NRC round nine: Team of the week

by Sam Phillips

The final round of NRC action provided plenty of thrills and spills, as six teams jostled for a spot in the final four.

Here's who stood out from the chasing pack at the weekend.

1. Jed Gillespie - Greater Sydney Rams

Gillespie has been one of the Rams' most consistent performers in 2017 and he finished the season in style. Scrummaged well and had his usual impact with ball in hand, busting a pair of tackles and notching a line break in an industrious performance.

2. Brandon Paenga-Amosa - NSW Country Eagles

Pretty hard to leave a hooker out that scored a hat trick, even if two of the three five pointers were at the back of rolling mauls. Also put his hand up for five carries and did his share of defensive work as well.

3. Shambeckler Vui - Perth Spirit

Force fans are well accustomed with Shambeckler Vui's game. Photo: Getty ImagesVui's prolific carries are well known to keen Australian U20s and NRC followers alike and he lead an inexperienced Perth side with some big bursts on Sunday. Queensland Country struggled to contain the Spirit young gun as he racked up 25 metres in seven carries, with a line break and two tackle busts to boot.

4. Blake Enever - Canberra Vikings

Enever took the news he would be on the Wallabies' Spring Tour in his stride, leading the Vikings in their win over the Rams at both set piece time and with ball in hand. Was assiduous with ball in hand and was one of the prime targets at lineout time.

5. Richie Arnold - Perth Spirit

Led the Spirit's go forward alongside Vui. Scored a try to go with 49 metres gained from nine carries, with two line breaks and a tackle bust thrown in for good measure. Called the shots at lineout time as well.

6. Rob Valetini - Canberra Vikings

What a star this kid is turning out to be. Showed flashes of brilliance when injected into Australian U20s matches in Georgia and now he has been given some additional minutes with the Vikings, he has shown what he is truly capable of. A destructive ball carrier that put Canberra on his back on Sunday, notching 55 metres from 16 carries, with five tackle busts, a line break and three offloads putting an exclamation mark on his afternoon. A leader in defence, too, with 11 tackles and a pair of turnovers won. The star performance across the competition at the weekend.

7. Tom Cusack - Canberra Vikings

Another Vikings backrower that has made a big impression in 2017. The former Aussie Sevens star runs all day and that was evident in his numbers, racking up 46 metres from 10 carries.

8. Jed Holloway - Greater Sydney Rams

Holloway has been, along with Gillespie, a reliable threat for the Rams all season long. That was no different against the Vikings, where he managed 81 metres from 11 carries, with three line breaks and five tackle busts an indication as to just how devastating he was with the football. Also had a try assist and eight tackles to keep his hot form flowing.

9. Ian Prior - Perth Spirit

Ian Prior weaved some magic for the Spirit on Sunday. Photo: QRU Media/Brendan HertelThe mastermind behind Perth's incredible win on Sunday. His passing was beautiful to watch and that was best exemplified in his two try assists - a pair of pinpoint passes across the face of the defence that put the willing runner over the line.

10. Peter Grant - Perth Spirit

A clutch last minute penalty to put your team into the NRC finals is more than enough to earn a spot on this list.

11. Lausii Taliauli - Canberra Vikings

Was a constant threat when he found the ball in space. Had a huge 116 metres from 12 runs, with two try assists, two line breaks and four tackle busts. A very big afternoon.

12. Irae Simone - Sydney Rays

The star of the show in Fiji. Two tries, 43 metres from 14 runs, with two line breaks and six tackle busts. Showed the kind of form that made him the Waratahs go to inside centre at the start of 2017.

13. Len Ikitau - Canberra Vikings

Reeled off some impressive numbers outside flyhalf Fred Dorrough and inside centre James Dargaville, who were constantly looking for Ikitau's powerful carries. Notched 38 metres with three tackle busts and a try assist.

14. Alex Gibbon - NSW Country Eagles

In some sort of form at the moment. Scored a hat trick last week, crossed the line for the Classic Wallabies in Lismore and scored again on Saturday. Clearly an elite finisher but also had 94 metres from his nine runs, with four tackle busts a sign of how hard he can be to bring down.

15. Nick Jooste - Perth Spirit

Had his best game since returning to Perth. Another member of that Classic Wallabies side that just fell to the Barbarians in Lismore, Jooste scored a try, helped carry the playmaking load with ball in hand and showed accuracy off the boot as well.