Written by Max Sharp.
In a 91-minute spectacle, the Blues came back from a half-time deficit of 10 points, to win the game 32-20 in front of their home crowd at QBE Stadium. Some players didn't perform to the best of their abilities, whilst others stood out. Let's have a read through and see how well they went!
Mark Telea was one of the Blues' best. Photo: Max Sharp.
Blues Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Alex Hodgman (5/10)
The Blues' lack of possession in the first half, as well as two scrum collapses from each side in the first half, saw Alex Hodgman have a bit of an average game. He never received the path to carry, his lone statistics were 3 passes and 10 tackles. Will be better next week.
Hooker - Kurt Eklund (9/10)
Another standout game from a standout player. Would have been an All Black if not for his run of injuries as a younger player. 35 metres and a defender beaten off 10 carries provided some beef up front, while he managed a turnover and 13 tackles. A great performance.
Tighthead Prop - Marcel Renata (4/10)
Renata was promoted to the starting lineup after Nepo Laulala was withdrawn due to illness. Renata was on for both of the Blues' lost scrums, while he didn't get very involved on defence or attack; made just 6 metres and 4 tackles.
Lock 4 - Luke Romano (5/10)
Was unfairly yellow-carded and later subbed off in the 50th minute, Romano will be hungry to play better next week. The Highlanders made a great effort against Romano's carrying, he made just 4 metres off 5 carries and 4 tackles.
Lock 5 - Sam Darry (6/10)
Solid rather than spectacular, but the extra game time will benefit Darry's long-term game. Though he was ineffective offensively, he was successful in the lineout and finished the full 91-minute affair with a turnover and 11 tackles.
Blindside Flanker - Taine Plumtree (9/10)
Forgive some audience members for thinking he's a winger, the big flanker was stellar in just his second Super Rugby game. His two tries involved him running 41 metres from 6 carries, while those big mitts made 8 passes. Will this tempt his father to pick him for the All Blacks?
Openside Flanker - Dalton Papali'i (7/10)
The rapidly-improving openside has taken the captaincy duties well for a young athlete and performed in a "follow me"-type game. Made 28 metres, a clean break and beat a defender from 5 carries, he managed a surprising 5 passes and 3 offloads to go with 10 tackles.
Number 8 - Hoskins Sotutu (7/10)
We got to see a more brutish side to the number 8 on Friday evening, he was more involved with the tight spaces for sure. His ruck clearing was used well, as was his 17 metres off 5 carries. A good dummy runner with 7 passes, while his core role allowed him to make 8 tackles.
Halfback - Finlay Christie (4/10)
Not a game he'll want to remember. The 4-test All Black was looking very rushed in the first half, his communication wasn't the flashiest. Christie grew into the game as it went on, but still managed just 4 metres off 3 carries and 4 tackles.
First-Five - Stephen Perofeta (9/10)
The utility back appears to be at long last fulfilling his potential. A true MVP performance by Perofeta, who managed 45 metres, 22 passes, an offload and 3 defenders beaten from his 14 carries. Looked very comfortable at 10 after Beauden Barrett's late withdrawal, finishing off with 14 points including an entertaining try.
Left Wing - Caleb Clarke (4/10)
Clarke's social media post this morning demonstrated brilliant self-awareness, good on him for knowing it wasn't his best game. 3 bad mistakes, dropping the ball on the try line, knocking the high ball into touch and a kick out on the full were however, redeemed by 95 metres. Referee should have awarded his intercept try as well.
Second-Five - Bryce Heem (8/10)
The "koro" as he is known, made up for two early knock-ons in brilliant fashion. Despite being in an unfamiliar position, Heem was the side's top tackler with 15, while also running 48 metres and beating 3 defenders. One of his 7 passes lead to a great try for Rieko Ioane.
Centre - Rieko Ioane (7/10)
Solid rather than spectacular, but Ioane is indeed now a genuine 13. Ioane beat 3 defenders from just 12 metres and 5 carries, delivering a turnover and 9 industrious tackles. He wasn't given many opportunities, but excelled at the basics of his position.
Right Wing - Mark Telea (8/10)
Nothing short of ELITE. Though he didn't make many metres for himself, the 25-year-old was everywhere, under the high ball, on defence and as a distributor. Made 29 metres, made a clean break, beat a defender, also making 5 passes and an offload from his 8 carries. Samoa must cap him now.
Fullback - Zarn Sullivan (8/10)
His 55-metre penalty was the icing on the cake of a great performance, including 87 metres, 5 defenders beaten, a clean break and 8 passes from 9 carries. Sullivan's 10/15 axis with Perofeta will have Beauden Barrett nervous after it worked to perfection.
Reserve Hooker - Soane Vikena (no rating)
Vikena will be feeling slightly more optimistic after the second half lasted another 10 minutes, he was subbed on in the 79th minute. Not enough game time for a proper rating, hopefully he gets more next week.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Ofa Tu'ungafasi (6/10)
Though he was wearing jersey 17, the veteran came on for Renata, rather than Hodgman. The Blues' scrum looked more robust with Tu'ungafasi, while he also made a pass and 7 tackles. Start him next week if Laulala still has COVID.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Jordan Lay (6/10)
A debut he'll be happy with. Lay signed for the Blues after his younger brother, James, was ruled out for the season. Jordan Lay's 24 tests for Samoa proved to be valuable experience on Friday, he ran 8 metres from 2 carries and made a tackle. Keep faith in him.
James Lay (right) will not play for the Blues in 2022 due to injury. Photo: Max Sharp.
Reserve Lock - James Tucker (8/10)
Tucker did not play for the Blues in 2020 due to injury, while he represented the Brumbies last year. Good for him to finally debut, made a whopping 11 tackles in just 40 minutes, while he ran 8 metres and beat a defender, taking responsibility for the lineout calls. The veteran did well, especially in defence!
Reserve Loose Forward - Adrian Choat (8/10)
Though he came on for Plumtree, to play blindside, Choat had a storming 23 minutes, with 37 metres and 2 clean breaks from only 3 carries. 4 tackles as well, good stuff there. Nothing to fault him on at all.
Reserve Halfback - Taufa Funaki (No rating)
Funaki will be pleased to have earned his debut, after being called-up late due to Sam Nock's positive COVID test. He replaced Christie in the 79th minute, not enough time to be rated.
Reserve Utility Back - Tanielu Tele'a (No rating)
Tele'a is now in his fourth season with the Blues, it's disappointing to see him come on in the 79th minute. Should have come on earlier, his powerful running would have entertained the crowd.
Reserve Outside Back - Jacob Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens (No rating)
Ratumaitavuki-Kneepkens, who attended school with my brother in law, was bought on to the bench after Barrett's late withdrawal due to COVID. He was subbed on in the 80th minute, so not enough time to rate him. Give him a game next week, he has potential.