NRC2017 Rnd 2: Team of the Week - Green and Gold Rugby
National Rugby Championship

NRC2017 Rnd 2: Team of the Week

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NRC2017 Rnd 2: Team of the Week

While the second round of the NRC still produced some wonderful attacking rugby it is fair to say that defence was a lot better across all games. Brad Thorn’s impact on QLD Country was apparent as their tackling was a cornerstone of their first ever win over Brisbane City. Fiji Drua recorded their first ever win in the tournament and while there were some glorious tries scored, their defence was particularly scary to watch.  When the Perth Spirit played the Canberra Vikings on the road and the match was noted for the ferocious forward battle rather than the free running play of the backs.

As it is, the Greater Sydney Rams now sit atop the NRC ladder having won both of their opening games while the Vikings sit just a bonus point behind.  To further highlight the unique nature of this year’s tournament the new boys, Fiji, are in third place while perennial cellar dwellers, QLD Country, are in 4th spot.

With plenty of fantastic team performances, it only flows that there were some quality individual performers too. Let’s take a look at the best of them.

Joeli Veitayaki1 Joeli Veitayaki (Fiji Drua) – 1st week in team

Veitayaki came off the bench against the Wallabies earlier this year in their test in Melbourne. Other than that I can’t tell you too much about him. What I can tell you was that he put in a monster effort for the Drua in their historic victory over the Melbourne Rising. Joeli scrummed strongly against Wallaby Toby Smith and was a mighty presence around the park. Jed Gillespie had a pretty mighty game for the Rams as well.

Robbie Abel2 Robbie Abel (Canberra Viking) – 1st

If they named an All-Time NRC team then Robbie Abel would have a fair argument to be the starting hooker. He was at his best again on the weekend, scoring an early try for the Vikings and ensuring an absolutely rock solid set piece. I’m not sure why he doesn’t get greater consideration for a test jersey given his pinpoint throwing, strong scrummaging and general play skills. QLD Country reserve Alex Casey deserves recognition for a wonderful cameo from the bench in Noosa. 

Taniela Tupou3 Taniela Tupou (Queensland Country) – 1st

The Tongan Thor was at his finest up in Noosa as his team won beat their city slicker rivals for the first time ever in the NRC. Perhaps it was the fact that Tongan Language Week was finishing, but Tupou caused consistent headaches for City in both the scrum and in the loose. He scored a memorable try, running onto a delightful Casey inside ball to power his way away to score a critical try. 

Emmanuel Meafou4 Emmanuel Maufou (Melbourne Rising) – 1st

By pure coincidence there seems to be a rather ‘big human’ theme to my TOTW this week. Mafoau fits the theme rather comfortably. While perhaps technically not the best lock performance of the week, Maufou was arguably the most eye-catching. The teenager measures up at over 200cm tall and around 140kg but his size isn’t an impediment to his abilities as he showed on the weekend against an on-song (and physical) Fijian team.  Albert Tuisue from the Rams also provided many a highlight against the Rays. 

Sam Carter5 Sam Carter (Canberra Vikings) – 1st

Captain Carter has stepped down from leadership duties in the NRC and the freedom seemed to unleash a next level game in Sunday’s win over Perth. Carter was a go-to man in the lineout, while also at the centre of many a successful maul defence. He also ran with terrific intent all through the match and deep into the final decisive moments. His opposite number Matt Philip once again impressed with his physical presence.

Samu Saqiwa6 Samu Saqiwa (Fiji Drua) – 1st

In what was probably the best team performance of the NRC so far, it was hard to keep up with the stand out Drua players as they built their lead over the young Melbourne Rising team. One of the names that was consistently being called, though, was their experienced blindside flanker. Saqiwa crossed for a couple of tries but was everywhere he was needed by his team throughout the match. His linking play was a particular strength and a vital part of his team’s performance.

Tom Cusack7 Tom Cusack (Canberra Vikings) – 1st

It probably wasn’t a standout weekend for opensides. Liam Wright again did some good things for QLD Country and Mosese Voka was busy for Fiji. In the end I’ve opted for Vikings skipper Tom Cusack for his impactful game for the victorious Canberrians.  This was Cusack’s first start for the NRC season after missing last week’s opening round and he made up with it in a busy performance particularly in defence against a mighty Spirit pack.  You can’t discount his leadership credentials either as he saw his team through the loss of a strong lead to a late match winning try.

Jed Holloway8 Jed Holloway (Greater Sydney Rams) – 1st

I had Isi Naisarani picked in this team about half an hour into Perth’s match against the Vikings. His game never wavered however then Jed Holloway stood up and produced a magnificent performance for the Rams in their second win of the season.  Jed seems the type of player that thrives on leadership and plays a real ‘follow me, lads” type of rugby. His impact so far this season has been a significant reason for the Rams position at the top of the NRC ladder.

