26 Aug 2012
Team of the Rugby Championship - Week Two
As one might suspect there is a heavy All Black influence, after their nilling of Australia at Eden Park secured New Zealand the Bledisloe Cup for yet another year. A number of Pumas also impressed though, after securing a stirring draw in Mendoza against the Springboks. Read on to see who caught our eye in particular and why!
Team of Round Two:
1.Roncero, 2.Guinazu, 3.Franks, 4.Albacete, 5.Timani, 6.Messam/Cabello, 7.Lobbe, 8.Reid, 9.Smith, 10.Carter, 12.Fernandez, 13.Williams, 11.Camacho, 14.Jane, 15.Dagg
1. Rodrigo Roncero (Arg)
The Pumas stalwart was at the heart of Argentina's early onslaught in Mendoza; immovable in the scrum, strong with the ball in hand and hugely irritating for the touring Springboks. On a number of occasions you could see that his presence was getting under the skin of the South Africans. Despite being subbed in the second half, he was also the joint top tackler of the game with 13 successful attempts.
2. Eusebio Guinazu (Arg)
The Biarritz hooker has gone from strength to strength in the international arena since the retirement of legendary Puma, Mario Ledesma. His clean break in the first half set up Argentina's first try through Santiago Fernandez and his accuracy in the line-out improved markedly as the game went on. A tackle count of 9 isn't too shabby either for a front rower.
3. Owen Franks (NZ)
Another top weekend for the Crusaders and All Blacks tighthead prop. Put the Aussie scrum under some serious pressure throughout at Eden Park and was his usual destructive self in defence; NZ's second top tackler on the night. Juan Figallo of Argentina was not far behind though in the selection at tighthead.
4. Patricio Albacete (Arg)
Probably the second best player on the park in Mendoza behind his captain, Lobbe. Albacete used all his experience in the line-out, was busy around the field in defence (13 tackles) and was a constant nuisance at the breakdown with his counter-rucking. The Springboks struggled with his ferocity. Strong effort from the veteran.
5. Sitaleki Timani (Aus)
Powerful performance from the Tahs and Wallabies lock, with 14 tackles at Eden Park. In addition to pulling off a last ditch, try saving tackle on Liam Messam, he also laid a huge hit on Sonny Bill Williams, leaving the outgoing All Black dazed for minutes. Could potentially form a long term second row partnership with usual captain James Horwill when he returns from injury. A sole shining light in an otherwise dismal day for the Wallabies.
6. Liam Messam (NZ)/ Julian Farias Cabello (Arg)
In truth I couldn't split these two. They offered very differing performance but were equally influential for their teams. Messam was industrious on attack, linking well with his fellow loose forwards, while Cabello was a force on defence for the Pumas. He also made two crucial turnovers, when the Boks were hot on attack. It would have been unjust to leave either out of the team.
7. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (Arg)
Actually played number 8 for the Pumas in a man of the match performance in Mendoza, but had to be accommodated in the team of the week somehow. He led from the front with his kick off receptions, carrying of the ball and his almost single-handed destruction of the Springboks line-out. Lobbe was a real thorn in South Africa's side all night.
8. Kieran Reid (NZ)
Quickly making himself a central pillar of the All Blacks team. Read dominated his direct opponent, Scott Higginbotham and formed a punishing partnership with McCaw and Messam at the breakdown. The Wallabies simply couldn't live with him and his ability to run clever lines and offload. You've got to wonder if Reid may be given a few games as captain later in the year, as he is the clear successor to McCaw.
9. Aaron Smith (NZ)
Smith had made the point earlier in the week that he could not emulate Genia, with the Queenslander's ability to run 80 metres with the ball in hand, but that his 'point of difference' was the accuracy of his distribution. Well not only was the Manawatu scrumhalf spreading bullets around the field but his running game arguably outshone his opposite too. Made an incisive break in the second half, which was unlucky not to lead to a try.
10. Dan Carter (NZ)
Top class again from the world's top ever point scorer. Accurate with the boot (17 points) and more busy than usual with his taking the ball to the line. Ran his back-line extremely well and the score could have an even bigger blow out, had all the opportunities created been taken.
11. Gonzalo Camacho (Arg)
Camacho was quiet for much of the first half as tactics saw neither Pumas wingers see much of the ball, but the young Exeter Chief came alive in the second half and Camacho quickly became the biggest gainer of yards for the team. With a slightly more adventurous style of play from the Pumas, Camacho could be a real star.
12. Santiago Fernandez (Arg)
Fernandez was the man who collected the ball before squeezing past Andries Bekker to score the Pumas first try and was secure in his defensive responsibilities. Cut down a number of larger trees with apparent ease. One suspects Fernandez will be a key play for the Pumas for a while to come.
13. Sonny Bill Williams (NZ)
It will be a sad 'sayonara' to outgoing All Black centre Sonny Bill Williams. His game has developed hugely over the last couple of years and he left us with yet another indication of his talent with a barnstorming display in the 12 shirt against the Wallabies. Clean breaks, offloads, towering hits...he had the lot; 18 runs, 71 metres gained, 4 defenders beaten and 6 offloads. He even garnered two turnovers. The stats don't lie. SBW had a stormer.
14. Corey Jane (NZ)
Had the Eden Park faithful on their feet as he accelerated through a gaping hole towards the right touchline, only to stumble as the try line came into sight. Play didn't generally come his way as much as he would have liked, but Jane showed his quality when he got the opportunity.
15. Israel Dagg (NZ)
Once again the man to make the telling contribution for the All Blacks, scoring the game's only try. His game is about so much more than just his running ability though (105 metres gained). He's safe as houses under the high ball and relieves Carter of a lot of pressure, with his ability to clear the ball with his booming right boot. Only one mistake made all night, when he rather butchered a try scoring opportunity on the left wing. Apart from that....imperious as ever.
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Team of the Rugby Championship - Week One