Round 5 is all done and dusted, and you could say ‘up and down’ is an apt description of the weekend’s games. The Force and Reds were certainly up, with good wins against the Lions and Rebels respectively. Going down were the Waratahs and Rebels, who both suffered humiliating losses where they only banked a solitary penalty goal in 80 minutes of effort.
Team of the Round:
15 Cameron Shepherd – FORCE
14 Alfie Mafi – FORCE
13 Nick Cummins – FORCE
12 Anthony Fainga’a – REDS
11 Digby Ioane – REDS
10 James O’Connor – FORCE
9 Brett Sheehan – FORCE
8 Leroy Houston – REDS
7 Matt Hodgson – FORCE
6 Ben McCalman – FORCE
5 Nathan Sharpe – FORCE
4 Adam Wallace-Harrison – REDS
3 Tim Fairbrother – FORCE
2 Saia Fainga’a – REDS
1 Ben Daley – REDS
For obvious reasons this week’s side is completely filled with Reds and Force players. Of the teams not represented, I think the Brumbies were far closer to providing players than the Waratahs or the Rebels (whose performances can be best described in three words: utter fucking shithouse — Shakespeare I ain’t, but sadly it’s accurate).
Let’s get to business. Ben Daley gets the nod this week after a dynamic effort in tight against the Rebels. A good try capped off a pretty solid performance. Saia Fainga’a secures the hooking role after the Melburnians struggled to deal with his physicality and power in both tight and loose. His lineout throwing was good as well. The coveted tighthead prop position goes to Tim Fairbrother, who gets up in a tight contest ahead of James Slipper, with Al Baxter not too far away.
Sharpie takes a lock spot yet again, and looks to be the form Australian forward of the competition so far. Adam Wallace-Harrison capped an excellent return to Super Rugby with a meat pie and a raft of lineout steals, further pushing Ewen McKenzie’s revival credentials. Rumour has it that ‘Bondi Rescue’ has been scoping him out for a role.
The back row has a few usual suspects and one new face: Leroy Houston. The big unit put in a season-best effort on Friday, and as a result we have had to push the equally outstanding Ben McCalman to the side of the scrum. Both are putting their hands up at the right time, although we will see if Wycliff Palu has something to say about that this weekend — his 30-minute spell against the Cheetahs was impressive. Matt Hodgson completes the loosies, with yet another polished effort in the absence of Bam Pocock. Beau Robinson is unlucky to miss a spot after another barnstorming game.
In the halves we have Brett Sheehan for the first time this year, after a tenacious and skilful effort against the Lions in the Republic. Genia and Phipps come in closely behind. Sheehan is joined by his Force partner James O’Connor, whom I’m getting tired of writing about, frankly. I can write a million brilliant puns about Cooper, Barnes or even Giteau (hmmm… OK, so maybe after calling him Shiteau I have nothing…) but O’Connor? There are only so many references to rabbits and Sinead O’Connor that I can get away with. All I end up saying is the guy is a fucking good rugby player who seems to be getting better every week. Happy?
In the centres we have Anthony Fainga’a and Nick Cummins, both of whom were clear standouts in their teams’ victories. Tom Carter’s name was also mentioned in dispatches, as was Lachie Mitchell’s. The back three consists of Digby Ioane, Cameron Shepherd and Alfie Mafi. Diggers was his usual dynamic self, busting tackles and taking names. Shep put in a simply sublime performance for the Force, setting up both tries and reminding us all he is not to be forgotten when thoughts turn to the Wallabies. Mafi takes the final spot in the team, with another good effort in blue — Force blue. Other names mentioned were Drew Mitchell and Cooper Vuna.
Player of the Round:
The votes are in from the forum, and the nominees for Player of the Week have been announced. The first name on the list is Beau Robinson, who is now a fully fledged Red after playing his 4th game and getting a full contract. After the game Link presented him with the Reds standard issue items: team kit, banjo and a full year’s supply of chewing tobacco. But all jokes aside, Beau put in yet another hard-as-nails effort at the coalface on Friday night. For the Rebels, the punters liked the performance of Nick Phipps. The rookie half has been a consistent standout and continued his good form this week in a badly beaten side. He pipped Cooper Vuna by just a few votes.
Speaking of badly beaten sides, the punters were very hesitant to pick a Waratahs Man of the Match. Votes went to Sarel Pretorius, Sharon Flahive, Tah Man and a chap by the name of A.N Other. The few who did vote ended up going for Drew Mitchell, who got the nod by a single vote over Tom Carter. For the victorius Force it was all one-way traffic with Cameron Shepherd winning in a canter. As I’ve noted, the skilful veteran put in a fine display at the back, spearheading a great Force performance.
Try of the Round:
This was a hard one this week, but I have gone for the try scored by Nick Cummins for the Force. There were no moments of individual brilliance or breathtaking skill, but it was a great example of how to execute a try. First JO’C broke through the defence with a deft chip, which Cummins easily gathered. The Force then pushed it right, where Alfie Mafi took the ball into contact near the sideline. Then the pigs took control, with a couple of barging hit-ups to keep the momentum rolling. The final movement took it to the left-hand corner, with Cummins diving over after a beautiful Shepherd cutout pass. Ten pairs of hands touched the ball in six phases. A great team effort, which can be seen below (after the fraudulent effort at skill from the ABs).
Moment of the Round:
Not many events come immediately to mind when you think about single moments that could define the round. Greg Somerville dropping it cold over the line is a nominee, as the try would have brought the Rebels right back into the game. Another nominee is the try to Alfie Mafi when the Force looked like they could be heading for defeat, with JO’C in the bin and a deficit on the scoreboard.
However, the moment of the round for mine came after the siren at the SFS, after the Tahs had dished up a steaming pile of shit to the Sydney faithful. The chorus of boos was something to behold, especially considering most of the crowd had left with ten minutes to go. Hopefully this is the moment that we look back on as the kick in the pants the Tahs needed. But frankly, the NSW rugby public are getting RSI from all the times an arse-kicking has been administered, and are now getting tired.
What were your highlights and lowlights of the weekend?