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Super Rugby Pacific team of the week for round five

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

The fifth round of this year’s Super Rugby Pacific campaign is in the books. All five New Zealand teams made their mark with big wins, while the Melbourne Rebels also stood out with a hard-fought victory over rivals the Reds.

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Defending champions the Crusaders continued to silence the critics with a convincing display against the previously undefeated Brumbies in Christchurch. Winger Leicester Fainga’anuku crossed for another double as the hosts ran away with a 35-17 win at Orangetheory Stadium.

Unsurprisingly, a couple of Crusaders players have been included in the team of the week.

But the Hurricanes and Rebels were even more impressive.

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The Canes recorded a dominant 59-nil win over Moana Pasifika, while the Rebels beat the Reds 40-34 in a controversial thriller.

Following every round of Super Rugby Pacific this season, RugbyPass will name its team of the week. Here’s the TOTW for Round Five.

  1. Sam Gilbert (Highlanders)

Fullback Sam Gilbert starred for the Highlanders as they continued their resurgence with an emphatic win over the Drua. Gilbert had one of his best games for the Landers, having scored 15 of his sides’ points at Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Gilbert was sensational off the kicking tee – and that has to count for something – but it was his work around the field that earns him his first team of the week selection this season. The 24-year-old crossed for his second try in as many weeks during the first half, as he charged down a chip kick attempt from Drua flyhalf Kemu Valetini. Valetini and the Drua paused for a second and Gilbert them pay, as he ran close to 50 meters for a crucial try at that stage of the game.

The fullback, who kicked five conversions on Saturday, ran for 88 running metres from 11 carries and also beat three defenders. Gilbert also impressed on the defensive side of the ball, having made eight tackles – the second-most out of any Highlanders back.

  1. Emoni Narawa (Chiefs)

Emoni Narawa is a match winner. The winger starred against the Rebels in Round Four, and backed that up with another brilliant performance on Friday. Narawa ran for almost 100 metres from 13 carries, and beat six Waratahs defenders on the night.

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Wingers need to score tries in order to be successful, and Narawa has been doing that for fun over the last two weeks. Against the Tahs, the 23-year-old added a brace to his season tally – including a crucial score inside the final 10 minutes.

The Chiefs were only up by three points with five minutes to go – an upset seemed like a very real possibility. They needed a hero and Narawa answered the call, as he crossed for his second of the night after running onto a clever grubber kick from Shaun Stevenson.

  1. Josh Flook (Reds)

It’s not very often that players make the team of the week when their team lost. Every other selection in the TOTW played in a winning team, but Josh Flook was just that good.

The Reds were locked in a fierce battle with the Rebels in Melbourne, as the visitors scored an impressive 34 points on the night. Flook, who crossed for a double in Round Four, added another brace to his highlight reel.

But his opposite at AAMI Park, the Rebels’ Stacey Ili, deserves an honourable mention for his performance.

  1. Billy Proctor (Hurricanes)

In a team full of superstars, midfielder Billy Proctor tends to fly under the radar for the Hurricanes. Proctor is regularly an unsung hero for the Wellington outfit, and I won’t stand for that anymore. Proctor replaced Jordie Barrett in the No. 12 jersey this week, and more than made up for the All Blacks stars’ absence.

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Proctor was in the thick of the action for the entire 80 minutes, and finished with one try assist to his name to boast. The 23-year-old carried the ball 11 times for 64 metres, and also impressed in defence with 10 tackles. The Canes were dominant against Moana Pasifika, but it’s guys like Billy Proctor who make those performances possible.

  1. Monty Ioane (Rebels)

Selecting a left winger this week was harder than rocket science. Crusaders flyer Leicester Fainga’anuku continued his purple patch with a double against the Brumbies, and Salesi Rayasi also starred for the Canes this week.

But Monty Ioane, take a bow. The Italy international was simply sensational against the Reds. Ioane was on a mission, having finished with three try assists to his name – but wait, it gets better. The Rebels speedster ran the ball 15 times for 144 metres,

  1. Stephen Perofeta (Blues)

Flyhalf was another tough position to call this week. Brett Cameron impressed for the Canes, and Carter Gordon continued to push his case as a potential Wallabies bolter against the Reds. But Blues flyhalf Stephen Perofeta gets the nod this week.

