Round two of Harvey Norman Super Rugby AU is run and done as the Brumbies and Reds emerge victorious - but in completely different games.
The Reds were behind for all but two minutes against a plucky Melbourne Rebels side while the Brumbies were stampeding in Canberra on their way to a record rout of the Waratahs.
But who stood out?
Here’s our team of the week.
1: James Slipper – Brumbies
Slippy is the man who just keeps on giving. Does the grunt stuff without the huge plaudits. Hits rucks, scrums well, carries strong. We have said it before and we’ll say it again – he’s like a red wine. Better with age.
2: Alex Mafi – Reds
What might have been for the Reds hero on Saturday night?! Mafi fumbled an unbelievable chip kick play that seemed a certain try after a great cover tackle by Reece Hodge (more on him later) but then dusted himself to go again.
Mafi seemed to improvise off the lineout play when he saw the space open up, and don’t you dare give the big hooker some space! Two tries capped a great all-round performance.
3. Pone Fa’amausili – Rebels
Big Pone has been a social media star in the last 12 months, and it’s not without reason. While he can walk the line with his tackle technique at times, Fa’amausili is a game breaker.
There’s a titanic battle brewing over the next 5-10 years for the Wallabies number three jersey – and it’s one of those good headaches for Dave Rennie.
4. Darcy Swain – Brumbies
Unheralded player in the Brumbies dominant pack. How often do we talk about the Brumbies set piece – but why doesn’t Darcy Swain get the headlines?
He’s raw but he’s always throwing himself into everything. A dominant second row partnership forming with…
5. Cadeyrn Neville – Brumbies
These two just couldn’t be stopped by the Waratahs on Saturday night. Cadeyrn may be 32 years old but it sure doesn’t look like the twilight of his career. A former AIS rower who represented Australia at the Youth Olympics, it’s clear that Neville has a mighty engine. Matt Philip’s Wallabies role may have found a top shelf replacement.
6. Rob Valetini – Brumbies
It seems like Rob Valetini has been on the radar for years, but did you know he’s still only 22 years old?? He’s big, abrasive and not afraid of putting his head in dark places.
Already a capped Wallaby but 2021 could be his year to take that next step and leave some injury plagued years behind him.
7. Fraser McReight - Reds
Desperately unlikely to miss out on the nod last week and despite some other strong performances in the number 7 jersey around the comp in Round Two, it’s Fraser’s spot this week.
McReight is a terrier and the battle between him and Richard Hardwick on Friday night was worth the admission price alone. Both never gave an inch, but the Reds victory edged it for the former Junior Wallabies skip.
8. Pete Samu – Brumbies
Pistol Pete seems effortless at times. He glides across the park with some sublime touches in attack but then launches himself into rucks when his team is without the ball. The Waratahs had no answer for the Brumbies on Saturday night and the link play provided by Samu was a joy to behold.
9. Nic White – Brumbies
Speaking of on song – Nic White has found another gear in 2021. He’s constantly testing the defence as he probes around the ruck. White seems to have simplified his game by playing what’s in front of him and it’s made life a whole lot easier for his halves partner, Noah Lolesio.
10. Matt To’omua – Rebels
Lolesio unlikely to miss out this week. Not even his rolling maul try earned the honour! Matt To’omua almost singlehandedly won the game for his side, in a match where the Rebels were huge underdogs.
While he missed what could have been a matchwinner, watch the replay again and you will see he doesn’t delay in pointing at the sticks and stepping up for his team. You can’t always say this about a skipper but leadership has only enhanced his game.
11. Mack Hansen – Brumbies
Hat-trick hero. Need we go on? A spot on the wing was there for the taking after Tom Wright went down pre-season, and hasn’t Mack taken his opportunity with both hands.
12. Reece Hodge – Rebels
Another spot in the team with a few contenders, including Brumbies 12 Irae Simone who was very good in Canberra. However, Hodge edges Irae after providing on both ends for the Rebels. His selection at 12 raised a few eyebrows with the utility back shifting around more than a game of musical chairs but it was warranted.
Hodge provides some steel and resolve to the Melbourne backline, as seen with two try saving tackles to keep the Rebels in the contest. And what about the penalty kick from 50 out on the angle!
13. Hunter Paisami – Reds
Hunter by name, Hunter by nature. Paisami is growing as a 13 and aren’t opposition teams feeling it. He’s damaging on both sides of the ball and plays well above his weight. Although there wouldn’t have been a happier man at Suncorp after To’omua’s kick missed the sticks after Paisami gave away a penalty at the death that could have cost his team.
14. Jordan Petaia – Reds
Andy Muirhead unlucky to miss Team of the Week selection after some bamboozling runs on Saturday night but it is a joy to watch Petaia play. Long may he stay injury free. Australian Rugby is better for it.
15. Tom Banks - Brumbies
Banksy is back! A stuttering end to 2020 for TB15 but he’s hit the ground running this year. Banks was unplayable at times and consistently put the Brumbies in strong field position with his penetrating kicks in general play, and for the touchline from long arm penalties.
Wallabies 15 jersey is again up for grabs and form counts for everything.