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Super Rugby Pacific team of the week for round two

By Finn Morton
Crusaders' Richie Mo'unga (2nd R) celebrates scoring a try with teammate Braydon Ennor (2nd L) during the Super Rugby match between the Canterbury Crusaders and the Otago Highlanders at the AAMI Park in Melbourne on March 3, 2023. (Photo by William WEST / AFP via Gettys Images)

All 12 Super Rugby Pacific teams played at Melbourne’s AAMI Park in round two, and three day rugby festival didn’t disappoint.

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After opening their season with a disastrous loss at home last month, the Crusaders bounced back with an emphatic 52-15 win over South Island rivals the Highlanders to kick-off Super Round on Friday.

Later that night, the Hurricanes appeared to be coasting against the Rebels as they raced out to a commanding 17-point lead before half-time. But it was a game of two halves.

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Rebels playmaker Carter Gordon has a superb second 40 for the hosts, and so nearly led them to a famous win – but the Canes held on for a tough win.

On day two, the Chiefs recorded a convincing win over Moana Pasifika, and the Waratahs got the better of Fijian Drua.

Playing in the sweltering heat on Sunday afternoon, the Brumbies made a Super Rugby statement as they beat last year’s runners up the Blues by five-pointers in a thriller.

Then, in the final match of the weekend, the Queensland Reds scored 71-points against the Western Force.

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

  1. Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs)

After starring for the All Blacks XV during last year’s end-of-season tour, fullback Shaun Stevenson emerged as a genuine World Cup bolter. Now, after two weeks of Super Rugby Pacific, his stock has continued to rise.

For the second time in as many weeks, Chiefs flyer Stevenson has been included in the RugbyPass team of the week. To put it simply, the 26-year-old has been too good to ignore.

Stevenson opened his campaign with a scintillating performance against the Crusaders in round one, and carried this form into Super Round against Moana Pasifika. The utility back made the most of every opportunity that came his way, as he finished with a hat-trick of tries.

  1. Mark Nawaqanitawase (Waratahs)

When the Waratahs needed a hero against Moana Pasifika on Saturday evening, there were a few players who stood up and answered the call. Waratahs winger Mark Nawaqanitawase was one of them.

Nawaqanitawase helped the Tahs pull away from their valiant opponents on the scoreboard, as he scored a try inside the final 10 minutes of that crunch clash. But generally, Wallaby was exceptional around the park – having beaten four defenders as he ran the ball 12 times for 110 metres.

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Reds star Suliasi Vunivalu deserves an honourable mention following his standout display against the Force. With Wallabies coach Eddie Jones in the crowd, the former NRL star made a statement with his display.

  1. Josh Flook (Reds)

Rising star Josh Flook had one of his best outings in a Queensland Reds jersey on Sunday, as he scored a double in the 51-point win over the Force. Interestingly, Flook scored a try with three minutes to go in both halves.

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The former Australian Schools and U18s captain was lethal with the ball-in-hand, as he ran for almost 80 metres and beat two defenders over the course of the match. Flook also made his mark on the defensive side of the ball as he made six tackles.

  1. David Havili (Crusaders)

Looking back at the round that was, there was one inside centre who clearly stood out above the rest. Crusaders star David Havili had himself a game against the Highlanders on Friday, which included a try early in the second-half.

Every time Havili got his hands on the ball, he ran with purpose and intent. Form his eight carries, Havili ran for 60 metres and beat five defenders. But the inside centre also stood out on the defensive side of the ball, having finished the match with 100 per cent tackle accuracy from six attempts.

Dual international Roger Tuivasa-Sheck came close to the round two team of the week, even though the Blues lost a thriller to the Brumbies. Hurricanes hero Jordie Barrett also came close.

  1. Salesi Rayasi (Hurricanes)

It’s certainly up for debate, but the game of the round was probably the Hurricanes’ hard-fought win over hosts the Melbourne Rebels on Friday. While the Canes out to commanding 24-7 lead, the Rebels refused to throw in the towel.

Winger Salesi Rayasi played a pivotal role in the Hurricanes’ victory at AAMI Park, as he ran for 90 meters and beat five defenders. The speedster also showcased his athleticism midway through the second-half as he scored in the left corner – a crucial try in the context of the game.

  1. Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders)

Playmaker Richie Mo’unga was simply sensational for the Crusaders on Friday. The Crusaders No. 10 was back to his best against the Highlanders, as he ran rampant from everywhere on the field. Mo’unga was a human highlight reel in Melbourne, but there were a few key moments which certainly can’t be overlooked.

Just after the 30 minute mark, Mo’unga created something from nothing as he ran about 40 metres in the leadup to Fergus Burke’s try. The star pivot made a clever burst down the right edge, before sidestepping his opposite Freddie Burns – laying the foundations for what could be the try of the season.

Mo’unga finished with a 22-point haul against the Crusaders’ South Island rivals, which included a try of his own just after the half-time break.

  1. Brad Weber (Chiefs)

Chiefs co-captain Brad Weber is one of three players to make the team of the week for the second round in a row, after backing up his impressive start to the season against Moana Pasifika. In fact, Weber was even better in round two.

Weber scored a first-half double for the Chiefs, and otherwise played his part to near perfection with a rapid passing game. The skipper led by example as the Chiefs recorded their second bonus point win of the campaign.

  1. Tom Lambert (Waratahs)

Waratahs prop Tom Lambert worked tirelessly around the field, and certainly made his mark on both sides of the ball as a result. As the Tahs held on for a 46-17 win, the impact that Lambert had had on the match can’t be overlooked or ignored.

