Hoskins Sotutu has wowed his Blues fans all night at Number 8. Where he was part of building a great defensive shape. As the Highlanders began to suffer with the poor discipline despite leading early. The reading was there to help convert the focus from defense to attack. Before he made them stabilise with the patience.
That is how he was able to help get away with the winning penalties. In which did lead towards a spectacular first 40 touchdown from Mark Talea. While the next half after the break may not exactly been the same. But once again Hoskins found a way to expose their main weaknesses. And it would be the lack of conversion/execution going forward.
As soon as the Blues found them isolated at the back of their danger area. Hoskins picked up the pieces before he gave Blake Gibson the winning moment. Such an all-round performance on the back row that backed his natural game. Hoskins has improved over the past year starting with Super Rugby Aotearoa. And he puts so much hard work for his provincial team every week. So the tight competition is there should he start for the All Blacks.
He also played really well on the right wing tonight for Auckland Blues. The credit was there at the start when his side were patient. Having seen the opponents struggle to find their way past the Blues terroritory. So Mark took care of that defensively with the vision & tackle.
Then he was so ready when Blues found a way to process these conversions. And Otere Black at one point cross kicked straight to him. Where he has the tall reach to keep the ball in play on the far left. Before Mark unleashed the pace to cap off an easy ride for the touchdown.
It helped his side lead towards the half-time break. Now they may have lost the lead again before the final 10 minutes of the night. But Mark lended a hand to protect his own forward pack. It prevented
the Highlanders from smashing The Blues brick wall. Before they went on to turnaround the away team’s isolation on their own half. That helped Hoskins set up another TRY which ultimately confirmed as the winners. Overall Mark is such a team player where he can haunt any other opposition. Courtesy of his attacking awareness such as the pace to provide the execution. Plus the defensive skills with the tackling & protect his forwards.
He ran really hard on both fronts in attack & defense. Where Jona did his best to stop The Blues from bypassing his own way. The physicality and pace is there to cancel these phases on occasions. It helped the referee choose a couple of winning penalties to his Highlanders team.
As they were able to make up the correct three-point penalty kicks possible. But the one big weakness that let him down tonight is the executions. They did have their chances to build some pressure back to The Blues upfront. It was either a lack of long-term planning or just rushed through it. There was no way Jona was unable to get past The Blues end, When they were held back by the ill-discipline.
And despite seeing his side leading again it was still not enough to hold off. It is quite hard for Jona to go through this as runners-up. The Highlanders came from a long way from the back half of Super Rugby NZ. Before they wowed everyone during the Trans-Tasman leg out of nowhere. Especially when they had a free run against the five Australian teams. He now to go one better next year regardless of the format. Whether it will be Super Rugby NZ or a full Trans-Tasman season.