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Throughout the Blues’ hard-fought win over the Force, Perofeta seemed to be everywhere. Playing his first match in the No. 10 jersey this season, the playmaker did the Blues jersey justice with a sensational display.

Perofeta kicked 10 of the Blues’ points off the tee, and also had a try assist at Eden Park on Sunday. But what really stand out was his fearlessness – for a flyhalf, Perofeta was running the ball with purpose whenever he got the chance. The first five ran the ball 13 times for more than 30 metres, and also beat four defenders.

  1. Aaron Smith (Highlanders)

The Highlanders have been a completely different side with Aaron Smith back in the mix. The Super Rugby veteran was probably the best player for the Landers in Round Five, as he led the home side around the park with both skill and poise.

Smith crossed for a five-pointer early in the second half, and also finished with four try assists to his name – truly incredible numbers from the world-class halfback. Hurricanes scrum-half Cam Roigard also impressed last weekend.

  1. Joe Moody (Crusaders)

All Black Joe Moody had one of his best games in Crusaders’ colours on Friday night. Coming up against the previously undefeated Brumbies, Moody led by example as the defending champions continued their resurgence with a convincing win. Moody was a menace at the set-piece, as he helped his side win scrum battles against the feed. The 34-year-old also starred on the defensive side of the ball with 12 tackles.

  1. Codie Taylor (Crusaders)

All Blacks and Crusaders hooker Codie Taylor had his best game of the season so far. The world-class No. 2 played a part in Leicester Fainga’anuku’s first try with a clever set-piece play, and Taylor also crossed for a score himself early in the second term. Hurricanes hooker Asafo Aumua also impressed in his 50th appearance for the Wellington outfit.

  1. Owen Franks (Hurricanes)

Former All Blacks prop Owen Franks returned to the Hurricanes’ starting last weekend and didn’t look out of place – in fact, he was brilliant. Franks was back to his best during a destructive 50-minute shift, which included some impressive work at the set-piece. Franks won two scrum penalties for his side during a stunning first half, and won a penalty advantage with another effort just before the break. Franks also made the second-most tackles out of any Canes player with 10.

  1. Brodie Retallick (Chiefs)

Brodie Retallick was one of the first names included in the Round Five team of the week. Retallick was a clear standout during the opening 40 minutes against the Waratahs – every time the Chiefs had the ball inside the Tahs’ 22, Retallick’s number was called. The All Black worked tirelessly for his side, and had the most carried out of any player at half-time. Retallick continued to impress during the second 40, as his side held on for a tough win at Sydney’s Allianz Stadium.

  1. Cameron Suafoa (Blues)

Blues lock Cameron Suafoa put in a solid shift on Sunday afternoon. Suafoa had the most carries out of any Blues forward, and also made the most tackles out of any Blues forward. The 24-year-old also got a nice offload off to set up Ofa Tu’ungafasi for a score late in the first half.

  1. Josh Kemeny (Rebels)

Blindside flanker was another hard position to pick this week. Flanker Anton Segner was sensational in his first start of the 2023 campaign, which saw the Blues name him as their player of the match. But Josh Kemeny was just too good for the Rebels – a performance like that can’t be ignored. Kemeny crossed for a crucial score midway through the first half, and made his mark in defence. The flanker finished with a 100 per cent tackle completion rate from 18 attempts – 18?! That’s brilliant.

  1. Brad Wilkin (Rebels)

Rebels star Brad Wilkin stole the show against the Reds with a sensational defensive display. Wilkin made an incredible 24 tackles on the night – the most out of player in Round Five. The flanker also made his mark in attack with some strong carries, and some clever work around the breakdown.

  1. Ardie Savea (Hurricanes)

Right from the get-go against Moana Pasifika, it was clear that No. 8 Ardie Savea was eager to impress. If you go back and rewatch the first 10 minutes, you’ll see that Savea was well and truly in the middle of all the action.

Every time Savea ran the ball, he caused problems for the Moana Pasifika defence. The world-class backrower ran the ball 14 times, scored a try, and also got stuck in on the defensive side of the ball with a 100 per cent tackle completion rate.

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