Written by Max Sharp.
A narrative which has been established as a long-term talking point, is that the Highlanders were robbed of the win. As we read through the performances of each player, from jersey 1 through to 23, we'll find that some complaints re probably justified. The Highlanders lost by just 21-22, after overcoming a halftime deficit of 6-14; they even had a brief lead at one stage against the Hurricanes.
Highlanders Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Ethan de Groot (8/10)
Time and time again, the front-row have been the most effective group of Highlanders this season. de Groot's performance against the Hurricanes was no exception as he dominated in the scrum, ran 11 metres off 1 carry, made 1 pass and completed all 4 of his tackles.
Hooker - Liam Coltman (7/10)
Bringing Coltman back from illness was good for their lineout, it ran at 12/12 throws. Coltman also worked hard around the field, running 9 metres off 4 carries, making 1 pass, 6 tackles and 1 turnover; often slowing down the Hurricanes' source of ball. Not bad for 44 minutes.
Tighthead Prop - Jermaine Ainsley (8/10)
With 3 metres off 4 carries, the former Wallaby couldn't quite go as forward as de Groot; Ainsley made up for this by being the starting tight-five's most prolific tackler with 8; completing all of them. Gave the Hurricanes a hard time in the scrum too.
Lock 4 - Bryn Evans (7/10)
All three lineout throws lost by the Hurricanes were thanks to Evans, who can still last the full 80 at 37 years old. Only made a single carry, but made 6 passes, 7 tackles and 1 turnover. Did miss one tackle that lead to Bailyn Sullivan scoring a try, was good besides that.
Lock 5 - Josh Dickson (1/10)
The Māori All Black had run 4 metres off 2 carries and made 1 tackle before he was red-carded in the 18th minute for a shoulder charge to the head of Tevita Mafileo. Knew that he deserved the card and accepted the result; it's lucky Dickson's card didn't impact too much of the game.
Blindside Flanker - Gareth Evans (9/10)
Like his older brother, Evans defended without willing to budge and made 10 tackles and 3 turnovers. To be even more of a thorn in the side of his old team, he also ran 19 metres, beat 2 defenders and made 1 clean break off 3 carries; also delivering 8 passes and 1 offload. A true Man of the Match display also saw him hold up Aumua over the try line.
Openside Flanker - James Lentjes (7/10)
Performed similarly to Evans; Lentjes was the team's top tackler with 11 and showed off a running game with 13 metres and 1 defender beaten from his 7 hard-nosed carries. Was happy to keep things flowing with 3 passes and 1 offload; very good game for a flanker.
Number 8 - Hugh Renton (6/10)
Renton was called in as a replacement for Marino Mikaele-Tu'u who was injured while warming up. Didn't make any mistakes in the game but couldn't get as involved on defence, with 5 tackles. Made 4 passes and 11 metres off 6 robust carries before he was subbed off.
Halfback - Aaron Smith (4/10)
The captain hasn't seemed quite there this season when it comes to reading the game and needs a rest after playing so many minutes. Smith's 49 passes didn't reach the pin-point accuracy we're used to. Did complete both of his tackles and make 2 turnovers.
First-Five - Marty Banks (7/10)
Kicked 4/5 goals in his 50th Super Rugby game, the "Legend of" Marty Banks continues. His experience provided classy tactical kicking as well; his running stats were 12 metres and 1 defender beaten off 3 carries, his 20 passes were good. Only made 1 tackle though.
Left Wing - Scott Gregory (5/10)
Many have expressed the fact that they don't want Gregory in the outside backs because of defensive reasons, his missed tackles proved costly. However, Gregory did run 41 metres and beat 2 defenders off 7 carries; made a turnover too. A bit of a mixed game.
Second-Five - Thomas Umaga-Jensen (9/10)
The 113kg second-five shut Jordie Barrett down completely on defence with 5 tackles, 1 turnover and provided a battering-ram running game. Umaga-Jensen's added muscle provided the team 50 metres and 2 defenders beaten off 8 carries, his 8 passes were all accurate too. Great to see him back from injury.
Centre - Denny Solomona (No rating)
Solomona, a cross-code convert who played 5 tests for England, was subbed off for Fetuli Paea in the 16th minute due to injury and didn't return to the pitch. He had made just 1 tackle at this point so won't be rated.
Right Wing - Sam Gilbert (6/10)
Didn't put up huge numbers for a winger, but Gilbert dealt well kicking tactically. Managed 40 metres and 2 defenders beaten off 5 carries, but only really came off his wing when needing to make his 7 tackles. Still on the way to his very best form.
Fullback - Connor Garden-Bachop (6/10)
Couldn't quite match his older brother's tactical kicking, Garden-Bachop found himself under a bit of pressure under the high ball but eventually rose to the challenge. He only got to make 4 carries, so only ran 23 metres. Did make 7 passes but could have been more involved in the match.
Reserve Hooker - Andrew Makalio (7/10)
The number 16 was subbed on for Coltman in the 44th minute and scored his team's first try just 7 minutes later off a driving maul. Did his part around the rucks and ran 8 metres off 4 carries. Is there still time for him to play a test?
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Daniel Lienert-Brown (5/10)
DLB gave a really spirited performance off the bench, running more metres (14) off more carries (5) and making more tackles (6) than de Groot, who he replaced. The Highlanders' scrum did start to buckle towards the end though; they lost 2 of 3 scrums in the second half.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Saula Ma'u (5/10)
Ma'u, an up-and-comer, is 10cm taller than Lienert-Brown, hence the scrum problems. He used his 142kg frame to push defenders back in his 3 carries, amounting to 9 metres; but the referee incorrectly judged him not to have scored the winning try. Will be feeling gutted for that.
Reserve Lock - Max Hicks (9/10)
Following the end of Dickson's 20-minute red card, Hicks replaced him. Bought some brilliance off the bench with his first-ever Super Rugby try, 13 metres and 3 carries. Defended hard with 7 tackles and 1 turnover as well. A future All Black?
Reserve Loose Forward - Billy Harmon (7/10)
Came on for Renton in the 51st minute and didn't waste any time on his return from injury; Harmon ran 10 metres and beat 1 defender from 3 carries, made 3 passes and 8 tackles. Lentjes will need a rest soon, perhaps Harmon could start next week?
Reserve Halfback - Folau Fakatava (9/10)
If he's deemed ineligible for the All Blacks, Tonga will be licking their lips because Fakatava made a huge difference to the game. His 22 minutes were very productive, he ran 11 metres and beat a team-high 5 defenders off only 2 carries. 30 passes were all sharp and Fakatava defended with 4 tackles and 1 turnover. An injured Brad Weber will fear Fakatava's call-up.
Reserve First-Five - Mitch Hunt (5/10)
On for Banks in the 61st minute and made an astounding 46 metres in this time, also beating 1 defender and making 1 clean break in his 3 carries. However, he didn't make a tackle and made a fatal decision to carry instead of attempt a drop goal though. Coaches will be getting impatient, senior players need to make the correct decisions and Hunt is no stranger to a droppie.
Reserve Utility Back - Fetuli Paea (7/10)
Though the 2-test Tongan centre was in jersey 23, he played 66 minutes and well. Paea's running metres added up to 54 off 9 carries, while he was able to activate his wingers with 5 passes. Made 8 tackles too, decent performance.