Written by Max Sharp
Moana Pasifika's discipline and lack of possession definitely let them down against the Highlanders. The team conceded 17 penalties and 2 yellow cards, while they had just 43% possession. It was never the expectation for them to dominate in their first season, but signs of improvement continue in their around-the-field play. It was also about time the Highlanders won a game this season. Moana Pasifika eventually lost by 17-37, but there were still some standout performers; we just need to stay patient with this team because that will be rewarded by God. We'll read through jerseys 1 through to 23 and look at who the best players were!
Moana Pasifika Player Ratings
Loosehead Prop - Ezekiel Lindenmuth (8/10)
Where did that performance come from? Though he did lose one scrum off his own feed, this was the best game of Lindenmuth's career. He spent his 63 minutes carrying hard, with 13 metres off 6 carries; while his 12 tackles and 1 turnover were his team's most when he got subbed off.
Hooker - Luteru Tolai (5/10)
The lineout was an area of concern for the team, it was where the Highlanders did their best work. Tolai and the rest of the tight five will shoulder some responsibility there; Tolai's hard-working performance did see him make 8 tackles though. A very mixed performance.
Tighthead Prop - Sekope Kepu (4/10)
Injury severely derailed the captain's impact on the game. Kepu was subbed off at half time with what appeared a sore elbow, he had run 2 metres off 1 carry and made 2 passes and 1 offload, without completing a single tackle in his 40 minutes. Even the most experienced players can have an off day.
Lock 4 - Veikoso Poloniati (5/10)
Poloniati was tireless throughout the game but got yellow-carded after putting too much effort into picking up the slack. An anonymous attacking display, though he did make 2 passes, 8 tackles and 1 turnover.
Lock 5 - Sam Slade (4/10)
He's been one of the side's most consistent performers through the season, but had an off day this time. Slade failed to make a metre off his single carry and made just 6 tackles. He's clearly overdue for a rest; hopefully the coaches do the right thing and give him a break next week.
Blindside Flanker - Solomone Funaki (7/10)
Though his chances to do so were limited, Funaki still gave us a view of his all-round skill. His 3 carries lead to just 4 metres, but he did beat a defender on the way, making 3 passes, 1 offload, 7 tackles and 2 turnovers. Give it up for the workhorse.
Openside Flanker - Alamanda Motuga (5/10)
Motuga worked hard but was penalised a few times. The numerous driving mauls by the Highlanders prevented Motuga from getting a chance to show off his running game, he ran just 2 carries, though he did make 9 tackles. Was yellow-carded in the 65th minute.
Number 8 - Penitoa Finau (7/10)
The 28-year-old late bloomer stepped up well in the absence of Henry Time-Stowers, running 20 metres off 6 carries, whilst he delivered 5 passes, 2 offloads and was the team's top tackler with 14 (though he missed an important one on Dawai). Finau is proof that technique trumps size.
Halfback - Ere Enari (7/10)
Samoa's interest in him will continue to grow. Enari's 59 passes were all brilliant, giving the forwards brilliant front-foot ball to work off. Though his own attack was just 2 metres off 1 carry, he got stuck in on defence with 7 tackles.
First-Five - Christian Leali'ifano (7/10)
Impact off the ball was much more potent, Leali'ifano's communication was strong. Scoring 3/3 kicks at goal, was great, while he made 14 metres, beat 1 defender, 1 clean break, all off 3 carries. Somehow, Leali'ifano won a turnover too. He's aged like fine wine.
Left Wing - Timoci Tavatavanawai (8/10)
Fiji will cap Tavatavanawai undoubtedly. His attack involved 70 metres run, an insane 10 defenders beaten and 1 clean break from his 10 carries. It's no wonder Tasman fans love Tavatavanawai so much, he's a great player, just needs more defensive involvement.
Second-Five - Danny Toala (5/10)
Overshadowed by Enari and Leali'ifano, Toala ended up moving to 13 in the second half when Aumua was subbed off. Only carried 4 times, gaining 19 metres, his pass total was limited to 4; whilst he left a huge overlap for Dawai's first try. Off after 63 minutes.
Centre - Levi Aumua (7/10)
Starting out with an outstanding running game, Aumua eventually faded into the background of the game's second half before he was replaced in the 57th minute. Dangerous carries though; 42 metres, 6 defenders beaten and 1 clean break off 10 carries.
Right Wing - Tima Fainga'anuku (8/10)
The former Highlander put on a show against his old team, stunting nice athleticism when scoring his try. Fainga'anuku also ran a team-high 75 metres, beat 2 defenders and ran 1 clean break off 10 carries. 4 solid passes and 2 offloads as well. Tonga's 14 for 2023?
Fullback - William Havili (6/10)
Havili was supreme under the high ball, while he was also more effective as a runner than his inside backs, running 34 metres and beating 1 defender off 9 carries. Distribution was on show too, his defence does need work though.
Reserve Hooker - Sam Moli (No rating)
Bought on with 17 minutes left and ran 5 metres off 3 carries. Not enough involvement to rate on.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Abraham Pole (6/10)
Though the scrum weakened after Lindenmuth's exit; Pole added attacking potency, with 8 metres and 2 defenders beaten off a single carry. 1 tackle as well, he tried his hardest with just 17 minutes left.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Chris Apoua (5/10)
Wasn't going to replicate Kepu's influence but one of few who held his discipline. Apoua's addition to the game didn't detract from their scrum, though you'd expect more than 4 tackles and 1 turnover from a 40-minute performance. Keep faith in him for next week.
Reserve Lock - Mahonri Ngakuru (No rating)
Same situation as Moli, on in the 63rd minute and not a lot of involvement.
Reserve Loose Forward - Sione Tuipulotu (No rating)
Played 20 minutes and didn't bring any impact of note; another player I won't rate.
Reserve Halfback - Jonathan Taumateine (No rating)
After such a commanding passing game by Enari, it was fair enough that the coaches wanted to keep him on. Taumateine came on with 9 minutes left and made 15 passes, the game was out of reach by this point.
Reserve First-Five - Lincoln McClutchie (6/10)
McClutchie deserves to be starting; he didn't put a foot wrong despite coming on to play second-five. McClutchie's willingness to stay close to mauls was admirable, so was his playmaking and 1 turnover. Put him in at 10 next week with Leali'ifano at 12.
Reserve Utility Back - Fine Inisi (6/10)
Due to the Highlanders' obsession with capitalising off penalties with driving mauls, Inisi was mostly confined to a communication role from 13 in his 17 minutes, but did make 1 effective 12-metre carry and 3 passes. Like McClutchie, he did his best and bought a good attitude off the bench.