With Super Rugby AU nearing its business end, all teams came into round seven with plenty to play for against confident opposition.
The Western Force were back in action on Friday night against the Waratahs on the Gold Coast.
Once again, the Force crossed for the first try of the match but couldn’t build on their fast start, trailing 18-6 at the break. A Jack Maddocks intercept early in the second all but sealed the win for the visitors, who kept their hosts scoreless after the break, winning 8-28.
On Saturday night, the Reds hosted the Rebels in their first meeting since their draw in round two. A win would’ve seen the Rebels go top of the table, while the Reds were looking to get their season back on track after back-to-back losses.
Even though they kicked the first points of the match through a Matt To’omua penalty goal, it was all the Reds at Suncorp who won the match on the back of some impressive defence. The Rebels had 66% of possession but were still outscored three tries to none, losing 19-3.
The Reds move back up to second on the ladder, while the Tahs sit in third and Rebels now fourth. Here are just five of the standouts from round seven.
Fraser McReight (Reds)
After two rounds on the bench, McReight was back in the Reds seven jersey and he didn’t skip a beat in his return to the starting XV.
Most impressively, the flanker was constantly a nuisance around the breakdown for the Rebels.
The Reds were on the backfoot to start the second term, with the Rebels having plenty of ball in the Reds half. Just as they were playing with all the momentum at the time, last years Junior Wallabies captain secured a pivotal turnover at the breakdown in the 45th minute to help ease the pressure. Rightly so, his teammates and the Suncorp crowd were pumped after his effort.
He finished the night with two turnovers, which was only bettered in the round by teammate Liam Wright and Force lock Jeremy Thrush.
McReight was also effective in defence, finishing as just one of two players from round seven to have made more than 20 tackles.
An honourable mention has to go to the previously noted captain and fellow backrower from the Reds, Liam Wright, who was also outstanding. He finished with 18 tackles on top of his efforts at the breakdown, and very nearly could’ve made this list on his own.
Joined by number eight Harry Wilson, it’s fair to say that the Reds backrow all appear on track for higher honours with the Wallabies whenever test match rugby returns.
Jack Maddocks (Waratahs)
Maddocks was back to his best in round seven, and was arguably the player of the round.
The fullback set up Alex Newsome’s try by running a brave and direct line off Michael Hooper, before offloading to Lalakai Foketi to create the break. He then played halfback to start the next phase, finding the try scorer with a cut out, bounce pass to the right.
After leading by eight at the break, the Waratahs crossed for the first points of the second half with Maddocks running 55 metres from an intercept off a Jono Lance pass. He thought he’d scored a second later in the half but the try was ruled out by the TMO for obstruction.
Off 14 carries, Maddocks finished the night with 114 metres run, which was the most in the round by 50 metres.
The fullback was also safe under the high ball, and his kicking display was once again impressive.
Will Harrison also very played very well, finishing with 13 points. As potential Wallaby combinations are discussed as the season draws to a close over the next month, these two are doing their albeit still outside chances of starting in gold jerseys, no harm with their form at the moment.
Matt Philip (Rebels)
For the second time in as many weeks, Matt Philip has been one of the standouts from Super Rugby AU.
The 26-year-old is arguably the hardest working player in the Australian competition, and has been the Rebels best player throughout the campaign on the back of that.
Philip had a round high 20 carries, which was three more than any other player and 13 more than the average for starting players from the round. But just like last week, what isn’t seen in stats is the amount of times Philip bounced up off the ground and onto his feet to support a teammate into a contest.
Just after half-time the second rower was stopped just a metre short of the chalk as the Rebels continued their onslaught of the try-line. He was tackled short of the line again with 14-minutes to play, when Josh Flook did enough to bring the 199cm lock to ground.
Has there been a more impressive tight five player in Super Rugby AU?
Michael Hooper (Waratahs)
The Wallabies captain became the youngest player to reach 150 Super Rugby caps against the Force on Friday night, and his performance was yet another showing of his class that’s brought him so much praise over the years.
Hooper was energetic, and has a work rate that is simply incredible and has to be admired – he doesn’t stop.
He was constantly prying around the breakdown as well. Even though he didn’t secure a turnover, the flanker created plenty of headaches for the opposition.
The 28-year-old began the break that led to Newsome’s try with a clever short ball to Jack Maddocks, before later sending the fullback through a gap with a brilliant set-piece play that would’ve led to a try had it not have been ruled out by the TMO.
Hooper finished with 13 carries, and had the most tackles for a Waratahs player with 14.
Even though there’s plenty of depth and competition within the Australian backrow stocks at the moment, there’s no doubt on who should be lining up in the seven-jersey next time the Wallabies play with Hooper’s experience and class simply unmatched.
Tate McDermott (Reds)
McDermott was back into the Reds starting XV this week after sitting on the bench for the last two rounds, and was arguably the man-of-the-match in his return.
Just after the break, Frank Lomani sent Marika Koroibete through a gap five metres out from the line, looking all but certain to cross over for what would’ve been a game changing five-pointer. But McDermott managed to get in front of the Wallaby winger, stopping him just short of the chalk.
Moments later McDermott let his defence do the talking once again, stopping Andrew Kellaway in what was scrambling defensive effort from both the Reds and the 21-year-old.
But arguably his moment of the match came with 20-minutes to play, when the Sunshine Coast product managed to tackle both Lomani and Isi Naisarani in the same phase. The double tackle was impressive on its own so close to the line, but more so with the scrumhalf also holding the powerful number eight up over the line with an impressive showing of awareness by rolling him over.
In attack, McDermott also finished with one try assist, putting winger Jordan Petaia through a gap for the opening five-pointer of the night 14-minutes in. With seven minutes to play, he again showed how dangerous he is in attack, holding the ball just long enough to create a hole for James O’Connor to send Hamish Stewart through for the match-sealer.
The Reds are simply a different beast with McDermott.
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