James Tuttle9 James Tuttle (Queensland Country) – 1st

There was an added intensity in the Queensland Country performance against on the weekend. Normally visitors to Noosa do so to relax and kick back, but it was all business for Tuttle and his team mates. Tuttle, as the most capped QLD Country player, showed all the experience you’d expect with such a record putting aside his still relative youth. Tuttle combined superbly with young flyhalf Hamish Stewart to keep the City players on the backfoot throughout the match.

Peceli NAcebe10 Peceli Nacebe (Fiji Drua) – 1st

Nacebe has a produced some big plays for Fiji in their first round loss to Brisbane, where he started at fullback. Moved closer to the action this round I was curious as to whether the increased ball touches would be off-set but the decreased space. I needn’t have worried – Nacebe was brilliant and his attacking play probably unrivalled so far this season.  By match end he had contributed 20 points to his team’s efforts including scoring a brace of tries for the second week in a row. Credit to QLD Country’s young Hamish Stewart who put on his finest performance in senior rugby outside Tuttle.

Apete Daveta11 Apete Daveta (Fiji Drua) – 1st

The third Fijian to make the team this week and, not too coincidentally, the third of the two-tryscorers from their win over the Rising. There sure was some talented wingers on display this weekend with Latu Latunipulu from the Rays certainly making a case with some magic at Macquarie Uni. In the end though it was the sheer majesty that was Daveta’s elusiveness and finishing abilities out wide that gave in the selection edge, and caused so much concern for the Rising defence.

Sione Tuipulotu

12 Sione Tuipulotu (Melbourne Rising) – 2nd

The only player to appear in our TOTW in each of the first two rounds is a fairly handy achievement for such a young player. Focussing on Sione’s youth, however, would be doing him a disservice as he has played with maturity of player far more seasoned so far.  With so much young talent in the side, the Rising have needed Tuipulotu to step up and provide a more hardened edge to his team’s attack and defence. Duncan Paia’aua had another good outing in leading his team to their first Andy Purcell Cup win.

Dennis Pili Gaitau13 Denis Pili-Gaitau (Greater Sydney Rams) – 1st

Interestingly this is one position where they have been few standout candidates both weeks of the NRC so far. That’s not to belittle this week’s selection who has been very impressive in both Rams victories so far. Pili-Gataeu put on an outstanding performance against the Rays this week, proving to be an excellent finisher in grabbing a try, but also was pivotal in many the Rams’ attacking forays.  Another of the Manly connection in this Rams outfit he’s relishing the chance to challenge himself against higher level competition.

Taquele Naiyaravo14 Taqele Naiyaravo (Greater Sydney Rams) – 1st 

There’s no shortage of wing candidates this weekend and Izzy Perese came bloody close to taking this spot after a high action performance for QLD Country.  In the end we’ve gone with Naiayavoro who looked like a giant on the field, and busted tackles every time he got the ball. With tries in both games this season, he is one of the most damaging attacking runners in the NRC. His passing game could do some work, with the ‘inside fling’ an all too ready option, but if he keeps breaking the line as he has, then we can overlook that for now.

Josh Turner15 Josh Turner (Sydney Rays) – 1st 

Last week’s fullback, young Jack Maddocks from the Rising, was again very impressive but suffered as his team were pumped by the Drua. The Fiji skipper, John Stewart, pushed hard for contention in the team but in the end the relatively unknown Turner get’s the gig. The Manly Marlin put on a wonderful display of rugby from the back for the Rays, despite being in the losing side. He snagged a long range try through an intercept and was dangerous from the back throughout the Rays first run of the season.

  • Brumby Runner

    RR, Sadly, I don’t agree with your assessment of Robbie Abel’s lineout throwing. He quite regularly overthrows when going to the back, notably most recently in his first two throws against the Qld Country last week. Otherwise, he is a good solid performer and may have been the pick of No 2s this week, but really not near consideration for the Wallabies.

    I rated Matt Philip as the best lock on the ground in the Vikings/Spirit game this week. Sam was solid again, but Philip made a number of breaks, ran hard onto the ball all day and shows every indication of being a prospective Wallaby. I would go so far as to say that he would right now be better than either of Hanigan or Dempsey in the Wallabies’ No 6 spot.

    Haven’t seen the Rays/Rams game yet, but if Holloway outshone Isa Naisarani then he must have been immense, and really back to his best. Great to see.

    • D. Braithwaite’s The Brumbies

      I don’t think Holloway outshone Naisarani, but each to their own.

      • RugbyReg


  • Braveheart81

    Good team Reg. It’s only week 2 but it’s great to see the amount of good quality players across the competition and not just a few of the same names standing out each week. Hopefully that continues!

  • tortfeaser

    I’ve got to see the Rays/Rams game if Naisarani couldn’t get the chocolates. The man was a beast.

  • Mart

    Rush Hollaway into 8 against the Argies and move McMahon to 6.
    Can do much worse than current set up

  • Bobas

    too many Druatahs

  • Patrick

    So Emmanuel Maufou is like a useful Skelton? For the sake of Australian rugby I hope he moves to NSW just long enough to get selected (pre-season should do it) and then gets out of there before he actually becomes Skelton.

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