And then there were three!
The final regular season round of Super Rugby AU saw the Rebels play the winless Force with a finals spot on the line, while the Reds hosted the ladder leading Brumbies at Suncorp Stadium.
In the first match of Super Saturday, the Rebels hosted the Force in Newcastle knowing that a win by four or more points would see them qualify for their first ever finals series.
After an opening first 40 largely controlled by the Rebels, an Andrew Ready double on either side of half-time saw the Force draw level just after the break.
But the drama didn’t stop there.
Fast forward to the final 10 minutes and the Force were leading by three points, where a converted try would give the Rebels exactly what they needed. The Victorians had four tries ruled out by the TMO in the final ten minutes, before Cabous Eloff scored in the 79th.
Matt To’omua converted from in front, and the Rebels booked their spot in the finals by the skin of their teeth – winning 34-30.
In the second match, the Brumbies came into round 10 knowing that they’d already locked in a home grand final in two weeks’ time.
The Reds dominated from the opening exchanges and never looked like surrendering the lead, with all players truly impressing. The hosts won 26-7.
A number of players stood out this week, and rightfully could’ve made this list. But here’s five of the best from round 10.
Andrew Ready (Force)
Ready was fantastic in his sides last match of the season, in what was arguably the best individual showing from a player in a Force jersey.
First and foremost, he did his job to perfection. He had 13 throws into the Force lineout and all of them hit targets.
Ready also crossed for two tries, both quite similar too. His first came on the stroke of half-time, controlling the ball all the way to the chalk from the back of a Force driving maul.
His second, arguably more significant, as it brought the scores level just after the break. Again from a driving maul, the hooker peeled off and wrestled his way over for his second.
Two turnovers and 11 tackles as well – it wasn’t a bad night for the former Reds player.
But the most important stat out of this was his lineout accuracy; he did his job to perfection, the rest was just a bonus. Great finish to the season not just from Andrew Ready but from the whole Western Force side.
Isi Naisarani (Rebels)
Since returning from injury in round five, Naisarani has been one of if not the standout player of Super Rugby AU. Once again, the number eight’s elite work rate sees him make this list, for the fourth time in five games.
Naisarani had the most carries of any player of the round with 16, and had the equal-second most tackles of any player with 14.
At half-time, Fox Sports commentator Rod Kafer said highlighted the 25-year-old as a key player going into the second half, saying that “big players like Naisarani are going to have to step up.”
It was an action-packed match with three players given yellow cards and the teams going toe-to-toe for the full 80 minutes.https://t.co/HHXRkROhhM
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 5, 2020
Ultimately he did, with his ability to run his team out of pressure or into strong attacking positions proving more significant as the game went on.
The Force had to regularly double team him in defence to combat his ability to make post contact metres, as they looked to minimise his impact.
He has an abundance of energy that can’t and hasn’t gone ignored, he was always near the action. What a player.
Liam Wright (Reds)
It would impossible not to mention at least one Reds forward, especially from the backrow. Fraser McReight was incredible and justifiably could’ve made this list on his own, as could have Taniela Tupou.
But after putting his head in some pretty dark places all night, Wright has to get the nod.
The Reds captain has been impressive all season, and continued his rich vein of form on Saturday night. He finished with a round high 15 tackles, and had two turnovers to his name as well.
Wright also crossed for his second try in Super Rugby AU in just the sixth minute, running in support of an electric Jock Campbell.
But what can’t be measured in stats yet can’t be forgotten, is his leadership. At just 22-years-old, Wright stood up around the set piece and with his decision making. His captaincy both with his words and actions laid the platform for what was a confidence building victory for his side.
I can’t wait to see if Dave Rennie can fit him into the Wallabies starting XV – he simply can’t be left out after the Super AU season he’s had.
Jock Campbell (Reds)
After a Super AU campaign where Campbell has bounced around from wing to fullback, the 25-year-old was back to his best against the Brumbies.
Right from the get-go, the 25-year-old was causing the visitors headaches in defence with his elusive running style that’s quite similar to that of former All Black Ben Smith.
Just six minutes into the contest, a piece of individual brilliance saw Campbell send Liam Wright over for the opening try of the night. Running at the Brumbies defensive line with the ball in two hands, Campbell split both Tevita Kuridrani and Tom Wright, before throwing a brilliant offload out of the back of his hand, which saw his captain cross untouched.
Highlight of the round.
The outside back added another try assist to his tally before the half was over, sending Chris Feauai-Sautia over in the corner with a simply yet brilliant showing of the all-time classic play: hands.
He finished with nine carries, beat four defenders, had an impressive three clean line breaks and was safe under the high ball too.
Easily Campbell’s best game in the Australian competition, if not in a Reds jersey full stop.
Tate McDermott (Reds)
In the two weeks before the bye, I had the up-and-coming scrumhalf in the top five player from both rounds. Surprise, surprise, he’s back again.
McDermott was a standout for the Reds; showcasing a skill set and rugby IQ that is simply beyond his years.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) September 6, 2020
The Reds weren’t playing with a particularly fast tempo throughout the match, but the 21-year-old made sure that his side had efficient ball whenever they saw a chance.
McDermott made his mark in defence, just as he did in round seven against the Rebels.
In the 19th minute, McDermott got in between Nic White and a certain try that would’ve changed the game completely had he scored. White found a hole in the Reds defence and danced his way through from just over five metres out, but McDermott got int eh way and wrapped up the ball before his Reds teammates came to help him out.
Later on, he pressured Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani into bombing what would’ve been a try of the season contender.
McDermott pressured Kuridrani all the way to the line and never gave up, you can blame the Wallaby centres elbow for hitting the deck before the ball if you like, but it was the scrumhalf who forced the drop.
More impressively, McDermott was on the ground just moments before after tackling Will Miller in the lead up. His effort to get off the ground and chase down the play when no other Reds players did; that’s what the Wallabies need.
He finished the night with a try as well, picking up a dropped ball and running to the chalk from 30 metres out without any hassle.
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