Written by Max Sharp.
The Chiefs’ first game against the Waratahs of 2022 had a bit of a roller coaster ride scoreline; the Waikato club scored 19 unanswered points in the first 22 minutes of the match as a result of two early cards for the Waratahs. After a 17-point lead at half time, they let the Waratahs back into the game before dealing the death blow of a 24-point victory. The final score was 51-27, we’ll read through jersey numbers 1 through to 23 to see which Chiefs players went well in the Super Round’s first game.
Chiefs Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Aidan Ross (8/10)
Back in his birthplace of Australia for the game, Ross played like he was pretty fired up. He only made 3 carries, though the 4 metres off them got the Chiefs some great front-foot ball. 4 passes and a 100% scrum success were other highlights, while Ross’ 10 tackles were the second-most of the team. A very productive 69 minutes.
Hooker - Samisoni Taukei’aho (7/10)
Confidence from Taukei’aho continues to increase, he is becoming a real leader. His 61 minutes involved 19 metres and 1 defender beaten off 11 carries and though he made just 3 tackles, managed a useful turnover. Retention in the All Blacks is imminent.
Tighthead Prop - Angus Ta’avao (7/10)
Worked hard with the ball-in-hand, just like Taukei’aho. Ta’avao had the same defensive statistics of 3 tackles and 1 turnover, while he ran 11 metres off 5 carries and distributed 3 passes. Was held up over the tryline shortly after the second half began and came off in the 50th minute.
Lock 4 - Josh Lord (7/10)
The 21-year-old prodigy continues to improve rapidly; Lord showed serious athleticism in the lineout, which had a 100% success rate. Was used as more of a battering ram with 7 metres off 7 carries, he made 4/4 tackles before being replaced by Naitoa Ah Kuoi.
Lock 5 - Tupou Vaa’i (8/10)
In stark contrast to Lord, Vaa’i was not often used in the lineout, but racked up the stats. The 11-test All Black ran 28 metres and beat 1 defender from 5 carries and defended strongly with 10 tackles and 1 turnover. Vaa’i has the potential to be even better than Colin Meads.
Blindside Flanker - Luke Jacobson (9/10)
This wasn’t a typical Luke Jacobson performance, he didn’t have to carry as much so got to work and made 12 tackles and 2 turnovers; a team high in both. His 10 passes were the third-most of the Chiefs, while he ran 11 metres off 3 carries. Jacobson is coming back from injury well.
Openside Flanker - Sam Cane (8/10)
This is not the same Sam Cane from last season. In order to fend off the challenge from Dalton Papali’i for the All Black 7 jersey, he has evolved his running game. Cane’s 8 carries lead to 38 metres run, 2 defenders beaten and 1 clean break. He opened the game up with 9 passes and his offload allowed for Lowe’s first try. Solid defence with 6 tackles and 1 turnover.
Number 8 - Pita Gus Sowakula (6/10)
Sowakula carried hard as ever and managed 35 metres and 3 defenders beaten off his 7 runs. Was acting as a distributor too, giving 4 passes and 1 offload. Managed 5 tackles before he was replaced by Samipeni Finau. An average game.
Halfback - Cortez Ratima (9/10)
A brilliant 61 minutes of rugby from the youngster. Ratima delivered 73 very quick passes to his team and generated an energetic attack. Was cool with making himself a carrier too, running 17 metres and beating 1 defender from his 5 carries, while 8 tackles is real neat from a halfback. Ratima is rapidly improving.
First-Five - Bryn Gatland (7/10)
A career-best season continued for Gatland, who contributed 35 passes in his hands-on approach to team management. He kicked 7/9 goals; though he was rarely a carrying option himself, he did run 12 metres and beat 1 defender off 3 carries. Made 1 offload and 2 tackles too.
Left Wing - Quinn Tupaea (8/10)
He usually plays at second-five but I’d like to see as much of Tupaea at 11 as possible. Tupaea ran the most metres of the Chiefs with 94, beating 1 defender and running 1 clean break off his team-high 13 carries. Didn’t come off the wing a lot but did give 1 pass, 1 offload and 2 tackles. Is he going to be jersey 23 for the All Blacks this year?
Second-Five - Rameka Poihipi (7/10)
In a rate start, Poihipi played quite well at 12. His 76-minute effort saw him run 41 metres and beat 1 defender off 8 carries. Though Poihipi only made 5 passes they were well-delivered, he made 4/4 tackles too. Confidence in this young man is now rising.
Centre - Alex Nankivell (8/10)
This was not a perfect game for Nankivell but he continued to demonstrate some new-found seniority on attack. Was only able to make 6 carries but all were highly effective, he ran 53 metres, beat 5 defenders and made 2 clean breaks. Distributed well with 8 passes and 2 offloads as well; though he only had to make 2 tackles.
Right Wing - Jonah Lowe (9/10)
Prior to the game, the 25-year-old Lowe had only scored 3 Super Rugby tries. His calm, game-reading genius finally came to life against the Waratahs though, with a fourth try the exclamation mark at the end. On the way to his 4 tries, Lowe ran 84 metres, beat 3 defenders and made 3 clean breaks off 8 carries. Was happy to pass back inside 5 times too, his only error was from 5/6 tackle attempts. A near-perfect Man of the Match performance.
Fullback - Chase Tiatia (5/10)
Perhaps the only starter to have an average performance. Though Tiatia ran 46 metres and beat 1 defender off 8 carries, we saw some uncharacteristic handling errors during the Waratahs’ attempted comeback. A few missed tackles saw him complete 3 in the game.
Reserve Hooker - Bradley Slater (7/10)
The number 16 joined the pitch with 19 minutes left and did the basics of his role well. Slater ran 9 metres off 3 carries, while he made 1 pass and 2 tackles. Slater’s addition to the match completed the 100% lineout ratio too.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Atu Moli (No rating)
Moli was a late call-up to the match after Ollie Norris’ withdrawal; likely due to COVID-19. Moli only played 11 minutes during the game and was only able to make 2 tackles so won’t be rated due to a lack of game time.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - George Dyer (6/10)
Came on for Ta’avao in the 50th minute and contributed strongly to putting the scoreline out of reach by ensuring his presence at every ruck. Dyer helped finish the game off with a 100% scrum rate, though he didn’t get his hands on the ball and made just 3 tackles.
Reserve Lock - Naitoa Ah Kuoi (6/10)
Added solid rather than spectacular impact in 30 minutes, running 3 metres off 3 carries. Made 2 passes off the lineout and finished the match with 4 tackles. Will probably be wanting more game time next season.
Reserve Loose Forward - Samipeni Finau (No rating)
The Chiefs’ breakthrough rookie of 2021 hasn’t managed to make as much impact in 2022 since recovering from an injury; Finau’s only contribution to this match was 4 metres off 2 tackles in 19 minutes. Won’t be rated due to a lack of involvement.
Reserve Halfback - Xavier Roe (6/10)
Roe, the number 21, came on for Ratima with 19 minutes left and closed things out well by continuing the great passing off the base of rucks. Though he didn’t make any metres off his single carry, he did beat 1 defender; completed 1 tackle too.
Reserve Utility Back - Rivez Reihana (No rating)
Was a replacement for Tiatia in the 61st minute and didn’t have to do much from fullback, Reihana only made 1 pass and 2 tackles, so is the third player who won’t receive a rating. You need to give rookies more game time if you want them to improve more.
Reserve Midfielder - Inga Finau (No rating)
The 27-year-old played just 4 minutes on debut so won’t be rated, but congratulations to him on a first-ever Super Rugby match.