Round 7 was a great round of close rugby, with the Australian teams chalking up some crucial wins. The Brumbies and the Force just couldn’t get the job done in the second halves of their games, and are now languishing at the bottom of the Australian conference. But there were plenty of positives nonetheless. Let’s have a closer look:
Team of the Round:
15 Mark Gerrard – REBELS
14 Drew Mitchell – WARATAHS
13 Digby Ioane – REDS
12 Gene Fairbanks – FORCE
11 Luke Morahan – REDS
10 Quade Cooper – REDS
9 Will Genia – REDS
8 Ben McCalman – FORCE
7 Michael Lipman – REBELS
6 Peter Kimlin – BRUMBIES
5 Hugh Pyle – REBELS
4 Sam Wykes – FORCE
3 Sekope Kepu – WARATAHS
2 Tatafu Polota-Nau – WARATAHS
1 Benn Robinson – WARATAHS
It’s a bit of a mixed bag this week, with every franchise represented in the team. After securing a penalty try against the Chiefs, the entire Waratah front row gets the nod. All three had great games around the park to boot, with TPN, Kepu and Robinso having a noticeable impact in both attack and defence. Honourable mentions go to Ben Alexander, Greg Holmes and Pek Cowan.
The second row was a particularly hard decision this week, with plenty of players putting their hands up. In the end the spots went to Hugh Pyle and Sam Wykes, who had absolute belters in the derby. Both were outstanding at the set piece and in general play, and both bagged crucial meat pies. Nathan Sharpe was unlucky to miss out, as were James Horwill and Al Campbell.
Peter Kimlin is the sole Brumbies representative after a good effort in the tight against the Highlanders. He is joined in the back row by Michael Lipman and Ben McCalman. Lipman put in yet another gutsy display and has been rightfully rewarded. McCalman stepped up after Matt Hodgson went off, and is ensuring his name is firmly in the selectors’ heads. Gareth Delve, Jarrod Saffy, Beau Robinson and Wycliff Palu also deserve recognition.
Will Genia and Quade Cooper led the Reds to a great victory over the Lions and have been rewarded with the halves spots this week. They are beginning to show their true class again, and the Reds will take out the Aussie conference in a canter if they can keep this form going. Nick Phipps, Kurtley Beale, James O’Connor and Matt Giteau stood out for their teams. Gene Fairbanks gets the 12 shirt after yet another barnstorming effort in a beaten side. Digby Ioane is showing signs he is back to his best, although the jury is still out on whether 13 is his position. Snorky Mortlock had yet another top game and is unlucky to miss out; likewise Christian Lealiifano.
The back three is made up of Drew Mitchell, Luke Morahan and Mark Gerrard. Mitchell showed he has class in abundance against the Chiefs, while Morahan worked off Cooper and Ioane magnificently against the Lions. Mark Gerrard came back from injury like he had never left, controlling the tempo of the game expertly. Afa Pakalani, David Smith and Matt Toomua earned honourable mentions.
Player of the Round:
The votes are in from the forum, and the nominees for Player of the Week have been announced. The Brumbies’ Man of the Match was Matt Toomua, who won after putting in a good display playing out of position in a losing team. Matt Giteau ran him close. The Tahs’ nominee is Tatafu Polota-Nau, who played a barnstormer despite obviously being troubled by injury. Plenty of other players scored votes: Pakalani, Robinson, Carter, Beale, Mitchell, Kepu and Burgess.
The Rebels fans threw up Hugh Pyle as their standout, while the Force supporters chose second row rival Sam Wykes from their tight encounter on Saturday. Finally, the standout Reds player was deemed to be Quade Cooper, for controlling the game against the Lions beautifully.
Try of the Round:
There were plenty of tries scored this week, but no real standouts. In the end I have gone with an act of creative brilliance from Danny Cipriani. The game was tight, the penalty was right in front. Everyone thought he would take the points, including the Force. But Cipriani thought outside the square, and his audacious kick-pass to Richard Kingi showed why he has never fit the mould in England — he is too skilful and creative. Have a look for yourself:
Moment of the Round:
There were a couple of big moments this week. Hugh Pyle’s intercept against the Force totally shifted the momentum of the game, and it struck a blow the Force would never come back from. Digby Ioane’s dropped ball at the start of the second half let in a Lions try and put the Reds in a tough position on the highveldt. But once again our moment comes from the boys in Waratah Blue.
I can’t remember the last time an Australian team of any stripe won a penalty try on the basis of scrum dominance. The Chiefs pack are no mugs, either. But the combination of Kepu, TPN and Robinson was too much for them to handle, and despite a series of farcical resets the trio demolished the Waikato boys on their own line. The result was seven points, a YC to the Chiefs and hopefully the confidence to take it to the big boys later in the season.
What were your highlights and lowlights of the weekend?