This week was a bit of a shocker for the Aussie teams, with the Reds, Brumbies and Force losing games that they each had within their grasp at some point. The Tahs were our only winner, in a dour contest with the Rebels in Sydney.
A few big names returned with a bang, and a couple have popped up in this week’s GAGR Aussie XV — which is:
Team of the Week:
15. Kurtley Beale – WARATAHS
14. Lachie Turner – WARATAHS
13. Mark Gerrard – REBELS
12. James O’Connor – FORCE
11. Luke Morahan – REDS
10. Berrick Barnes – WARATAHS
9. Patrick Phibbs – BRUMBIES
8. Mitchell Chapman – BRUMBIES
7. David Pocock – FORCE
6. Dave Dennis – WARATAHS
5. Nathan Sharpe – FORCE
4. James Horwill – REDS
3. Sekope Kepu – WARATAHS
2. Nathan Charles – FORCE
1. Benn Robinson – WARATAHS
All five teams are represented in this week’s side: there are six Tahs, four Forcers, two Reds, two Brumbies and a Rebel. We have a couple of new faces in Nathan Charles and Patrick Phibbs, but the team is mainly seasoned Super veterans and Wallaby stalwarts.
The front row is made up of Benn Robinson, Sekope Kepu and Nathan Charles. Fatcat and Kepu are in the side for the umpteenth time after yet another dominant scrummaging effort. Charles was a dynamic presence around the field, and flawless at the set piece. He was ably supported by Nathan Sharpe at the line-out, who had yet another solid game against the Cantabrians. James Horwill is alongside him in the second row after dominating the tight stuff in Wellington. Peter Kimlin was unlucky to miss out, as was Dean Mumm.
David Pocock returns to the team of the week after a lengthy absence — he was great at the tackle and solid in the loose. Pat McCutcheon and Beau Robinson were also good. Dave Dennis takes the blindside shirt, and Mitch Chapman claims the 8 after running well against the Cheetahs. Scott Higginbotham gets an honourable mention.
Our five-franchise backline starts with Patrick Phibbs, who I thought was among the Brumbies’ best on Saturday morning. Berrick Barnes was the key man in the Waratahs’ victory, making an instant impact after a few weeks on the sidelines. Quade Cooper had moments of brilliance but a few key errors cost him a spot in the team this week.
James O’Connor and Mark Gerrard make up the centres after solid displays in losing teams. O’Connor’s kicking was superb, and his battle with the impressive SBW was too close to call. Gerrard held the Rebels backline together yet again, even though I am positive 13 is not his best position. Pat Dellit was unlucky to lose his place in the weekly team after another great performance.
The back three this week is Lachie Turner, Luke Morahan and Kurtley Beale. Turner stepped up in the absence of Drew Mitchell, and was constantly involved in the Tahs’ win. He was complemented by Beale, who looked far more at home at 15 than he had at five-eighth in previous weeks. Luke Morahan provided plenty of attacking spark for the Reds and takes the final spot. Cameron Shepherd and Franky Fainifo just missed.
Player of the Week:
The votes are in from the forum and we have five names to reveal. The Brumbies fans have put forward Peter Kimlin, who went hard up the guts against the Cheetahs. The Reds watchers nominated Beau Robinson, who won in a tight one against Quade Cooper.
The Saturday night derby threw up Dave Dennis from the Tahs and Mark Gerrard from the Rebels, with Turner and Huxley the unlucky silver medallists. Finally the Force MOTM was deemed to be David Pocock, who returned in a big way this week.
Try of the Week:
There can be only one. The Force v. Crusaders game threw up some cracking tries, none more so than Cameron Shepherd’s first try at the back end of the first half. SBW broke out, and the Crusaders rumbled upfield yet again. But the ball spilled out to David Smith, who beat a few would-be tacklers and gave a sublime backhanded pass to JO’C flying down the touchline. He gave it to Nathan Charles, who held the ball up perfectly before passing to WIllie Ripia, who in turn passed to Shep who went in under the posts. Don’t believe me — see it for yourself below. If this isn’t the try of the season so far, I would like to see what is.
Moment of the Week:
In a week largely devoid of good moments, one particular event on Saturday night made me smile. When Vinnie Munro reached into his pocket as Richie McCaw approached him I couldn’t believe my eyes. When the King of Canterbury and All Black Captain trudged off to serve his time you could hear the Force crowd cheering, partly out of jubilation and partly out of sheer disbelief. A referee with the cojones to show yellow to McCaw? Who would have thought. It was undoubtedly the talking point of the weekend, and these discussions will only intensify as the RWC draws nearer.