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Five of the best: The top five performers in round two of Super Rugby AU

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Round two of Super Rugby AU will go down in history as being one of the wildest rounds of Australian rugby ever.


Up first was the Reds hosting the Rebels in Brisbane, with the hosts the favourites heading into the clash, but the Rebels took a 6-12 lead into the half-time break, eventually extending their lead to as much as nine points before the Reds fought their way back.

Two second half tries to Alex Mafi saved the day for the hosts, but it so nearly wasn’t enough. Matt Toomua had a chance to win the match for the Rebels with a penalty attempt, but the flyhalf sent his attempt left of the sticks.

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Brad Thorn and James O’Connor after the Reds’ win over the Rebels in Brisbane.
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Brad Thorn and James O’Connor after the Reds’ win over the Rebels in Brisbane.

In the other game, wow.

The Waratahs were well outplayed by the Reds in the season opener, but to lose by 51 points to the Brumbies, I can’t say I saw such an emphatic loss coming.

Nine tries to the Brumbies, including a hat-trick to winger Mackenzie Hansen, saw the reigning champions run out to a comprehensive 61-10 win.

After each round of Super Rugby AU this year, I’ll list our top five players of the round. The top three players will then be given points of either three, two or one, to be added to an MVP watch list throughout the season.


Here’s the top five players from round two.

Mackenzie Hansen (Brumbies) – 3 points

I can’t imagine there would be too many arguments with this selection.

Hansen was in fine form for the Brumbies on Saturday night, outscoring the Waratahs on his own with 15 points. A winger’s core job is to score tries and finish opportunities, and the 22-year-old did just that with a hat-trick in round two.

His first try, which was also the first in his Super Rugby career, was arguably his easiest of the night.

After a lengthy break from Andy Muirhead, some clinical phase play from the Brumbies saw the winger cross untouched. Playing with the advantage 10 metres out from the tryline, the hosts spread the ball wide, with Hansen getting the ball unmarked.


With the Brumbies up 33-10, Hansen scored what was potentially his most impressive try of the night.

Off a scrum, an Irae Simone cut-out pass found Hansen on the bounce, but he still had plenty of work to do. He showed great acceleration to beat the covering Waratahs defence to the line.

Inside the final 10 minutes, the winger capped off an incredible performance with his third. Centre Len Ikitau put in a clever grubber kick in behind the Tahs defence, and the ball sat up for Hansen as he again ran in untouched.

The winger simply had a great performance.

He ran for 75 metres, beat three defenders, had a round-high four-line breaks, and also had 10 carries – which was the most runs of any Brumbies player.

Alex Mafi (Reds) – 2 points

Mafi scored a try in his 50th Super Rugby match last week against the Waratahs, but his game went up another level on Friday night.

The hooker had seven runs for 49 metres – which was equal with winger Jordan Petaia for the most metres run of any Reds player, and equal third overall on the night.

The 24-year-old scored his first of two tries in the 48th minute, at a stage in the game where the hosts really needed to score next in my opinion.

With the Reds trailing 6-15 at the time, they had a chance to strike next with an attacking lineout five metres out from the tryline.

Mafi was accurate with his throw and his side set up a driving maul, with the hooker looping around and taking his place at the back. He eventually crashed his way over for the game-changing score.

In the 73rd minute, he had would what’ve been his second try of the night disallowed after coming agonisingly close.

But he did eventually get his second at a crucial moment in the match.

Off a lineout again, and in a very similar position to his first try, the Reds forwards set up for a maul but instead popped the ball off to Mafi.

The hooker had Hunter Paisami outside him, but after a double-pump or two, he backed himself and crashed over for a try. James O’Connor then stepped up and converted the try, handing the hosts a two-point lead that wouldn’t change.

Mafi also did his core job to an exceptional standard, accurate with 12 of his throws.

Tom Banks (Brumbies) – 1 points

Bring an end to our top three players from round two is Brumbies fullback Tom Banks.

Banks’ talent was instrumental to the reigning champions’ big win, as he showed great leadership as well. He looked threatening every time he got his hands on the ball, running for a round-high 93 metres.

The 26-year-old played a big part in the lead-up to Hansen’s first try, as he sent Muirhead on a lengthy break.

But arguably his most impressive moment in the match came in the 77th minute when he became the seventh and final Brumbies player to score a five-pointer against the Tahs.

That being said though, the work rate he showed in the phases leading up to the score can’t go unrecognised.

Banks intercepted an Alex Newsome pass inside his own 22, and turned that into a 30 metre gain. In the third phase, he again got his hands on the ball, running it into their attacking 22.

But then in the eighth and final phase, he was rewarded for his efforts, with some slick passing from the Brumbies seeing the fullback run in.

He really is one of the leaders of this Brumbies team, and his kicking for touch was also brilliant.

Honourable mentions

Matt Toomua (Rebels)

It’s unfortunate for Toomua that his great performance was somewhat overshadowed from a missed opportunity to win the game – let’s start there.

The Rebels captain had a penalty attempt to win the game, with the siren sounding just as he was taking the kick. Unfortunately though, he sent it left of the sticks.

But let’s focus on the positives here.

The 31-year-old showed great composure to exit well throughout the match, and control the tempo of the Rebels attack.

While the blame for the loss could potentially be put on Toomua’s boot though, keep in mind if was his accuracy which so nearly guided the visitors to a famous upset win at Suncorp.

He converted six penalty attempts, finishing the night with 18-points on his own.

Noah Lolesio (Brumbies)

For the second week in a row, Lolesio deserves an honourable mention for his performance in Super Rugby AU.

Watching him play, you can be forgiven for forgetting that he’s just 21.

Even though he did start the match with a knock on after 22 seconds, it says a lot about the player that Lolesio both is and has the potential to be, as he bounced back with another great performance.

Lolesio played a role in the lead-up to Hansen’s first try, firstly helping spread the ball wide to Muirhead for his length break.

But then the flyhalf added a try assist to his stat sheet, drawing in the defence of Jack Maddocks, but passing to Hansen who ran in untouched.

He did score a try as well, but let’s just say it was unconventional. Off a driving maul, Lolesio came in to support the push but instead found himself with the ball as the Brumbies pushed their way over. Incredible.

The most important stat on a rugby field is the scoreboard, and Lolesio’s influence can’t go unrecognised. In his 63 minutes on the field, he outscored the Waratahs on his own, finishing the night with 15 points to his name.

2021 RugbyPass’ Super Rugby AU MVP watch

= 1st: Fraser McReight (Reds) and Mackenzie Hansen (Brumbies) – 3 points

= 3rd: James O’Connor (Reds) and Alex Mafi (Reds) – 2 points

= 5th: Filipo Daugunu (Reds) and Noah Lolesio (Brumbies) – 1 point

Week 1 top 3

Fraser McReight – 3 points

James O’Connor – 2 points

Filipo Daugunu – 1 point

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