Aotearoa performances: Blues pack leads the way

DYLAN JACK looks back at the second round of Super Rugby Aotearoa and picks out the five most impressive performances.

Patrick Tuipulotu (Blues)

This was a proper captain’s performance from Tuipulotu, who celebrated signing a new two-year deal with the Blues in fine style.

The All Blacks lock was immense against the Chiefs, making 11 carries for 34 metres and beating four defenders – as many as wing teammate Mark Telea – while also making a clean break and producing an offload.

On defence, he was all over the Chiefs like a bad rash, missing just one of his 15 attempted tackles.

It is no wonder that both the Blues and All Blacks have been keen to keep Tuipulotu as he strutted his physique in Hamilton.

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Akira Ioane (Blues)

Ioane made a welcome return to the Blues starting lineup against the Chiefs after being left out of their match-day squad for the opening-round win over the Hurricanes.

The 24-year-old, however, was named in the slightly unfamiliar role of blindside flank, with teammate Hoskins Sotutu keeping his place at No 8.

Despite this, Ioane turned in a true workmanlike blindside performance as he hit ruck after ruck, while he was also active on defence – attempting 15 tackles and missing three and making three turnovers (the most of any player on Saturday).

It may not have been his flashiest showing – although he did manage to beat two defenders and pass four times – but it did demonstrate that he is starting to blend his finesse with a bit more industry and grit.

Hoskins Sotutu (Blues)

Unsurprisingly, Sotutu was at it again with another fantastic performance at No 8 against the Chiefs.

The 21-year-old crossed for his first try of the tournament to give the Blues a narrow 10-9 lead at the break, while he was credited with a try assist for setting up Mark Telea for the Blues’ second score in the second half.

He may not have made as many metres as he did in his first game against the Hurricanes, but Sotutu contributed more than his own on defence – with 16 tackle attempts, missing one.

Expect his performances to increase pressure for his call-up to the All Blacks squad.

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Will Jordan (Crusaders)

The Crusaders looked very eager to make up for lost time in their first Aotearoa match against the Hurricanes, having had a bye in the first round, and at times cut holes in their opponents’ defence with ease.

Their destroyer-in-chief was Will Jordan, who was somewhat surprisingly named ahead of David Havili at fullback.

However, the 22-year-old was simply superb, making a massive 111m from 14 carries – beating eight defenders, making three clean breaks, eight passes, two offloads and picking up a try assist.

While Havili did make an excellent impact when he came off the bench in the second half – scoring a decisive try to put the game to bed – Jordan showed that he can be entrusted with the No 15 jersey.

Jackson Garden-Bachop (Hurricanes)

Despite that he ended up on the losing side, Garden-Bachop did as much as he could to try to get his side the win.

The 25-year-old flyhalf kicked 20 of his team’s 25 points against the Crusaders, including a drop goal and a touchline conversion that levelled the score at 25-25.

Garden-Bachop also brought his own on attack, releasing the ball 25 times, while beating three defenders and making a clean break.

Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

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