Each week we’ll be looking at the best of the best in Australian rugby and piecing together the top 15 players out of the Aussie Super Rugby sides from the round gone by.
It was yet another tough week for the Aussies in what has been a tumultuous start to 2017 for the nation’s five sides, or four on this occasion.
Although the Rebels had the bye this week, there was still only one victory for the Aussies in Round 3 and that was because the Brumbies and Force played each other and one of them had to get a result.
Let’s take a look at who stood out from one to 15 this week.
1. Ben Alexander (Brumbies)
Alexander was his usual grinding self around the park against the Force.
There was nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary from him this week, but he got the job done for the Brumbies front row without critical error and kept a dominant Brumbies scrum walking over the opposition pack in the first half.
2. Tolu Latu (Waratahs)
In what was a fairly disappointing effort from the Waratahs to finish off a winless tour of South Africa, there were few bright sparks in their defeat against the Sharks.
Latu proved to be a strength around the fringes of the ruck for the Tahs and kept the Sharks big men at bay in the scrum. His side fell behind quickly at the start of the game but his power through the middle gave them hope of driving forward.
3. Tetera Faulkner (Force)
Revisiting the stats from the weekend shows that there’s not a lot to work with in terms of tight heads from another round of disappointing results for the Aussies.
Tetera Faulkner makes the No. 3 spot his this week for basically getting through the game relatively mistake free and pushing strong metres over the advantage line. Ala’alatoa was fairly quiet for the Brumbies and Talakai was a little scrappy for the Reds, so Faulkner it is.
4. Rory Arnold (Brumbies)
Arnold has been a menace for the Brumbies so far this season in the back row and he was his usual self in their first win of the season over the Force.
Reliable at lineout time and a strength in the defensive line, Arnold is putting his hand up early in the season for a Wallaby jumper.
5. Matt Philip (Force)
Philip makes the side for the second week in a row for many of the same reasons as last week. His presence in the lineout has been a highlight for the Force on the set piece, winning another five throws this week against the Brumbies.
He was also one of, if not the, hardest ball runners of the game, racking up the most runs for any player across both teams as he continuously broke the advantage line for the visitors.
6. Hendrik Tui (Reds)
Similar to Philip in that Tui was a running machine against the Crusaders over the weekend, using his size and pure strength to make multiple tackle busts and keep the pill rolling forward in a tight contest.
Tui isn’t the tallest or heaviest forward on the park but he plays to his strengths and that is shining through in his performances.
7. Michael Hooper (Waratahs)
George Smith put in a typically hardworking performance for the Reds and Chris Alcock broke the Force defensively on a few occasions for the Brumbies, but I’ve gone with Hooper for this weeks team.
Hooper was all over the place against the Sharks, racking up offloads, tackle busts, turnovers and even a lineout win for the Tahs in a losing effort. It was far from his best but he continuously finds ways to be a damaging presence for any opposition.
8. Scott Higginbotham (Reds)
In his first season back with the Reds after a stint in Japan, Higginbotham has had a rocky comeback with the club off the pitch but has proven he still has what it takes to roll over in Super Rugby.
The big fella was averaging just shy of 10 metres per run for the Reds and a very handy tackle count that helped his side keep the Crusaders at bay for so much of the contest. He should be looking to really hit some form in the coming weeks as he continues to fit back in with the Reds setup.
9. Joe Powell (Brumbies)
Powell was the setup man for the Brumbies this week, racking up three try assists from the side’s four tries as well as a line break assist and some offloads to boot. He was servicing everyone and getting results for it.
Quick and consistent ball from your halfback is all you can ask of a No. 9 and Powell played his role beautifully this week.
10. Bryce Hegarty (Waratahs)
There were some good performances this week from the flyhalfs. Quade Cooper hinted at some of his old form while Hawera continues to step up for the Brumbies. In what could be his last game in this role while Foley looks to return, Hegarty put in his strongest performance yet despite the final scoreline.
Israel Folau got his name on the scoresheet twice and takes all the glory, but it was Hegarty who set him up on both occasions, the first try in particular a beauty thanks to a deft kick over the defensive line that landed perfectly in no mans land for Folau to scoop it up on the way through.
Hegarty also showed off a willingness to take on the line, making a tackle bust and crossing the advantage line on every single run he made on the day.
11. James Dargaville (Brumbies)
Dargaville was a nightmare outside for a struggling Force defence that gave the 24-year-old far too much room to move.
Line breaks and tackle busts were the order of the day for the winger on his way to averaging double figures for metres per run. He wasn’t able to find the line for the Brumbies but went a long way to keeping them at the right end of the park.
12. Kyle Godwin (Brumbies)
Godwin was key for the Brumbies in their second half comeback, even scoring the try that would give them the lead inside the final seven minutes of the game.
His playmaking skills kept the Brumbies rolling forward after a slow start to the game as he created headaches out wide for the Force. He played a smart running game as well when it was needed, breaking the advantage line one more than one occasion and picking off tired legs.
13. Samu Kerevi (Reds)
Kerevi played a peach of a game at outside-centre against the Crusaders and was a defining factor in their dominant opening half that saw them take a handy lead into the break.
He used nothing but pure strength to score the first try of the game in the 12th minute, breaking the line from 15 metres out and carrying three defenders over the line as he kept those legs pumping despite the defence seemingly having him covered.
Then 12 minutes later he did all the work to set up the second try for the Reds with a line break just over halfway, drawing in the final line of defence before feeding Eto Nabuli for the five-pointer.
14. Izaia Perese (Reds)
In his run on debut for the club, 19-year-old Izaia Perese impressed big time as he showed off a lot of the hype surrounding his entry into the side.
He has so much upper body strength and pure intensity in his running it’s easy to see how he cracked Quade Cooper’s collarbone at a training session back in 2015. Perese broke tackles on every second run he had, racking up big metres down the wing in an impressive showing for the young man.
15. Dane Haylett-Petty (Force)
Fullback was a tough selection this week purely because of a lack of standouts. It was a fairly bland weekend for those in the No. 15 without anyone really playing terribly or playing very well.
Haylett-Petty was threatening when he ran the ball back from inside his own half and looked to show plenty of aggression in attack, leading his side to the front early in the second half, setting up Chance Peni to take the lead.
He was also summoned to the ref to be told his brother was being yellow carded inside the final ten minutes, with the numbers disadvantage eventually going against them and conceding late to lose the game. I wonder how their next family dinner will go.
Do you agree with the XV? You’re sporting fans, of course you don’t, so let us know who you think should or shouldn’t be in the side for this week.