Mike Rehu runs through his Mitre 10 Cup Team of the Week for Round 3.
15 – Kaleb Trask (Bay of Plenty)
There would have been a few eyebrows raised when Trask got his maiden Mitre 10 start and pushed the in-form Chase Tiatia to the wing. The Baby Black answered in the best way by constantly inserting himself into the line and showing immense skill.
14 – Melani Nanai (Auckland)
Good to see Ben Lam back scoring triples again but he couldn’t quite edge Melani Nanai’s all-round performance against Waikato. Real pizzazz as he heads the pack of over a dozen chasers for the Duane Monkey medal.
13 – Levi Aumua (Tasman)
Part of the reason Tasman share the lead of the Premiership is that they have three big Panzers controlling the middle of the battlefield. Makalio, Frizell, and Aumua draw so many defenders and the backline is feasting off space that these guys earn.
12 – TJ Faiane (Auckland)
There was a groan when TJ went to the boot on Thursday night and sure enough, it was a dud. Faiane is predictably perfect when he gets the ball on the run and puts his head down running straight. He takes some stopping! Ray Nu’u looked sharp coming off the bench for Southland.
11 – Malo Tuitama (Wellington)
As we’ve seen at the Cake Tin this year, Lam finishes well but credit to players like Tuitama make big, big yards and set up the go forward ball for Big Ben to chime in at the end of the chain.
10 – Jackson Garden Bachop (Wellington)
Even though they went off the boil in the 2nd half Wellington socked the Stags in the first 40 and Garden Bachop set the tempo playing flat and hard, giving the Stags no time to react or reset.
9 – Finlay Christie (Tasman)
This guy is a real spark and epitomises a feisty, combative halfback. Special mention to Folau Fakatava who stepped up when Brad Webber hobbled off for the Magpies. We’ll see more of him that’s for sure.
8 – Dylan Nel (Otago)
With this year’s Highlanders loosies causing mayhem for Canterbury (Whitelock) North Harbour (Hunt) and Hawkes Bay (Evans) Otago has missed them. Nel stepped up at the weekend showing power and determination to lead Otago to its first victory of the season.
7 – Blake Gibson (Auckland)
When Gibson went down against Northland the week before with a rib issue it looked like he’d be out for a few weeks if not the season. Five days later he’s out on the park looking as padded round the guts as some of us in the stands and giving it his all. Good fillip for his teammates.
6 – Shannon Frizell (Tasman)
His power is unquestioned. The odd rudimentary error underlines he has a bit to work on in terms of finesse but one of the strongest players we have in the Kiwi arsenal.
5 – Luke Romano (Canterbury)
Putting his hand up for when he is needed in black.
4 – James Blackwell (Wellington)
Strong in basics and a smart running game.
3 – Angus Ta’avao (Taranaki)
Big Gus started the round with another stormer against Counties Manukau that launched him into the AB camp. Tyrell Lomax is a post RWC All Black if he can keep his trajectory going.
2 – Robbie Abel (Auckland)
It was great to see Asafo Aumua back with a vengeance but he couldn’t usurp Robbie the rugby gypsy Abel from the hooker’s spot. In the last few years Robbie has played in Perth and Canberra but he looked at home with twin touchdowns at Eden Park last Thursday.
1 – Aki Seiuli (Otago)
Seiuli’s ball carrying stood out in Otago’s first victory of the season against Manawatu and he added leadership to a raw pack.
Best Individual Skill. When Bryn Gatland pumped an attacking cross kick to Matt Duffie’s wing against Tasman it looked slightly overcooked. Before it could get slightly charred Duffie leapt like a salmon, took the ball safely while performing a pirouette to stay in play… and land to the ground for an amazing try.
Watch out this week for two top of the table clashes. Tasman visit Auckland for the top spot in the Premiership, watch at 3.35pm HK on Friday. The day after in the Championship Bay of Plenty needs to beat Hawkes Bay to overtake them for first on the roster. That game is on Rugby Pass, Saturday 12.35pm HK.
Watch the Heineken Champions Cup Final live on RugbyPass throughout Asia and Australia.