After taking a few beatings from the Brumbies and Hurricanes this season, Moana Pasifika put in a performance that summed up their team. Up until there was 20 minutes left, every Moana player was absolutely brilliant against the Highlanders, with the half-time losing margin at just 17-19. The momentum gained wasn't sustained in the second-half, with the final score ending in a 17-45 loss.
Having domination in most statistics aside from scrum win rate, lineout win rate, possession and ruck win rate, we'll attempt to investigate how this game went for Moana Pasifika by looking at each player from jersey number 1 through to 23.
MOANA PASIFIKA PLAYER RATINGS
Loosehead Prop - Ezekiel Lindenmuth (6/10)
Lindenmuth was by no means a standout but did the basics to a decent degree aside from one collapsed scrum. Ran 4 metres off 3 carries and kept a steady flow of front-foot ball with his ruck clearances, though a high possession rate made his tackle rate 2/3.
Hooker - Sam Moli (7/10)
Bruising runs off both his carries for a total of 10 metres that gave the Highlanders backs a tough time. Moli's lineout throwing has definitely improved since last season, while he didn't miss any of his four tackle attempts. The team was worse off when he was substituted.
Tighthead Prop - Suetena Asomua (7/10)
Made a few post-contact metres to go with his initial 2 off 3 carries, while 7/8 tackles was tied as the third-highest count for his team. Asomua has potential for sure, he just needs some better coaching to reach the next level.
Lock 4 - Michael Curry (5/10)
Has bulked up since last season and added some weight to the scrum. Curry's 3 metres off 1 carry, 4 passes and 6/6 tackles made for a pretty quiet game but he didn't do anything majorly wrong. Just an average performance.
Lock 5 - Sam Slade (8/10)
Ran the lineout well while combining with Moli, while using his muscular frame to total 13 metres off just 4 carries. Worked well as a distributor for 6 passes and had a perfect game on defence for 10/10 tackles, the third-most of his team.
Blindside Flanker - Miracle Fai'ilagi (7/10)
The former Samoa 7s pick is looking more comfortable at 15s' tighter spaces, but did show one glimpse of his 7s past for 29 metres and 1 clean break off one of his 6 carries, while beating 3 defenders up-front. Made 7 tackles and provided needed lineout balance.
Openside Flanker - Alamanda Motuga (9/10)
May be in Team of the Week again after a spectacular display. Muscled up for 64 metres and 2 defenders beaten off 8 carries in 61 minutes. Played a hand in 4 passes and 1 offload, with 9/11 tackles. The team definitely lost some venom with him off the pitch.
Number 8 - Solomone Funaki (7/10)
Becoming the third-ever captain of the club, Funaki made an early mark with the opening try, finishing the game with 8 metres off 6 carries, as well as several post-contact metres. Made 6 passes and 11/12 tackles; though his single miss did lead to Marino Mikaele-Tu'u scoring.
Halfback - Ere Enari (5/10)
Although he was a bit more active in open space with 10 metres off 6 carries, his passing was a little slower than Aaron Smith's, which gave the Highlanders' defence line a bit of extra time to organise. Won 1 turnover for a nice wee treat but was overshadowed by McClutchie.
First-Five - Lincoln McClutchie (7/10)
Could be seen in his 9's ear throughout the game, marking himself as a true 10. Made plenty of class tactical kicks, though 2/4 tackles could be improved on. Provided several strike moves off his 10 channel with 14 passes, while getting to run 16 metres off 6 carries himself.
Left Wing - Neria Foma'i (9/10)
Although the Manu Samoa winger is 31 years old, he doesn't look like slowing down. Got very close to a first-half try, while finishing off with a stat sheet of 80 metres, 6 defenders beaten, 1 clean break, 12 carries, 2 passes, 1 offload and 8/10 tackles, while coming off the wing for some strike plays. Definitely the best performer for Moana Pasifika.
Second-Five - Danny Toala (8/10)
Continues to grow as a distributor, passing 13 times compared to 4 carries for 28 metres and 1 clean break. Showed some decent kicks, made 1 turnover and was the top tackler of the team with 14/15. Will soon be an ideal 12 with a kicking game, power game and defensive game.
Centre - Levi Aumua (8/10)
Had the classic Levi Aumua performance with all-out attack for 45 metres, 6 defenders beaten and 2 clean breaks off 9 carries. Is becoming a better passer, while none of his 5 tackles were missed, won 1 turnover too. Definitely went missing without front-foot ball later on.
Right Wing - Timoci Tavatavanawai (5/10)
Definitely needs to add more dimensions to his game in order to achieve a call-up for Fiji. While he did make 3/3 tackles, defensive positioning is becoming a concern, his side of the pitch was especially targeted in the second half. Tavatavanawai ran 59 metres, beat 8 defenders and made 1 clean break off 10 carries but there's more to rugby than attack.
Fullback - William Havili (7/10)
Had the performance of a world-class fullback in the first-half, before fading out of the game's plays in the second-half due to his forwards' performances. Managed 92 metres and 3 defenders beaten off 10 carries, also contributing 7 passes to the attack.
Reserve Hooker - Luteru Tolai (4/10)
Carried hard for 6 metres off 3 carries in his 38 minutes, but lost his fitness as the match went on. A defensive miscommunication lead to Paea scoring for the Highlanders, while the lineout wasn't as solid in the second half.
Reserve Loosehead Prop - Abraham Pole (3/10)
Simply put, he didn't have a good performance. While Pole made 6 metres from his 2 carries, his lone missed tackle left a gaping hole for Thomas Umaga-Jensen to score a try. The scrum in the second-half wasn't ideal either. Pole will be disappointed.
Reserve Tighthead Prop - Joe 'Apikotoa (4/10)
After a long period of injury, Moana Pasifika will be thoroughly relieved to get 'Apikotoa back. Though he didn't perform well at scrum time, he looked alright on defence with 4/5 tackles and made 4 metres off 2 tight carries. Will definitely return to his best with more game time.
Reserve Lock - Mike McKee (No rating)
Played the final 14 minutes off the bench and didn't get enough time to impress so won't be rated.
Reserve Loose Forward - Jonah Mau'u (5/10)
Mau'u coming on for Motuga wasn't the best idea; as Moana Pasifika lost their flow of breakdown slowing. As an individual, Mau'u wasn't too flashy or too shocking, just had an average game for 8 metres and 1 defender beaten from 2 carries, as well as 3/4 tackles.
Reserve Halfback - Manu Paea (4/10)
Played for the final 17 minutes and left a huge hole open for Mosese Dawai to put the Highlanders' margin out of reach. The Leuila-Paea 9/10 combo definitely wasn't as effective as the Enari-McClutchie Hawke's Bay combo, the team's attack was more flat in the last 20.
Reserve First-Five - D'Angelo Leuila (6/10)
Played immensely as an individual with 36 metres, 2 defenders beaten, 1 clean break, 4 carries, 3 passes, 1 tackle and 1 turnover in just 12 minutes. Leuila's runs failed to link up however; showing a lack of combined playing time with Paea. Some dodgy kicks too.
Reserve Midfielder - Fine Inisi (No rating)
Played the final 19 minutes and replaced Aumua. The sub-par performance of the reserve forwards didn't give Inisi any opportunities, so he won't be rated.