Highlanders Player Ratings vs Western Force (Round 13, 2022)
Written by Max Sharp.
Wow. What a victory! The Highlanders bought out some brilliant ball-running under the roof of Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, to smash the away Western Force side, by 61-10. There was no better way to celebrate Daniel Lienert-Brown's 100th cap, than with such a massive winning margin to finish off. Let's read through the performances of the players, from number 1 through to 23 as per normal, to see how the players went in their amazing game!
Highlanders Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Ethan de Groot (7/10)
Provided some solid defending to go alongside a scrum that went to 4/5 off their own feed; de Groot also demolished the Force's scrum. Whilst his 1 carry and 1 pass didn't do much, his 9 tackles were all awesome. Glad to see him unscathed after he appeared injured.
Hooker - Andrew Makalio (9/10)
2 tries for the number 2 as he ran 7 decent metres off 3 carries; providing 3 passes too. A real workhorse without the ball too, Makalio made 13 tackles and 1 turnover in a display that truly demonstrated some talent.
Tighthead Prop - Jermaine Ainsley (7/10)
Ainsley's 6 metres off 5 carries gave the rest of the Highlanders some good ball to run off. While not his best display of the year, Ainsley did the basics of his role very well against his former team, further making 9 tackles to bring his season total to 83. 1 turnover won too.
Lock 4 - Bryn Evans (6/10)
About time the 37-year-old reached 50 Super Rugby games! Evans did so in style by making 2 lineout steals and contributing to the team's 92% lineout win rate. Delivered 4 passes, making 7 tackles and 1 turnover; though he did not attack during his 54 minutes.
Lock 5 - Josh Dickson (6/10)
Not exactly the best attack either; this is perhaps for tactical reasons? Good in the lineout as well whilst he contributed 12 tackles and 1 turnover. A yellow card for a dangerous tackle is what brings Dickson's rating down from a 7/10.
Blindside Flanker - James Lentjes (8/10)
The co-captain took the match in his stride and attacked relentlessly with 33 metres off 5 carries. Kept the ball afloat with 3 passes and 1 offload to go with a team-high 17 tackles. Some big contracts from England or Japan could be on offer, for the in-form 31-year-old St. Bede's College alumni.
Openside Flanker - Billy Harmon (9/10)
Second-week in a row where we've seen an awesome performance from Harmon. Was Mr. consistent on defence with 15 tackles and 2 turnovers that lead directly to lineout drives, while he gave the team a surprising 11 passes and 1 offload. Finally got a few good runs at the end as a reward; getting 1 try, 77 metres, 1 defender beaten and 1 clean break from 8 carries.
Number 8 - Marino Mikaele-Tu'u (9/10)
Only on the pitch for 45 minutes but was devastating, the Highlanders' best player for sure. Mikaele-Tu'u's 8 carries lead to 2 tries, 45 metres run, 3 defenders beaten and 2 clean breaks, while he was happy to give 4 passes. Made 5 solid tackles and the only reason he isn't a 10/10 for this game is that he missed one tackle. Get this freakish monster in the All Blacks now.
Halfback - Aaron Smith (6/10)
Begins to climb even further up the list of most-capped Super Rugby players. While Smith didn't contribute any attack or defence, he steadied the ship with 41 cool-as-you like it passes. Ran the tactics well, is looking excited for the impending test matches. A slightly above average performance.
First-Five - Sam Gilbert (9/10)
This particular selection sent shock waves of unexpectedness, but Gilbert was excellent. Nailed all his kicks at goal while using his big frame well from first-receiver, with 56 metres and 4 defenders beaten off 11 carries. All 12 passes were very good while he made 4 tackles and 1 turnover.
Left Wing - Scott Gregory (7/10)
One of his better games of the season. Ran in a well-worked try thanks to Thomas Umaga-Jensen's pass while his own stat chart showed 35 metres and 2 defenders beaten off 5 carries. Operated in a "numberless" backline well with his 6 huge tackles and 1 turnover too.
Second-Five - Thomas Umaga-Jensen (8/10)
The big 12 ran hard again, spotting many gaps. Umaga-Jensen's defence was outstanding, 10 tackles and 1 turnover, while he ran 48 metres, beat 2 defenders and made 1 clean break off 6 carries. All of his 9 passes were excellent, great to see the 2 offloads as well. Is a Samoa debut on the way this year? Cause he deserves one.
Centre - Josh Timu (5/10)
Didn't really get enough ball, running just 1 metre off 1 carry. All 4 passes were very good, while he also contributed 8 tackles to the bench. Was great to see the number 13 play 80 minutes in his second game back from injury.
Right Wing - Fetuli Paea (7/10)
It's about time the in-form utility back earned a re-call for Tonga after a stellar season back from injuries. Worked well in the "numberless" backline, with 60 metres, 1 defender beaten and 1 clean break off 6 carries. 3 good passes and 3 tackles to round things out.
Fullback - Connor Garden-Bachop (7/10)
Some nice subtle touches from the fullback this game. Garden-Bachop's kicking game was good, so was his attack of 33 metres and 1 defender beaten off 8 carries. Growing into the distribution of the fullback role as well; the 6 passes and 1 offload proved so.
Reserve Hooker - Rhys Marshall (9/10)
Bought a few of the tricks from the backyard onto the pitch with a few kicks and 1 try off a driving maul. Managed to run 3 metres off his single carry, make 3 passes and contribute 4 good tackles to an excellent performance. Best feature of the game had to be his lineout.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Daniel Lienert-Brown (7/10)
Celebrated 100 Super Rugby games in this match, coming on for de Groot at half time. Scrummaged strongly as per usual, while he also made 7 tackles. Finished the match with an attempted conversion, congratulations to Lienert-Brown on his milestone match.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Saula Ma'u (7/10)
A nice outing from the 22-year-old off the bench in 29 minutes. Ran 13 hard metres from 3 carries, gave 1 pass and made 3 tackles while scrummaging strongly. Definitely has the potential to play a test for the All Blacks one day.
Reserve Lock - Fabian Holland (7/10)
Crazy to think this giant is still 19 years old... Holland's first action of the game was a clever lineout steal, whilst he delivered 3 passes. Wasn't able to attack so got busy on defence with 7 hard tackles. Will be exciting to see the big man's development!
Reserve Loose Forward - Hugh Renton (8/10)
Was entertaining as ever. The 26-year-old made good use of his 1.93m and 114kg frame on both attack on defence, with 14 metres off just 1 carry. Renton also gave 3 good passes from the base of the scrum, while making 7 tackles and 1 excellent turnover on defence.
Reserve Halfback - Folau Fakatava (9/10)
If World Rugby gives him injury exemption from the new eligibility laws he will be capped for sure this year. Controlled the game well while using his 3 carries to score 2 tries, run 20 metres and make 2 clean breaks. Contributed 3 tackles too, massive impact off the bench.
Reserve First-Five - Mitch Hunt (6/10)
On for Gregory in the 63rd minute; this saw Garden-Bachop move to wing with Hunt at fullback. Got to have 2 carries and ran 14 metres off them, whilst delivering 7 passes. After Gilbert's excellent performance at 10 will likely see Hunt off the bench again next week.
Reserve Outside Back - Liam Coombes-Fabling (No rating)
Won't be rated due to a lack of game time, but it was great to see him return from injury.