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Super Rugby Pacific team of the week: Jordie who? Reds are the real deal

By Ben Smith
Fraser McReight of the Reds and Riley Higgins of the Hurricanes. (Photos by Albert Perez/Getty Images and MARTY MELVILLE/AFP via Getty Images)

The Chiefs were stunned in Brisbane by the Reds, the Blues were done by the Canes in Wellington and the Crusaders rough start continued in Fiji.


Just one undefeated side remains in the Hurricanes after three rounds of Super Rugby Pacific, while only the Crusaders and Western Force are yet to register a win.

The team of the week is dominated by Hurricanes and Reds players who produced in their respective wins over the two title favourites.

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15 Ruben Love (Hurricanes)

For the second week in a row the Hurricanes No 15 won selection after a sublime showing against the Blues. It wasn’t just the three try assists, Love’s complete game was excellent. His first try assist highlighted his work rate. After leaping up to grab Brett Cameron’s chip kick, Love was able to reload for the very next phase despite being at the bottom of the ruck. That hustle resulted in the final pass, a cutout ball to Josh Moorby, for the score.

The stat sheet won’t show his try-saver on Stephen Perofeta either, ripping the ball loose a metre from the line to force a key stop in the first half. As he has done all season, Love closes on the last man better than any fullback in New Zealand. He shut down Mark Tele’a with speed from the backfield late in the first half, Kini Naholo then pounced and forced a holding on penalty.

14 Selestino Ravutaumada (Fijian Drua)


The Fijian Drua wing is also in the team for the second week running. The 24-year-old is a weapon for the Drua who proved to be more than a handful for the Crusaders. He finished with three line breaks on 11 carries, seven defenders beaten while clocking up 108 running metres. His try in the first half was top tier finishing, receiving a long ball from halfback Frank Lomani he beat Chay Fihaki one-on-one, cut back inside two more and crashed over. When the Drua need a spark, it’s Ravutaumada who finds it.

Honourable mention: Josh Moorby (Hurricanes), Suliasi Vunivalu (Reds), Mark Tele’a (Blues), Timoci Tavatavanawai (Highlanders)

13 Izaia Perese (Waratahs)

The returning Waratahs centre was the lynchpin of their attack against the Highlanders, receiving plenty of carries on first phase. The Wallaby showed his class with regular post-contact metres and by breaking tackles. Perese was at his best in the first half logging up 50 running metres, including a gem of a try combining with Mark Nawaqanitawase. The No 13 bounced outside Sam Gilbert, drew in Jona Nareki and put his winger away with a nice touch before backing up inside and snatching the chip kick between multiple Highlanders defenders.


Honourable mention: Josh Flook (Reds)

12 Riley Higgins (Hurricanes)

Hurricanes management will be smiling ear-to-ear after Higgins performance in the absence of Jordie Barrett. The young No 12 was monstrous against the Blues with a breakout performance. He forced three turnovers on defence, finished a breakaway try with a turn of pace, carried strongly and cleaned well. He had the audacity to put a goose on star All Black centre Rieko Ioane coming out of his own 22. Higgins held off Ioane with one hand and pushed a backhand flick with the other to free Moorby down a tightrope. Moments later he shut down a Blues’ break by crunching his opposite Harry Plummer and dislodged the ball. In the second half he held up Mark Tele’a on first phase for a collapsed maul turnover with three other Canes defenders.

Honourable mention: Sam Gilbert (Highlanders), Isaac Henry (Reds)

11 Kini Naholo (Hurricanes)

The destructive Hurricanes wing produced a game-changing play with the match in the balance during the second half. He picked up a loose ball and turned a would-be net loss into a try, busting through a handful of Blues’ defenders up the middle into the backfield before setting up Higgins. It was such a dynamic piece of individualism that turned nothing into something much more, building a 29-14 buffer for the Hurricanes that they ultimately needed. The younger Naholo also scored one himself earlier, a regulation finish with a wide open line, but it was his strong carrying that impressed the most.

10 Brett Cameron (Hurricanes)

There is no debate which backline was firing on all cylinders this week, and Cameron was an underrated part of the machine that tore the Blues apart. He outplayed Perofeta by a wide margin, controlling the game with his kicking game. He didn’t overplay his hand but had some nice touches getting the ball towards Love on the edge who was finishing with three assists. His goal kicking was critical in building a 24-7 lead that put too much pressure on the Blues. Considering most were out wide, Cameron was exceptional off the tee.

