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Super Rugby Pacific team of the week: Tahs dominate, Carter looking like Dan

By Ben Smith
Ruben Love of the Hurricanes and Jake Gordon of the Waratahs. (Photo by William WEST / AFP and Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

The Waratahs got the first Kiwi scalp of the season by Aussie sides, taking down the defending champion Crusaders. Moana Pasifika and Fijian Drua played out a thriller, and the Hurricanes, Blues, Chiefs stayed undefeated.

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The Super round in Melbourne saw all the teams in the competition converge in Victoria for the weekend with every game a high-scoring affair. The winners averaged 40.8 points with every winning team scoring above 35. The losers averaged 28.

Here’s the team of the week for round two of Super Rugby Pacific.

15 Ruben Love (Hurricanes)

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Ruben Love was a solid performer in round one against the Force and offered even more in round two. He was a difference maker for the Canes as they pulled off a 38-33 win in a thrilling contest. As a strike weapon, Love bagged two tries. One was a winger’s finish in the corner after slick hands to free Josh Moorby, the other was a one-on-one match up with Reds centre Josh Flook who is no mug in defence. Love beat him on the inside with a sharp right foot step and crashed over. Out near the edge he showed classy touches, finding quick hands to provide for Kini Naholo on a set play in the first half. Two tries and a try assist showed Love’s influence on this game.

Honourable mentions: Andrew Kellaway (Rebels), Zarn Sullivan (Blues)

14 Selestino Ravutaumada (Fijian Drua)

It was a competitive round for right wingers with many solid performers but the position goes to Ravutaumada for an explosive showing against Moana Pasifika.

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The dreaded No 14 was a game-changer despite the Drua ultimately falling short 39-36. He nearly claimed the game-winning try when centre Iosefo Masi broke through in the 77th minute but the offload went astray.

Ravutaumada’s first big play was a huge line break coming out of their own 22 running down the 10 channel. He made the right play to link up with openside
Elia Canakaivata for a quick strike. Despite being yellow carded for a slight foot trip on a kick contest, the star wing then made up for it when he sliced through Moana all by himself to score with a swan dive next to the sticks off a lineout play. When the Drua needed to mount a massive comeback he was the fire starter once again, making a huge break again out of an exit zone to create a long range strike.

Honourable mentions: Mark Telea (Blues), Sevu Reece (Crusaders)

13 Harry Wilson (Waratahs)

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This week the midfield honours go to the Waratahs’ pair for an industrious performance against the Crusaders. They work hard, run good lines and do their job. Wilson got done a couple of times in defence, once by Levi Aumua running down his inside shoulder, but overall they covered the wide shifts by the Crusaders. Wilson was rewarded on the stroke of half-time with a try by running a good support line for Tane Edmed. Finished with seven tackles, seven carries, and another line break in the second half.

Honourable mentions: Billy Proctor (Hurricanes)

12 Joey Walton (Waratahs)

The Tahs inside centre worked well with his new midfield partner. Walton brings a kicking option outside 10 that the Waratahs use frequently to clear the lines, helping take the load of Edmed. He finished with double digit tackles 11, and one line break on four carries. His burst came running a support line off Edmed who provided a pop pass off the ground. While Aumua finished with 60 run metres, David Havili finished with just two run metres and Walton outplayed the All Black in all facets of the game.

11. Etene Nanai-Seturo (Chiefs)

The hot-stepping winger sparked the Chiefs with one of the games of his career with his first half performance. He had a line break between two props around halfway which provided the assist for Xavier Roe. Nanai-Seturo was heavily involved in the attack plans floating off his left flank. Case in point, he scored the second try for the Chiefs on the opposite wing after a long ball from Shaun Stevenson. He had his fourth line break and second try assist on a 1-2 play with Damian McKenzie off a lineout just a half hour into the game. He hit a massive 50-22 to end the first half but it was unfortunately after the buzzer. Didn’t need to do much in the second half as the Chiefs had the game in the bag.

Honourable mentions: Viliami Fine (Moana Pasfika), Filipo Daugunu (Rebels)

10. Carter Gordon (Rebels)

Carter Gordon just bests Tane Edmed (Waratahs) and Rhys Patchell (Highlanders) for the spot after a near flawless match-winning showing against the Force. A week after five turnovers in a losing side against the Brumbies, Carter Gordon looked like Dan Carter against the Force, igniting the attack with precision and expert vision.

The young flyhalf took control of the game and made the big plays. A blindside switch resulted in his first try when he found the gap between two front rowers and he crashed over in the tackle of Nic White. On a scrum play in a similar position another switch by Carter set up Kellaway for his second with a lethal cutout pass that exposed English wing Harry Potter.

The Rebels had to fight back from big deficits almost the entire game, making Gordon’s performance all the more impressive. He pulled off a long range intercept try with a brilliant read on Ben Donaldson that changed the game. Down 34-24, the Rebels found two quick strikes after the No 10’s try to hit the lead 36-34.

He passed well in their shape, probed the line often and found half-break opportunities, scored twice, set up another and led the Rebels to a win they had no rights to. A confident Carter is a different man and one the Wallabies need to find.

Honourable mentions: Tane Edmed (Waratahs), Rhys Patchell (Highlanders)

9. Jake Gordon (Waratahs)

The Waratahs captain was everywhere against the Crusaders bringing a never-say-die attitude that paid dividends late in the second half. Gordon was there to clean up missed tackles, competing hard for every play.

