Highlanders Player Ratings vs Hurricanes (Super Rugby Pacific Round 7, 2023)
That was a thriller of a first-half, with the Highlanders' pack bowling over the Hurricanes' pins like they were freight trains. Although a Jordie Barrett penalty goal had the Hurricanes up by 8-7, the Highlanders' pure muscle had me thinking this boys-against-men fixture would all go their way in the second half, to provide the crowd with some joy. With the reserves joining though, the Hurricanes took the momentum back.
After a disappointing final score of 14-29, there's a fair bit of mixed statements to make about Clarke Dermody's Highlanders, who lost their fourth match of the year. Let's read through the players from jersey number 1 through to 23 and see what the Highlanders can do to achieve a fourth win to even the win ratio.
HIGHLANDERS PLAYER RATINGS
Daniel Lienert-Brown (right, pictured for Canterbury) and his fellow reserves had a tough outing for the Highlanders at Forsyth Barr Stadium. Photo: Max Sharp.
Loosehead Prop - Ethan de Groot (8/10)
Outstanding again, with squeaky-clean discipline. Although the stat sheet don't display his 2 turnovers due to the Hurricanes not releasing, they were great to see. de Groot's 8 metres off 5 carries, powerful ruck clearances and 7/9 tackles now see him on the throne as New Zealand's best prop aged just 24.
Hooker - Andrew Makalio (6/10)
Aside from a lineout steal from the Hurricanes, Makalio provided his team the goods at set-piece, though he wasn't quite the dynamite at the breakdown. Made 5 metres off 5 carries and 9/9 tackles for a respectable performance.
Tighthead Prop - Jermaine Ainsley (8/10)
Gave Xavier Numia a few nightmares at the scrum and showed pure power at ruck time. Generated some front-foot ball with his 3 carries and made 11 tackles, though he was subbed off at the right time after missing another 3, his lone game-time mistakes. Robbed of an All Blacks cap.
Lock 4 - Pari Pari Parkinson (4/10)
At just 26 years old, Parkinson has simply been broken by injuries. While he ran 15 metres off 4 carries, he was mostly inactive at the breakdown. 14/14 tackles saw him achieve the basics, but he was thoroughly overpowered in the second half.
Lock 5 - Josh Dickson (6/10)
Possibly back into the team a little early? Didn't match the props' mongrel and also copped a team-high 3 penalties, though he did give a valuable contribution to the lineout and made 18/20 tackles. A wee above average overall.
Blindside Flanker - Shannon Frizell (5/10)
Subbed off in the 52nd minute after a bit of a hot-and-cold game. Wasn't able to link up with teammates after his 18 metres off 5 carries; his distributing was often coming off the lineout. Has Samipeni Finau been given a chance to capitalise off the Chiefs' efforts, by Frizell?
Openside Flanker - Billy Harmon (10/10)
While a few of his teammates lost their fitness in the second half, captain Harmon was a tireless workhorse. Scored 1 try, ran 17 metres, beat 4 defenders off 7 carries, made 5 passes, 2 offloads, 21/23 tackles and won 3 turnovers in a ridiculously good match.
Number 8 - Hugh Renton (8/10)
Gave the audience 7 "get out of my way" carries for 1 try, 25 metres and 2 defenders beaten with his pure muscle. While Renton wasn't as active on defence as Harmon, his 6/6 tackles were right place, right time moments. Made a nuisance of himself to slow opposing ball at the breakdown too.
Halfback - Folau Fakatava (5/10)
Very, very hot-and-cold. Went on a few surging runs for 37 metres and 4 defenders beaten off 6 carries and played the full 80, also contributing 2 turnovers. His passing game became slower as the game wore on; while tired teammates forced Fakatava to cover bad positions - this left him with an abysmal tackle rate of 9/17. You've gotta feel for him.
First-Five - Cam Millar (6/10)
Defended well in his first Super Rugby start for 7/7 tackles, but must work on positioning. Looked to inject himself for a few off-10 plays and managed 34 metres from 11 carries, but definitely showed some inexperience. This should be a solid learning experience.
Left Wing - Jonah Lowe (7/10)
Did his very best to get go-forward by beating 3 defenders in his 5 carries, while coming off the wing to add 4 passes and 1 offload. 8/9 tackles for a winger will always equal extra brownie points. Had a try disallowed in the second half, with the TMO unable to see an angle confirming a grounding.
Second-Five - Thomas Umaga-Jensen (4/10)
We know that Umaga-Jensen can run the ball well, but you've got to move the ball from deep in the modern era. 3 passes from a 12 is less than ideal. With 1 turnover and 19 total tackles, Umaga-Jensen went into half-time with an incredible defensive effort. Both his defensive errors, lead to tries for Rayasi however - Umaga-Jensen's tendencies to move too far from a ruck were picked on.
Centre - Fetuli Paea (6/10)
Looks much more comfortable as a distributor with a stable backline structure this season. Made a few short bursts for 28 metres off 5 carries, 6 passes and 10/13 tackles. Appeared to have a bit of a leg cramp in the second-half, not quite finding the pace to catch Cam Roigard.
Right Wing - Mosese Dawai (8/10)
Brilliant performance by the number 14, was a shame to see him off in the 66th minute. Touching the ball just 7 times, Dawai made some 4 nice distributions and 60 metres from his 3 carries. Has worked on his defence a lot, making 8/8 tackles and 1 turnover.
Fullback - Sam Gilbert (8/10)
Was able to increase his tackle rate with a 2/3 defensive effort this time, while giving a strong talent display of his all-round abilities. Ran 77 metres off 10 carries and turned up with his playmaking abilities for 9 passes and 1 offload. Scored 4 points off the tee.
Reserve Hooker - Leni Apisai (7/10)
Will be the only reserve tight-five forward to finish the game happy with his breakdown efforts, walking off with 2 turnovers to his name, while the lineout continued to work deep into the second-half.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Daniel Lienert-Brown (4/10)
Pushed back over the gainline in his 2 carries after 3 initial metres. Combining him with Ma'u, who is 10cm taller, again showed some scrum difficulties for the Highlanders late in the match, especially with Owen Franks on to close the game out.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Saula Ma'u (5/10)
Worked hard in the open space for 6 metres in his 3 carries and completed 7 tackles off the bench, but was found nullified in his attempts to remove Hurricanes players from the ruck. A move to the Blues would provide more opportunities to Ma'u at number 3, with Laulala set to potentiall head offshore?
Reserve Lock - Max Hicks (4/10)
Found wanting to play too loose with 1 pass and 1 offload not executed right. Managed to find a little bit of room for 8 metres off 3 carries but made a low total of 4 tackles, while being overpowered in the ruck.
Reserve Loose Forward - Sean Withy (5/10)
Withy can pass the ball, but chose the wrong moments on his 5 attempts. Did his best to get go-forward but was stopped at 11 metres off 3 carries in some wider channels. 9 tackles off the bench can be respected, though he was a little too eager to win turnovers and was seen to.
Reserve Halfback - James Arscott (No rating)
Came on at 10 for the last 5 minutes after Millar went down injured. Didn't play enough to be rated.
Reserve Utility Back - Scott Gregory (4/10)
Attempted to generate an attack with 5 metres off 3 carries in his return from injury, but made some fumbles at the breakdown in a brief cameo off the bench for 14 minutes.
Reserve Utility Forward - Marino Mikaele-Tu'u (6/10)
Gave some promising runs for 25 metres and 1 defender beaten, once again packing down at 8 despite wearing jersey 23. His 21 minute effort was in vain, with the game already decided. Start him at 6 next week.