Super Rugby: Team of Round 10
The Western Force's winning streak was finally brought to an end when the Melbourne Rebels triumphed over their fellow Australian upstarts in Round 10 of the Super Rugby campaign.
However, with the Crusaders beating the Chiefs in Waikato and the Brumbies enjoying a bye week, things remained similarly poised at the top end of the Super XV standings.
The only change among the table's elite saw the Waratahs move into the top four thanks to some Israel Folau inspiration upon his return to first-team action, while the Hurricanes, Sharks and Stormers also managed to claim wins from their most recent outings.
We've assembled a line-up of the most-impressive individuals from Round 10, where it's unsurprisingly those who came out on the winning end of their fixtures who dominate.
1. Wyatt Crockett, Crusaders
A sturdy scrummaging display from the Crusaders set a strong foundation for the New Zealand outfit on their way to a closely fought 18-17 win over the Chiefs.
Wyatt Crockett's performance at loosehead was a vital aspect of the pack that won nine successful scrums and lost none. And, while his on-the-ball influence was minimal, a tackling total of 13 puts the veteran in a very respectable light.
2. Deon Fourie, Stormers
His yellow card in the 21st minute may have marred the outing somewhat, but Deon Fourie still gave a brilliant account of himself as the Stormers beat South African rivals the Lions 18-3.
From seven carries, the hooker made a remarkable 42 metres—an average of seven metres per carry—and an outstanding defensive display saw Fourie pitch in with 15 tackles, despite the 10 minutes he spent cooling off in the first period.
3. Kieran Longbottom, Western Force
Though the Western Force saw their five-match winning streak halted by the Rebels at the weekend, Kieran Longbottom once again shone as a defensive beacon in Michael Foley's pack.
The tighthead books another place in our Super Rugby line-up thanks to an outing that constituted of 13 tackles in the lose, although the Force could do with some tightening up at the set piece.
4. James Broadhurst, Hurricanes
He wasn't as prominent at the line-out as lock partner Jeremy Thrush, but James Broadhurst was a far more mobile asset with ball in hand for the Hurricanes this weekend.
The 26-year-old carried for 40 metres and made a very respectable 11 tackles, helping his side win 11 of their 12 scrums and steal a number of Blues line-outs as they ran out 39-20 victors.
5. Luke Jones, Rebels
No Rebels players attempted more runs against the Force than Luke Jones on Friday evening, with the second-row totem carrying 17 times for a gain of 44 metres in Melbourne.
The Rebels dominated their Perth visitors at the set piece, and every member of the host pack contributed to their three scrum steals and a pilfering performance at the line-out.
6. Matt Hodgson, Western Force
There wasn't a player in Super Rugby this weekend who completed more tackles than Western Force captain Matt Hodgson, who continues to lead by example in his outfit's back row.
As leader of one of the Southern Hemisphere's most in-form defensive units, Hodgson's 21-tackle total in Melbourne was strong even by Western Force standards of late, and he was unfortunate that it proved insufficient in the end.
7. Michael Hooper, Waratahs
Some of the Waratahs' backs may have stolen the headlines during a 19-12 win over the Bulls, but Wallaby prodigy Michael Hooper was the man stoking the fire of his franchise's superb efforts.
The openside continues to show an insatiable thirst with the ball in hand, and an intensity that not everyone who comes up against him can match. This weekend, it resulted in 67 metres being made with ball in hand and eight tackles, not to mention a big influence in Israel Folau's opening try.
8. Scott Higginbotham, Rebels
There wasn't a vast number of impressive No. 8 displays this weekend, but Scott Higginbotham gets the nod for scoring the Rebels' only try in their win over the Western Force.
Higginbotham forced two turnovers, as well as carrying on 14 occasions in an attempt to break down the strong-willed Force.
9. Nick Groom, Stormers
Nick Groom was taken off just 15 minutes into the second half of the Stormers' 18-3 win over the Lions, and from there it was clear to see just what an impact he had while in the team.
In 56 minutes of play, the scrum-half made two offloads, forced two turnovers and ran for 24 metres with ball in hand. After that, replacement Louis Schreuder was nowhere near as energetic in his distribution, carrying for just three metres and missing more tackles than his predecessor had managed in twice the amount of time.
10. Beauden Barrett, Hurricanes
Beauden Barrett is becoming something of a staple in our Team of the Week, and when the fly-half fires on all cylinders it tends to get a potentially devastating Hurricanes back line into fluid motion.
Barrett's 10 completed tackles was the third-highest tally of any player on the pitch as the 'Canes ran to victory over the Blues, but it was his three try assists and 14 points kicked from the boot that impressed most.
12. Alapati Leiua, Hurricanes
Continuing to show just how malleable he can be as a centre—not just coping in midfield but thriving in a more creative responsibility—Alapati Leiua was a highlight performer against the Blues.
After storming over for a 13th-minute opening try, Leiua finished his outing with three clean line breaks, beating four defenders, forcing two turnovers, carrying for 45 metres and not missing a single tackle.
All in all, one would agree that's an extremely clinical day's work.
13. Jean de Villiers, Stormers
Kyle Godwin once again brought the Western Force a keen defensive outlet at centre while Kurtley Beale starred in an offensive sense for the Waratahs, but Jean de Villiers returned to health to give the Stormers a very well-proportioned performance against the Lions.
Easing his way back into the team, De Villiers lined up in the No. 12 jersey but returns to outside centre in our line-up, having made seven tackles, 45 metres with ball in hand and generally impressing across all areas.
11. Julian Savea, Hurricanes
Another week, another stage on which Julian Savea grabs the bull by the horns before proceeding to wrestle that bull to the ground and help the Hurricanes to victory as a result.
The All Black youngster took little time in helping the Wellington hosts back into a lead after going in at the break 17-13 down to the Blues, scoring and then helping in the build-up to another try not long after.
Altogether, Savea's numbers speak volumes: he beat four defenders, grabbed two turnovers and made a couple of offloads against his New Zealand opponents.
14. Damian de Allende, Stormers
The Stormers' win over the Lions would have assuredly been far more difficult were it nor for the influence of Damian de Allende, who not only scored the game's opening try but then fed team-mate Nizaam Carr for a swift second five minutes later.
De Allende was strong in defence, having succeeded in all tackle attempts on Saturday, which isn't to mention the couple of clean breaks and handful of turnovers he made, too.
15. Israel Folau, Waratahs
Tom Marshall of the Chiefs was one glimmering light for his side this week, but Israel Folau's return to Super Rugby was confirmed as a success within 28 seconds of kick-off against the Bulls—something which can't be ignored in our Team of the Week.
The Wallaby unsurprisingly wasn't able to maintain such pace across 80 minutes, but his ability to be in the right place at the right time couldn't have been clearer, and he finished his match with 98 metres carried, three defenders beaten and an impressive four offloads.
All statistics come courtesy of ESPN Scrum.