His captaincy decisions were influential, firstly taking three points when on offer to keep the score ticking which built a 16-10 lead despite the Crusaders scoring two tries to one. He gambled before the half looking for a knockout blow with three scrums from five out with the Crusaders down a man, which unfortunately were all bombed. Gordon had a try on offer on an 8-9 play that Langi Gleeson fumbled. Fortunately the Tahs still struck on the last play to reward the decision to turn down more points.

With the game in the balance at 23-17 it was Gordon who made the big plays. An intercept of David Havili from his own 22 sparked a 50 metre break. On the next phase a Tane Edmed cross-field kick landed into the open arms of reserve wing Triston Reilly. Then he pinched another loose ball for a long range try himself to put the game out of reach at 37-17.

Honourable mentions: Folau Fakatava (Highlanders), Cam Roigard (Hurricanes)

8. Hoskins Sotutu (Blues)

A hat-trick to the Blues No 8 continued his hot start to the season. Sotutu is back with a vengeance after missing World Cup selection with five tries in the opening two weeks. The ball carrying force was central to the Blues game plan going through the middle with brute force as the big men rumbled over the Highlanders.

Sotutu logged 15 carries and scored his three tries from close range with too much power for the Highlanders to handle. He added a try assist with an offload to halfback Taufa Funaki close to the line. On defence he added a turnover and completed 10 tackles for a big day out in Melbourne.

Honourable mention: Harry Wilson (Reds), Braydon Iose (Hurricanes), Luke Jacobson (Chiefs)

7. Charlie Gamble (Waratahs)

The Tahs openside was immense as the defensive leader for his side. Gamble was in the thick of the front line causing massive problems for the Crusaders. He completed 21 of 24 tackles and produced two turnovers. In the tackle he held up ball carriers and slowed down the ball. The Crusaders ruck speed was more than 3 seconds for a third of the time and Gamble had a big influence over that.

Honourable mention: Elia Canakaivata (Drua), Peter Lakai (Hurricanes), Fraser McReight (Reds)

6. TK Howden (Hurricanes)

At blindside young TK Howden makes the team after an impressive showing in his first start of the season after Devan Flanders’ injury. Howden made a statement early by putting a shot on Wallaby midfielder Hunter Paisami, forcing a turnover in the tackle. The No 6 showed nice touches as the lead pod runner, his passing game offering a good link to the backs. He carried strongly with extra leg drive making good yards. He finished with 10 carries, 18 tackles, and one turnover.

Honourable mentions: Fergus Lee-Warner (Waratahs), Sean Withy (Highlanders), Akira Ioane (Blues)

5. Isaia Walker-Leawere (Hurricanes)

Often plagued by discipline issues, Walker-Leawere was influential against the Reds in a positive manner. With the Reds not competing on lineout throws in the first half, the Hurricanes set-piece ran smoothly, Walker-Leawere taking five targets. The big lock got through 17 tackles as the Hurricanes made the Reds work hard for every point. He added three turnovers, including two at the breakdown. One of the steals rubbed out a key Reds’ possession in the first half on his own five metre line, and a tackle on Reds’ prop Peni Ravai essentially saved the game. Ravai knocked on in Walker-Leawere’s tackle in the process of scoring just 10 minutes from full-time.

4. Jed Holloway (Waratahs)

A surprise selection after a clumsy showing last week, Holloway was a turnover machine against the Reds. However, this week the Wallaby lock was influential as the Tahs pack put the blowtorch on the Crusaders. He eliminated the costly handling errors and had two lineout steals, one in a crucial position inside the Tahs’ 22. The lock was dominate at times in defence, helping the Tahs defence throw off the Crusaders’ breakdown. In combination with Fergus Lee-Warner and Charlie Gamble, the forwards really made life tough for the Crusaders’ ball carriers.

Honourable mention: Jamie Hannah (Crusaders)

3. Jermaine Ainsley (Highlanders)

The veteran tighthead was impressive alongside All Black Ethan de Groot and hooker Henry Bell as the Highlanders kept the fight up against the Blues. Ainsley was subbed in the 43rd minute along with the entire front row, at which point the Highlanders lost all ascendency. He made 19 tackles while on the pitch and the Highlanders set-piece held up well against the all-star Blues pack.

Honourable mentions: Tyrel Lomax (Hurricanes)

2. Mahe Vailanu (Waratahs)

The nuggety hooker got a piece of the Crusaders’ pack with 10 tackles, forcing one turnover. More importantly, he had the Tah’s lineout operating at 100 per cent with seven from seven. Although the scrums were a mixed bag, Vailanu also added some punch in the carry game with eight carries. Kept a clean sheet when it came to giving away penalties and overall produced an all-round valuable performance in the big win.

Honourable mentions: Matt Faessler (Reds), Asafo Aumua (Hurricanes)

1. Angus Bell (Waratahs)

The Wallaby prop made his presence felt with 13 carries to power the Tah’s attack. Bell beat four defenders as he consistently won gain line. The scrums were a mixed bag and closely fought contest, both sides won plenty of penalties. Bell ended up copping two, but the Waratahs front row definitely got their own back on more than one occasion. In defence Bell added eight tackles.

Honourable mentions: Abraham Pole (Moana Pasifika), Xavier Numia (Hurricanes)

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