Lambert was a reliable option for the Waratahs at the set-piece, as the Australians won all nine of their scrum feeds. The prop also got busy around the field, having made 10 carries and six tackles against the Drua.

  1. Lachlan Lonergan (Brumbies)

The Brumbies’ stunning victory over the Blues on Sunday will go down in history a classic – certainly, it was one for the rugby tragics. It was a match that was defined by key moments and big name players.

Hooker Lachlan Lonergan had a couple of lineouts won against his throw, in what was a minor blip on an otherwise brilliant performance. The Wallaby made 15 tackles, which was equal-second for the most made by player on Sunday afternoon.

Lonergan also scored a try in the 35th minute, as he reaped the rewards from the Brumbies’ trademark rolling maul. But the most impressive stat to come out Lonergan’s performance was his game time – playing in the front row, the hooker played the full 80 on a very hot day in Melbourne.

  1. Rhys Van Nek (Brumbies)

The Brumbies lost captain Allan Alaalatoa inside the opening 10 minutes to a HIA, and the star prop wouldn’t return to the field after failing the assessment. In his place, rising star Rhys Van Nek had his best chance to shine at Super Rugby level.

Van Nek gave away a penalty about 90 seconds after coming on, but it was all uphill from there. The Prop took his opportunity to impress with both hands, as he finished with 11 tackles and some wins at the breakdown.

  1. Nick Frost (Brumbies)

Brumbies lock Nick Frost played the full 80 minutes in the sweltering heat at AAMI Park, as he worked tirelessly in the pursuit of victory. The second-rower was one of Lachlan Lonergan’s go-to players at the lineout, and also made his mark around the field.

Frost made the equal second-most tackles out of any player in the match with 15, and also got busy with the ball. His work rate is something to be admired, and surely would’ve impressed Wallabies coach Eddie Jones who was in the crowd.

  1. Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)

After missing the opening match of the season due to a concussion, All Blacks and Crusaders veteran Sam Whitelock made his Super Rugby return in round two. It’s safe to say he didn’t skip a beat. Like fine wine, Whitelock seems to be getting better with age.

Whitelock was the go-to player for Codie Taylor at the set-piece, and was also a menace on the Highlanders throw – applying plenty of pressure and reaping the rewards, as he made a few steals on their throw.

  1. Rob Valetini (Brumbies)

World-class flanker Rob Valetini is the third and final player to have been named in the RugbyPass team of the week on both occasions this year. After a quiet first-half against the Blues, Valetini came out of the sheds at half-time with a point to prove in the second 40 – and that’s exactly what he did.

The Wallaby ended up making 14 tackles at 100 per cent accuracy, and also ran the ball 12 times for a hard-fought 21 metres. Valetini always gives his all on the rugby field, and Sunday was no different.

  1. Fraser McReight (Reds)

The Reds’ staggering 51-point win over the Force hasn’t gone unnoticed. While only one of their backs made it into the team of the week, two of their star backrowers will round out the list.

Openside flanker Fraser McReight had his best game in a while on Sunday, which included a try assist. McReight carried the ball eight times and beat one defender, and also made his mark on the other side of the ball with 10 tackles.

 

  1. Harry Wilson (Reds)

With Wallabies coach Eddie Jones in the crowd, Harry Wilson had his best game for the Reds in over a year. Wilson made the most tackles out of any player in that match with 17, and had the equal-most carries out of any Reds forward with 10.

Wilsons crossed for a five-pointer midway through the first-half after running a brilliant line off a lineout set-piece move. That score somewhat defined his performance, which was simply superb.

Backrowers Langi Gleeson and Richard Hardwick also put their hands up for team of the week honours with their performances in round two. Hurricanes captain Ardie Savea also would’ve been in the mix had it not been for his yellow card just before the half-time break.

Round two MVP votes (3-2-1)

Crusaders vs Highlanders – Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders), David Havili (Crusaders), Sam Whitelock (Crusaders)

Rebels vs Hurricanes – Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes), Richard Hardwick (Rebels), Carter Gordon (Rebels)

Moana Pasifika vs Chiefs – Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs), Damian McKenzie (Chiefs), Brad Weber (Chiefs)

Fijian Drua vs Waratahs – Langi Gleeson (Waratahs), Tane Edmed (Waratahs), Mark Nawaqanitawase (Waratahs)

Brumbies vs Blues – Lachlan Lonergan (Brumbies), Rhys Van Nek (Brumbies), Rob Valetini (Brumbies)

Force vs Reds – Jordan Petaia (Reds), Harry Wilson (Reds), Josh Flook (Reds)

MVP leader board

6 points – Jordie Barrett (Hurricanes)

5 points – Richard Hardwick (Rebels), Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs)

3 points – Brodie Retallick (Chiefs), Ryan Lonergan (Brumbies), Tevita Ikanivere (Drua), Mark Telea (Blues), Hamish Stewart (Force), Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders), Langi Gleeson (Waratahs), Lachlan Lonergan (Brumbies), Jordan Petaia (Reds)

2 points – Brad Weber (Chiefs), Carter Gordon (Rebels), Tom Wright (Brumbies), Iosefo Masi (Drua), Dalton Papali’i (Blues), Cam Roigard (Hurricanes), David Havili (Crusaders), Damian McKenzie (Chiefs), Tane Edmed (Waratahs), Rhys Van Nek (Brumbies), Harry Wilson (Reds)

1 point – Max Jorgensen (Waratahs), Abraham Pole (Pasifika), Beauden Barrett (Blues), Josh Moorby (Hurricanes), Sam Whitelock (Crusaders), Mark Nawaqanitawase (Waratahs), Rob Valetini (Brumbies), Josh Flook (Reds)

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