Honourable mentions: Isaiah Armstrong-Ravula (Drua), Tom Lynagh (Reds), Damian McKenzie (Chiefs)

9 Cam Roigard (Hurricanes)

The All Blacks halfback continued to warm into the season after a double last week in the extra time win over the Reds. He was electric against the Blues, demonstrating the running threat around the ruck with eight defenders beaten on 13 carries.

He caught the Blues napping a minute into the second half and produced an unbelievable burst, trucking over the top of Stephen Perofeta. Instead of pushing a 50-50 he took the ball to ground and the Hurricanes scored on the next phase through Naholo. Added eight tackles in defence and came off late in the game as TJ Perenara made his return.


8 Harry Wilson (Reds)

The Reds No 8 is going to be back into the Wallabies with form like Saturday night’s. Wilson was the go-forward option for the Reds’ attack, taking 20 carries. It was his short side play to set up McReight’s try that showed incredible vision and execution. Firstly, to track to the short side, run a decoy line and let the ball sail across his face to Vunivalu, and secondly the quick touch and basketball pass to his openside on the inside. A lot of work but less than two seconds with the ball. It was a try with three Reds’ stars hunting together and concocting something on the fly. On defence he completed a double-double with 11 tackles to add to his 20 carries. It was Wilson in a dominant two-man tackle on Damian McKenzie which sealed the win on the final possession.

7 Fraser McReight (Reds)

The superlatives for McReight are running out. The Reds openside produced another golden performance that caused the Chiefs headaches all night. He was overworked in defence, pilfering nearly everything, but he was wily enough to pull back when the referee said to. He slowed down a ton of ball and required multiple cleaners at most rucks but kept a clean sheet when it came to penalties conceded. He was able to produce two more turnovers, one crucially right on half-time that led to three points straight back after McKenzie had kicked a penalty. His try combining with Wilson was brilliant and he finished with 20 tackles. A masterful showing.

6 Josh Kemeny (Rebels) 

The Rebels blindside was a reliable performer in the win over Moana Pasifika, logging a game-high 14 tackles in defence at a 100 per cent completion rate. He added a turnover while helped anchor the Rebels’ lineout with the second most takes with six. The Rebels set-piece operated at 94 per cent, an A+ showing by the Melbourne pack.

5 Tupou Vaa’i (Chiefs)

In a losing side Tupou Vaa’i was impressive with an industrious performance. The reliable jumper finished with five takes, the Chiefs top target. He had three turnovers won, two of them at the breakdown, while he finished with 12 tackles and 14 carries. He gave away a couple of penalties but overall it was a strong showing against a quality side.

Honourable mention: Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (Rebels)

4 Nick Frost (Brumbies)

Another pivotal performance from the lock that helped the Brumbies squeak a win in Canberra over the Force. He completed a team-high 13 tackles, added a ruck turnover, and had the second most lineout takes alongside blindside Tom Hooper, who also had a strong day out. Frost added a line break too.

Honourable mention: Ryan Smith (Reds)

3 Tyrel Lomax (Hurricanes)

The world-class tighthead produced a dominant display against an inexperienced Blues front row. From the first shove the Hurricanes had the ascendency and never really let up. The Blues starting front rowers gave up five penalties in part due to Lomax’s strength. The Canes pack had the Blues number. Lomax finished with nine tackles in his 59 minutes on the park.

2 Matt Faessler (Reds)

The Reds hooker has been a key piece to the impressive start by the Queenslanders this year. The rake has been the beneficiary on the end of a strong rolling maul that again profited against the Chiefs. More importantly it’s been his throwing that keeps the Reds’ lineout humming, running at 94 per cent against the Chiefs, while the Reds’ scrum started to overpower the Chiefs in the second half. He finished with 11 tackles and 10 carries to cap off a busy evening in the hard-earned 25-19 win.

1 Peni Ravai (Reds)

The Fijian international was forced into the game a couple minutes before half and played exceptionally well after costing the side last week with a couple of late handling errors. He was into everything, making tackles, clearing rucks and fuelled a dominant Reds’ scrum. The Chiefs could not get a stable set-piece on their own ball with a ton of resets, while after a key defensive stop in the 64th minute they were shoved off the ball for a crucial exit penalty, which again occurred in the 72nd minute.



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