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Super Rugby Pacific team of the week for round three

By Finn Morton
(Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

Round three of this year’s Super Rugby Pacific season will go down in history as one of competitions most memorable weekends ever.

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There were thrilling matches and saw jaw-dropping tries, but one result – yes, that one – will never be forgotten.

Defending Super Rugby champions the Crusaders have fallen to a 1-2 record to start the season after losing to the Fijian Drua on Saturday.

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It was a back-and-forth contest between two talented teams, but the match was ultimately decided by an 83rd minute penalty from debutant Kemu Valetini.

The home crowd were sent into a frenzy following the full-time whistle, as the Drua players etched their names into the record books with arguably the biggest upset in Super Rugby history.

Around the grounds, the Chiefs, Rebels, Blues, Brumbies and Force also recorded wins in round three.

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

  1. Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs)

Fullback Shaun Stevenson has been the form player of Super Rugby Pacific so far this season. Having emerged as a potential All Blacks bolter, Stevenson’s stock has continued to rise ahead of this year’s World Cup with another stunning performance in round three.

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After starring against the Crusaders and Moana Pasifika across the opening two rounds, the 26-year-old was once again among the standouts on Friday. Stevenson ran for more than 100 metres against the Highlanders, and added another two tries to his impressive season tally.

Round three was a good week for fullbacks, with Reds star Jordan Petaia coming close to team of the week honours. But Stevenson was impossible to ignore, and has been included in the RugbyPass team for the third time this season.

  1. Lachie Anderson (Rebels)

The Melbourne Rebels needed a hero on Friday night, and winger Lachie Anderson was among the many who answered the call.

After starting their season with two heartbreaking defeats, the Rebels were eager to bounce back at home against the Tahs. The hosts got off to a slow start, but quickly took control after some rugby magic from Anderson.

Anderson setup Reece Hodge for a try with a clever kick in behind the Waratahs defensive line in the 23rd minute. Then, just a few minutes later, Hodge returned the favour by sending the winger over for a score.

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Waratahs winger Mark Nawaqanitawase was fantastic this week, but was just pipped in the team of the week race by one of his opponents in round three.

  1. Iosefo Masi (Drua)

Centres Rieko Ioane and Len Ikitau were very good in round three, but a Fijian Drua star was even better. Iosefo Masi has been included in the RugbyPass team of the week for the second time this season following his sides historic win over the Crusaders.

The Crusaders looked in control midway through the first half, as they raced out to a commanding 12-nil lead – but Masi changed the course of the game with some individual brilliance. The 24-year-old scored a scintillating long range try, which got the Drua back into the contest.

Masi finished 64 running metres to his name, and beat five defenders.

  1. Danny Toala (Moana Pasifika)

Moana Pasifika inside centre Danny Toala worked tirelessly on Saturday in the pursuit of his sides first win of the season. While they ultimately fell short against the Force, his efforts were not in vain.

Toala was in the thick of the action throughout his time out in the middle – especially in attack – as he ran the ball 11 times. The 23-year-old also created a number of opportunities for his side, including one try assist.

Chiefs No. 12 Rameka Poihipi deserves an honourable mention though, after he carried the ball 13 times and made nine tackles against the Highlanders.

  1. Eroni Sau (Drua)

Before replacement Kemu Valetini shocked the world with a match-winning penalty against the Crusaders, winger Eroni Sau had seemingly iced the game. Sau showed his strength and speed to score in the left corner, which had Drua fans dreaming of an historic victory.

While that famous five-pointer will go down in history as a famous try for the Drua – although the Crusaders fought their way back – it was a reward for his immense effort throughout the match. The winger finished with 91 running metres to his name from nine carries.

Chiefs winger Etene Nanai-Seturo and Hurricanes flyer Salesi Rayasi were also impressed in the No. 11 jersey for their respective teams.

  1. Damian McKenzie (Chiefs)

Playmaker Damian McKenzie hasn’t skipped a beat after returning to Super Rugby Pacific this season. Following a stint in Japan, the 40-Test All Black has been in what could be described as career-best form.

Running out in the No. 10 jersey, McKenzie has played a pivotal role in the Chiefs’ unbeaten start to the season. McKenzie scored eight points against the Highlanders in round three, and also had two try assists to his name.

  1. Nic White (Brumbies)

Super Rugby veteran Nic White is one of the smartest rugby players in Australian rugby. Wallabies fans saw why during last year’s end-of-season tour against Scotland, and were reminded once again during the Brumbies’ thrilling win over fierce rivals the Reds.

White seems to know what defenders are thinking before they do, and usually makes the most of his opportunities to strike. Playing against the Reds, the halfback crossed for a try in the 27th minute – having danced his way through the defensive line.

But generally speaking, White’s impact around the park is brilliant to watch. Not only are his passes quick and accurate, but his running game allows him to wreak havoc almost at will.

Chiefs scrum-half Brad Weber was also in the running for the round three team of the week.

  1. Matt Gibbon (Rebels)

Melbourne Rebels prop Matt Gibbon looked a little bit worse for wear after his sides win over the Tahs, but you couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.

Gibbon had scored a try under the sticks during the seven-point win after fooling the Waratahs defence with a dummy. The prop also scrummed well, and otherwise made his mark around the field.

  1. Samisoni Taukei’aho (Chiefs)

Chiefs hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho had another eye-catching performance in round three, which sees him make the team of the week for the second time this season.

