Written by Max Sharp.
Sometimes you don't really have a choice but to lump a bunch of praise on a sports team. The Blues made an awesome comeback from a 0-14 deficit after just 5 minutes, their halftime lead over the Rebels ended up being 47-14. The team were able to further please their coaches by running riot again in the second half, finishing with a final score of 71-28; this was the second-to-most points the team had scored in a single match in their history. Most players were near perfect for Leon MacDonald, so we'll read through the Blues' players from number 1 through to 23 to see how things went so well!
Blues Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Jordan Lay (6/10)
Was carried over the try line when Fa'amausili scored the Rebels' first try, but demonstrated accurate tackling. Lay contributed to destroying the Rebels at scrum time as well, the Blues won both scrums off their own feed, compared to their opponents with just 3/7. Didn't really have much of an attacking presence with just 1 carry for 0 metres. Not flashy, but fine.
Hooker - Kurt Eklund (8/10)
His first throw in the lineout was bad, but aside from that, Eklund had a perfect game. An excellent stat board showed 33 metres, 1 defender beaten and 2 clean breaks off 9 carries, while he did some distributing with 6 passes and 1 offload. Top tackler with 12. Good stuff.
Tighthead Prop - Ofa Tu'ungafasi (9/10)
We have confirmation of Tu'ungafasi returning to career-best form, awesome ahead of the mid-year tests. Similar stats to Eklund with 33 metres, 2 defenders beaten and 2 clean breaks, off 9 carries. One of his 4 passes was a bad one, but wow, what a performance on defence and set-piece. 8/8 tackles to complete the stat board. What a brilliant game.
Lock 4 - James Tucker (10/10)
Didn't put a foot wrong, the stats speak for themselves. Tucker ran 63 metres off a team-high 13 carries, while he made 8 passes and 2 offloads. Great defending with 7/7 tackles, contributing toward's the team's overall 90% rate. A great assistant for the front-row in the scrum as well.
Lock 5 - Tom Robinson (5/10)
In direct contrast to Tucker, Robinson didn't look too comfortable out of position and had an average game. His 4 metres were off 3 carries, while he made 4 passes and 5 tackles. Robinson could perhaps cover the loose forwards off the bench next time instead?
Blindside Flanker - Akira Ioane (10/10)
Ioane's return from injury has been mind-blowing so far. Scored his team's first two tries, ran 61 metres, beat 1 defender and made 1 clean break off 9 head-strong carries. Remains a threatening defender too, completed all 6 of his tackles and made 1 turnover. A perfect 56-minute game.
Openside Flanker - Dalton Papali'i (7/10)
Didn't stand out at all, but did the basics well. 4 carries lead to 13 metres and 1 defender beaten, while Papali'i also passed twice and made 8 tackles. Looked stoked to have obviously lead his team to such a huge victory at the end of his 56 minutes.
Number 8 - Hoskins Sotutu (8/10)
Has evolved from an exciting prospect and into a reliable carrier who will nail his tackles. Made the second-to-most carries with 12, running 49 metres, beating 2 defenders and making 2 clean breaks off them. Valuable passing with 9 as well, making 6 tackles.
Halfback - Finlay Christie (5/10)
Could be mistaken for having had a good game-managing game based on stats but they don't tell the full story of Christie's game. He scored a try and ran 22 metres off 4 carries, delivered 56 passes, making 2 tackles and 1 turnover, but he did also gift-wrap a try to Josh Canham of the Rebels and miss a crucial tackle on the replacement back Nicholas Jooste.
First-Five - Stephen Perofeta (7/10)
With Lincoln McClutchie oft-on Moana Pasifika's bench and Josh Ioane injured, a test cap may be on the way for Perofeta, who scored a try and kicked 8/11 goals. Commanded the team tactically too, with 23 passes, though he did only make 1 tackle. Great job at the basics.
