The Super XV: Australian team of the week, Round 17

Connor Bennett Roar Guru

By , Connor Bennett is a Roar Guru & Live Blogger

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    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.

    The final round of the year to cap off a dismal year in the Australian Conference and it was pretty what you’d expect.

    Two sides conceding 40 points in losing efforts, the Reds and Waratahs, while our only finals hopes in the Brumbies were fairly comfortably dispatched by the Chiefs.

    The Rebels were swept in the second half to lose to the visiting Jaguares in Melbourne as they nervously await their future in the competition.

    Finally, the only win of the round, and possibly the one with the most ramifications, was the Force, who landed 40 points on the aforementioned Waratahs to take second place in the conference in what could be a defining moment in their hope for survival.

    So with four losses from four games, let’s have a look at the best Australian Super Rugby had to offer for the final time this year.

    1. Sef Fa’agase (Reds)
    Not really sure how to kick off the list this week thanks to a string of fairly underwhelming performances from the loosehead props across all five sides.

    Without laying it on Fa’agase, he’s the best of a bad bunch basically, which has really categorised most positions in this list nearly every week unfortunately.

    2. James Hanson (Rebels)
    The Rebels had a fairly up and down night in the scrum but Hanson was able to hold his own in the front row as one of the only Aussie sides not to really be completely run over at scrum time.

    Strong up the guts in defence as well as with ball in hand without setting the game on fire, made some good metres over the advantage line as the Rebels took control in the first half.

    3. Taniela Tupou (Reds)
    The 21-year-old Tongan has struggled to nail down a starting spot with the Reds this year but showed glimpses of his potential against the Highlanders this week.

    He racked up more running metres than any other Reds player in the game and went on a tackle-busting rampage around the fringes.

    Taniela Tupuo Reds running against the Rebels

    (Credit: Sportography/QRU)

    4. Ned Hanigan (Waratahs)
    It’s difficult to pick and Tahs players after the finish to the season they had, ending up second last in the Australian Conference and an astonishing 15th of 18 teams overall this year.

    Yet Hanigan has popped his head up and landed a spot in the team this week as he continues to show the fight and form that the rest of his side are lacking.

    The 22-year-old from Dubbo wrestled and powered his way through the Force line when he could and showed off some of the counter-rucking defensive work that earned him his Wallabies debut this year.

    5. Izack Rodda (Reds)
    It’s strange having this many Reds players take up the opening spots despite the scoreline they copped this week but when watching the game, most of the damage was really done in the backline and the forwards fought hard.

    Rodda was able to crash over in the corner leading into the halftime break to stem the bloodflow a bit, but it’s the aggression and determination through the line that really shone, breaking a host of tackles and breaking the advantage line nearly every touch.

    Rodda played his part in the lineout as well, executing well and keeping the Reds moving forward from the sideline.

    6. Sean McMahon (Rebels)
    Once touted as the Wallabies long-term solution in the No. 6 jersey, poor Sean McMahon has had a rough time of it in 2017.

    He missed the opening months of the season with ankle and knee injuries and was only able to muster up three games before succumbing to a dislocated wrist that kept him out of the June Tests and all but the finale of the Super Rugby season.

    In what could be his last game for the Rebels with rumours of a move to Japan on the table, the 23-year-old put in a performance that reminded many of the form he can carry and the player he can be with a powerful running game and the play making skills to offload all over the shop and keep the play rolling.

    Sean McMahon of the Rebels fends off Nick Phipps

    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    7. Matt Hodgson (Force)
    You just have to have him in here.

    What a game it was for him on Saturday, notching up a win against the Tahs, bagging a rare try, just his 20th in Super Rugby, and even slotting a penalty goal after the siren to cap off the perfect farewell for the Force foundation player.

    A huge night for the Force as a whole and a fitting end for a stalwart of Super Rugby and a driving force behind rugby in Western Australia.

    8. Amanaki Mafi (Rebels)
    Is it ever anyone else?

    Although Isireli Naisarani had a standout performance for the Force, he can’t quite match the destructive might that has been Amanaki Mafi this season.

    The Tongan-born Japanese international was the only Rebel to hit three figures in running metres, a feat that has become extremely common for his this season as the Jaguares struggled to contain him.

    Line breaks and tackle busts were at a premium whenever he would take on the line and his performance was another standout in 2017.

    9. Nic Stirzaker (Rebels)
    A fairly non-descript week for all the halfbacks in the Aussie Conference with no one really performing terribly, but no one really standing out either.

    Which leads to another unfortunate case of being the best option from a dodgy pool.

    Stirzaker hasn’t really been able to crack the Wallabies glass ceiling since debuting for the Rebels five years ago but showed off a lot of the zippy running game and consistent feed for his halves that have allowed him to play a constant starting role for the club.

    10. Quade Cooper (Reds)
    Gardon-Bachop and Hawera were missing for the most part for the Rebels and Brumbies respectively, while Peter Grant was outshone by Foley in the battle of the Force and Tahs.

    In saying that, Foley was far from his best in a game where the Tahs only managed one try. So here you go, Quade Cooper wins flyhalf of the week.

    His offloading game was a subtle surprise against the much more fancied Highlanders, making a few tackle breaks and latching onto support play fairly well across the 80 minutes. Plenty of kicking metres in there as well.

    queensland-reds-super-rugby-union-2015

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    11. Marika Koroibete (Rebels)
    Koroibete is an extremely destructive runner with the ball and has shown off his pace and power down the sideline all season, just very inconsistently.

    He caused havoc down the wing against the Jaguares this week, making a pair of line breaks and finding backplay on more than one occasion, not to mention a few offloads here and there.

    12. Reece Hodge (Rebels)
    The 22-year-old Wallaby had a ripper of a game in a losing cause against the Jaguares, keeping his name in the hat for the inside centre spot for the upcoming Rugby Championship.

    Not only did he set up and finish off the opening try of the game from deep inside his own half, but he played a crucial role off the tee, kicking five penalty goals to keep the Rebels in it despite the Argentines bagging four tries to two.

    Not only was he making the line breaks, he was setting them up as well, playing provider more often than not in as one of the best players on the field for both sides.

    13. Curtis Rona (Force)
    Rona made the most of one of his few chances in the starting line up for the Force this year, setting up two long range tries in the first half alone as the Western Australian side raced out of the gates against the Tahs.

    His tackle busts, offloads and line breaks all lent to forward play for his side in one of the more selfless and support play based performances of the week.

    14. Izaia Perese (Reds)
    Ok this is the last one I swear, Perese was a bit better than the rest of the fairly average choices in the 14 jersey this week.

    He pulled off a peach of a try assist late in the game for Caleb Timu while dancing along the sideline and being taken out of touch by the defence.

    Apart from that, there were a few good runs, keeping the sliding defence busy for the Highlanders.

    15. Israel Folau (Waratahs)
    You better believe I’m ending the year with Israel Folau as the fullback of the week. While some, or most, have questions his enthusiasm and playing style this season, he still tears it up.

    The numbers don’t lie and Folau was the only man from either side to run over 100 metres with ball in hand, picking up two line break assists as he tended to play a supporting role in the opening half.

    Offloading was firing as well and broke a bevvy of first tackles as he dominated the kick return.

    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.

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