In many ways, the Chiefs couldn’t have asked for anything more than from their world-class No. 2. The All Black was hungry to get involved on Friday, having run the ball 13 times for 45 metres. Taukei’aho was also at rampaging best as he beat five defenders.

  1. Tyrel Lomax (Hurricanes)

Hurricanes prop Tyrel Lomax scored one of the individual tries of the round, even though he got the ball a few metres out from the line. It was a score which should be replayed time and time again by rugby tragics around the world.

After getting the ball from teammate Dane Coles, Lomax pulled off a stunning spin move to create the space necessary to fight his way to the line. Other than that, the prop was solid at the scrum and starred on the defensive side of the ball with 13 tackles to his name.

  1. Brodie Retallick (Chiefs)

While Damian McKenzie and Shaun Stevenson continued to standout as human highlight reels for the Chiefs, the relentless work from the ladder-leaders’ tight can’t go unnoticed.

Along with Taukei’aho, All Blacks lock Brodie Retallick has played a key part in the Chiefs’ early season success in 2023. Not only is the veteran a general at the lineout, but he appears desperate to get involved around the field of play.

The Chiefs were dealt a cruel injury blow during their match against the Highlanders, with second-rower Tupou Vaa’i leaving the field. Retallick more than made up for his absence with his performance.

  1. Trevor Hosea (Rebels)

Lock Trevor Hosea is such an important piece of the Melbourne Rebels’ puzzle, and will likely continue to play a key role in the years to come.

Hosea has been in fine form since returning to the Rebels’ starting side, which included an impressive display against the Waratahs. While the towering second-rower continues to lead the Rebels at the lineout, he was also eager to make his mark around the field.

The 23-year-old was fantastic in defence, as he finished with 13 tackles from 14 attempts.

  1. Tim Anstee (Force)

Following a tough defeat to the Reds in Super Round, the Force got their season back on track with a win over Moana Pasifika. While the victory will be defined by the last-minute penalty goal, there’s an unsung hero who deserves praise.

With time almost up on the clock, Moana Pasifika had a drop out from their own in-goal – but it couldn’t have gone any worse. Force flanker Tim Anstee managed to block the kick, and the rebound was dropped by a Moana player five metres out from their try-line.

After working hard throughout an 80 minute clash, the flanker still had the energy and will to make that match-winning play. It’s especially impressive when you consider the 11 tackles he made.

  1. Du’Plessis Kirifi (Hurricanes)

Blues captain Dalton Papali’i was certainly among the contenders at No. 7 for the round three team of the week. The Blues had beaten the Hurricanes, and their star flanker had led the way with 17 tackles.

But his opposite was even better. Hurricanes flanker Du’Plessis Kirifi was a menace at the breakdown, also he also put his body on the line in defence with 18 tackles from as many attempts.

The Hurricanes fell short of a victory at Sky Stadium, but they wouldn’t have come close without the effort from their openside flanker.

  1. Hoskins Sotutu (Blues)

Loose forward Hoskins Sotutu was one of the players of the round. Following the Blues’ thrilling win over the Canes, Sotutu was praised for his scintillating display.

Sotutu was busy on the defensive side of the ball with 11 tackles, but made his mark in attack. The All Black ran the ball the most out of any Blues forward – carrying the ball 11 times for a staggering 84 metres.

Round three MPV votes (3-2-1)

Chiefs vs Highlanders – Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs), Damian McKenzie (Chiefs), Samisoni Taukei’aho (Chiefs)

Rebels vs Waratahs – Lachie Anderson (Rebels), Carter Gordon (Rebels), Richard Hardwick (Rebels)

Drua vs Crusaders – Tevita Ikanivere (Drua), Iosefo Masi (Drua), Eroni Sau (Drua)

Hurricanes vs Blues – Hoskins Sotutu (Blues), Du’Plessis Kirifi (Hurricanes), Dalton Papali’i (Blues)

Brumbies vs Reds – Lachlan Lonergan (Brumbies), Jordan Petaia (Reds), Len Ikitau (Brumbies)

Force vs Moana Pasifika – Hamish Stewart (Force), Danny Toala (Moana), Tim Anstee (Force)

MVP leader board

8 points – Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs)

6 points – Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes), Richard Hardwick (Rebels), Tevita Ikanivere (Drua), Lachlan Lonergan (Brumbies), Hamish Stewart (Force)

5 points – Jordan Petaia (Reds)

4 points – Damian McKenzie (Chiefs), Carter Gordon (Rebels), Iosefo Masi (Drua)

3 points – Lachie Anderson (Rebels), Hoskins Sotutu (Blues), Dalton Papali’i (Blues), Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), Ryan Lonergan (Brumbies), Mark Telea (Blues), Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders), Langi Gleeson (Waratahs)

2 points – Du’Plessis Kirifi (Hurricanes), Danny Toala (Moana), Brad Weber (Chiefs), Tom Wright (Brumbies), Cam Roigard (Hurricanes), David Havili (Crusaders), Tane Edmed (Waratahs), Rhys Van Nek (Brumbies), Harry Wilson (Reeds)

1 point – Samisoni Taukei’aho (Chiefs), Eroni Sau (Drua), Len Ikitau (Brumbies), Tim Anstee (Force), Max Jorgensen (Waratahs), Abraham Pole (Moana), Beauden Barrett (Blues), Josh Moorby (Hurricanes), Sam Whitelock (Crusaders), Mark Nawaqanitawase (Waratahs), Rob Valetini (Brumbies), Josh Flook (Reds)

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