Left Wing - Caleb Clarke (9/10)
Didn't get the best quality of ball but still ran the team's most metres with 124. Clarke's 10 carries also saw him beat a team-high 9 defenders, make 2 clean breaks and score a try. Good to see a winger deliver 2 passes and 1 offload, while he managed 8 tackles too.
Second-Five - Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (7/10)
Similarly to Papali'i, he just came on and did the basics of his role. Tuivasa-Sheck's 10 carries resulted in 51 metres and 4 defenders beaten whilst his 8 passes and 5 offloads seem to show his awareness of the pitch is improving. 7/8 tackles too. Great mahi.
Centre - Rieko Ioane (10/10)
Freak. Some people want the 2017-18 Ioane back, but he has evolved from a quick winger into a deadly all-rounder who can do everything. Ioane's 3 tries saw him surpass the late Joeli Vidiri as the Blues' second-to-highest try scorer while his stat sheet had 121 metres, 6 defenders beaten, 2 clean breaks, 8 carries, 6 passes and 6/6 tackles. Will start for the All Blacks in 2022.
Right Wing - Mark Telea (8/10)
If the All Blacks don't cap the 25-year-old, South Africa or Samoa will. Used his productive 80 minutes to score a try, run 66 metres and beat 3 defenders off 9 carries. Came off the wing to be an extra distributor for 4 passes and 2 offloads, while he also made 5 good tackles.
Fullback - Zarn Sullivan (7/10)
With the rest of his side running riot, Sullivan enjoyed his outing in the pocket with some good control over the game plan. Ran 35 metres and made 1 clean break off his 3 carries, while distributing 7 passes, making 5 tackles and 1 turnover on defence. Start him again next week.
Reserve Hooker - Soane Vikena (5/10)
The number 16 played 24 minutes off the bench and didn't get too involved, made just 1 carry for 2 metres and made 2 passes. His defence wasn't to Eklund's level; missed a bad tackle on Jooste, as did Christie.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Karl Tu'inukuafe (4/10)
Ian Foster may not want to select the 29-year-old, 25-cap All Black in 2022. Tu'inukuafe did not make any carries in his 24 minutes, while making just 2 tackles. With young players such as Ollie Norris and Tamaiti Williams on the rise, Tu'inukuafe will need to do more next week.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Nepo Laulala (6/10)
Like Lay and Tu'inukuafe, Laulala did not contribute to the attack. Though this was the case, he at least backed himself with 2 passes, 1 offload, 3 tackles and 1 turnover. Kept the ball rolling with the scrum, but may lose his starting role at test level to Tu'ungafasi.
Reserve Lock - Sam Darry (5/10)
Adding Darry to the pitch saw Akira Ioane off and Tom Robinson move to the blindside. Not the greatest of games, but managed his 24 minutes wisely with 8 metres off 2 carries. Just 2 tackles despite his team's second-half possession rate of 48%.
Reserve Loose Forward - Adrian Choat (No rating)
Choat played 24 minutes with jersey 20 on his back and made just 2 tackles. Didn't have enough of an involvement with the game to get a rating.
Reserve Halfback - Sam Nock (6/10)
On for Christie and continued the good game management, with 6 metres off 3 carries, 20 passes and 1 tackle. Nock stuck to the basics and managed things to a decent standard until he appeared to go for an HIA.
Reserve Utility Back - Bryce Heem (8/10)
It wasn't entirely clear on how the backline was reshuffled when Heem replaced Sullivan off the bench but he played well. Heem used his 28-minute cameo to run 37 metres, beat 2 defenders and make 1 clean break off just 3 carries, while also delivering 6 passes and 2 offloads.
Reserve Outside Back - AJ Lam (No rating)
Lam was the last substitute on, replacing Rieko Ioane with 13 minutes left. Got 2 carries and ran 14 metres, also beating 1 defender, made 1 tackle too. Probably isn't right to rate a winger for 13 minutes of action.