The NRC 3rd round threw up some results that just pose more questions than they answer. Both undefeated teams, the Rams and the Vikings, suffered their first losses of the season as they hit the road for the first time. Fiji had their first game at home, and lived up to their fans’ expectations, while the Sydney Rays made a statement of their own defeating a Melbourne team filled with Super Rugby players.
As you’d expect, there were plenty of impressive individual performances which makes picking a Team of the Week bloody hard. But I gave it a go and here it is. Your thoughts are welcome below.
This was Ma’afu’s first start for Brisbane City and reward for arguably career best form for his club, Norths. Up against Super Rugby experience in the form of Les Makin, Ma’afu was the cornerstone of a powerful Brisbane scrummaging performance as well as being busy in attack scoring an early try by barrelling over the line from a Moses Sorovi pass.
Roach was an absolute stand out for his beloved Rams despite being them being on the receiving end of a big loss to the Perth Spirit. Roach never stopped working and was the centre of most of his team’s efforts on each side of the ball. Equally busy was Fijian Drua’s pocket battleship in Ratunaisa Nauma who put in a powerful performance in his side’s first home game.
Paralleling Roach’s performance, Needs was a star in a losing side. In their loss to the Drua the Eagles at least had it over the home team in the scrum and Needs was particularly dominant. It wasn’t just the set piece that Needs was doing the business as he worked his ample butt off in attack as well.
While it is Tui’s line bending runs that are most readily eye catching, it is his excellent work rate that is most valuable to the team. His willingness to run the ball on back to back phases is inspiring and it’s not as if he’s shirking his defensive duties either. Out west, the touring Richie Arnold continues to improve and put in perhaps his best game of his professional career.
It was easy for Arnold’s work to be overlooked so dominant was his second-row partner in Matt Phillip. The guy is a monster. His abrasiveness is readily apparently, but we saw on the weekend his rugby brain working to full effect. Philip was another ball running weapon for the Spirit (as if they needed another) as he ran and passes both astutely and effectively. It’s why his Wallaby call-up campaign continues to gain momentum.
There were not a whole lot of blindside flankers sticking their hand up and demanding selection this week. Seru gets the call up because he proved to be such an effective link man in the Drua’s win over the Eagles. It was a win based on turnover ball and strike power and Seru played a hand here. He also put in some big hits in defence that was a feature of the Drua play.
Koteka definitely benefitted from being part of a well drilled pseudo Super Rugby team dominating a team of basically club rugby players. But we ever the Spirit did well, their openside flanker was at the heart of it. He scored two tries and was busy ball in hand all day. When the Rams did have the ball though Koteka did everything in his power to halt their progression. Brisbane City’s Michael Gunn put in a great running game against Canberra in Brisbane too.
Yep. That man again. While the showdown with Jed Holloway never eventuated, Naisarani was once again at his very best in front of an appreciative Perth crowd. There were times that the Rams seemed to have the Spirit on the back foot, but all it took was big Isi to take the ball forward to put the Perth team back on the front foot. With the Drua’s Peni Raidre in fine form, we have another excellent clash to look forward to this weekend.
It was every scrumhalf’s dream on Sunday as Ruru’s pack were piling up the run metres and his backline was running freely. It meant Ruru was at his controlling best and showing off his crisp pass and excellent game management in throwing the last pass for three tries. Young Moses Sorovi continues to impress for Brisbane particularly with his support play.
It’s obvious to say that Quade adds a fair bit to this Brisbane City side. With Canberra pushing hard and fast in defence, Cooper’s wide passing game was at its best and his outside men were revelling in it. A perfect game with the boot off the tee proved decisive as well. It was great to see Sydney Rays 10, Sam Lane, still able to produce the goods to as he led his team to their first win of the season.
That’s five tries in two rounds for Latunipulu after his hattrick on the weekend against the Rising. He ran wonderful lines off his playmakers and the Rays use him brilliantly from the set piece, however he was also very dangerous on the counter attack. A big tip of the hat must go to the Perth winger Clay Uyen for his tackling efforts on big Taqele Naiyaravoro never giving the big Ram any leeway to build up pace.
Meakes is probably a step closer to a Wallaby jersey than Matt Philip, but if the “Philip for the Wallabies” campaign is building momentum, the ‘Meakes campaign’ is an almost out of control. At the very least you’d think he deserves a bench spot ahead of Samu Kerevi and his game on the weekend was just further proof of his class and all-round game. Perhaps it was because he had Quade back inside him but AJ Alatimu had an excellent outing on the weekend as well.
Speaking of which, so did Kuridrani in what I think was probably the best I’ve seen him play for some time. Kuridrani had Kerevi-like run metres as he topped the century mark with the ball in hand. With limited opportunities for the Reds this season, as well as for Brisbane in the early round, the opportunity to plat at outside centre was grabbed with both hands – and run with. His effort the very last play of the game, chasing a QC kick-off, was indicative of his work this game.
Just another Fijian winger doing the business. Sau scored a quality try and ran for plenty of metres for the Drua as they thrived in front of their enthusiastic home game. But what about his defence? Andrew Kellaway must be having nightmares after a couple of the hits he was on the end of. And how fast is Ed Fiddow of Brisbane City? On the end of some typical Cooper wide passes, Fiddow showed his jet shoes as he race away down the sideline on multiple occasions.
It was business as usual for Banks on the weekend. It just so happened that Brisbane took this game to the Viking fullback’s old stomping ground in the University of QLD Rugby Club. Fans there were torn between supporting their Brisbane City side and Banks. As it was it was a best-case scenario – a win to the home side and two brilliant tries to Banks. Just like the old days.