries; for a total of 18 metres and 2 defenders beaten off 4 of them. His power and agility proved helpful with the tight scoreline, but this backfired as he went MIA on defence.
Reserve Outside Back - AJ Lam (7/10)
Although Lam played for just 22 minutes after replacing Clarke, he should start at 11 next week. Ran 23 metres and beat 1 defender from 4 carries, but also contributed 5 passes and 3 offloads to open the pitch significantly, while he completed 2/2 tackles. Solid effort.