Best XV from Second Weekend of Rugby Championship
The second week of The Rugby Championship served up a pair of thrilling matches.
In Auckland, the All Blacks decimated Australia with a devastating display of fast, flowing rugby. In Salta, South Africa snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against Argentina.
There were plenty of stellar displays in both games from which to assemble the team of the week.
Smith hit the wide channels with excellent timing when New Zealand attacked, making swift passes either way to players who could exploit the space.
Honourable mention to Argentina’s Joaquin Tuculet who scored a fine try and featured heavily as an attacking threat for the Pumas.
The hulking Argentine youngster has an eye-catching strike rate in international rugby, but many of those tries came against substandard national sides. Now he has proved he can do it against the Tier 1 countries, having scored the Pumas’ first try in what turned out to be a heartbreaking defeat for the South Americans.
The big wing was on hand to accept Aaron Cruden’s overhead pass and skate away for a try that buried Australia before half-time. He was a menace every time he got the ball.
Crotty had only a half to show what he could do in the All Blacks' No. 12 jersey. He was kept off after the break by a cheek injury, but in that first 40 minutes he showcased all his attributes to a high standard. Crotty carried with purpose, passed with accuracy and looked every inch a settled performer at this level, coping well with the outrageous tempo set by New Zealand and playing a major part in their dominance.
Smith was his usual perfect self for the All Blacks. He used the ball well, carried it effectively and made good decisions at all times. He will have tougher days at the office than this, such was the time and space the All Blacks backs enjoyed, but he still oozed class.
The most impressive thing about New Zealand’s performance was the tempo they played at. This was foot-to-the-floor stuff for much of the 80 minutes, and the man in the No. 9 jersey was responsible for that furious pace. A fantastic display from the Highlanders' man.
Cruden gave one of his best displays in a black jersey against Australia. The fly-half kicked, passed and ran at the right moments and unleashed his strike runners into the holes either side of him where they could punch holes through the Wallaby rearguard.
If any Wallaby matched the All Blacks for desire and intensity in Auckland it was the Australian captain. Hooper worked his socks off to attempt to repel the black waves of attack and deserved his superbly–taken try.
South Africa had to absorb a lot of pressure from Argentina, and the fact they came away with a win was in no small part down to the defensive work done by Francois Louw. His 12 tackles were the most of any player, and crucial too.
Read was close to his best after a Super Rugby year interrupted by concussions. The IRB Player of the Year was all over the park, looking for turnovers, linking play and running superb support lines. A well-deserved try capped a fine performance. Honourable mention to Juan Manuel Leguizamon for an industrious display in Salta.
The Argentina lock was strong in the lineout and matched fire with fire in the combat around the field with the abrasive Springboks. He's a solid operator who is proving he's world class in this tournament.
Retallick was the player of the round. He covered every blade of grass in Auckland, making enormous tackles at every opportunity. He played several key roles during the match outside his tackling.
He charged over the line with four Wallabies on his back only to be denied by the video official, then forced the turnover that led to Julian Savea’s try.
When the Australians switched kick off tactics, he was the man under their redirected restart. Throughout the game he made offloads and chose when to put his head down and run at the right times. It was the most complete second-row performance we have seen for many years.
One of the features of New Zealand’s scintillating display in Round 2 was the ball-handling in midfield from their tight forwards. They shifted it left and right and created room for the faster players outside them. Crocket was often involved in these passages.
He also led the drive from New Zealand’s loose head side of the scrum that battered the Wallaby pack in two successive scrums in the first half. Quite a turnaround from the yellow card that ended his involvement early seven days previous.
Argentina pride themselves on their forward prowess, and channel that mainly into their scrum, using the hooker as the focal point of their drive. Captain Creevy led the way in the No. 2 jersey against the Springboks, taking four scrums against the head in Salta. When was the last time a South African pack got turned over that many times in a Test?
Franks helped wreak havoc on the Wallaby scrum, turning in another strong performance in the loose. He needs to have a word with his brother Ben, who replaced him and promptly got a yellow card.
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