Round 3 of the Rugby Championship was completed over the weekend. It was a round where Argentina pushed the All Blacks until the bench and Beauden Barrett punctured and then burst the Pumas’ hopes. In the second game, Australia then ended their six game drought of wins with a light shower of form.
Our form team of the week is missing a few top performing regulars. Who made the cut?
15. Ben Smith
Ben Smith had an immaculate game against the Pumas. He was courageous in the air, made lethal insertions into backline, and scored two tries including one from 40-metres out. Head and shoulders and a few other body parts above the rest. Springbok full back Johan Goosen, for his part, ran in an impressive breakaway try for the Springboks as they made a short-lived bright start against the Wallabies.
14. Matais Moroni
A position which usually provides a lot of highlight reel footage was sadly lacking this round. We’ll pencil in Matias Moroni, who showed fierce determination in one four-tackle busting run which even featured a somersault.
13. Samu Kerevi
Kerevi has a lot of potential but is far from the finished article. He made the most running metres (115) out of all players in the South Africa clash, but also blew a certain try by carrying the ball his wrong hand as he crashed over the tryline.
12. Ryan Crotty
Crotty’s two try punch in the second half effectively killed off the Pumas’ challenge, striking up a strong combination with Barrett and running intelligent, well-timed lines. Bernard Foley pushed Crotty hard for this position with a more assured display against the Boks and signs are that his running game is returning.
11. Julian Savea
Edges Kerevi for the highest running metres of all players in round three (116) and was the storming, steaming menace of old with a try and five clean breaks.When Savea has form, he also has a lot of dexterous skills and agility, and the return of these aspects to his game will round off his renaissance. Edges the talented firefly Santiago Cordero who, like Savea, had a busy game and scored a try.
10. Beauden Barrett
Most players would be happy to have a career highlight reel which matched Barrett’s spectacular 2016 season. Has a freakish ability to anticipate the bounce of the rugby ball and his dominance of the early part of the second half was riveting entertainment. Leads in the categories of points and defenders beaten so far in the Championship.
9. Will Genia
Genia is the one returning Wallaby from Europe whose place cannot be questioned. Easily the most impressive Wallaby so far in the Championship, he has held the Wallabies team together and rediscovered the pace of earlier seasons. Other usual suspects Aaron Smith and Martin Landajo had quiet games.
8. Facundo Isa
For two weeks, young buck Isa has outplayed his illustrious rivals including Kieran Read. The All Blacks had done their homework on Isa and negated most of his explosive power, but he still made a lot of metres.
7. Michael Hooper
A relatively poor showing from the flankers this week. Hooper’s game-high thirteen tackles, support and speed to the breakdown edges the rest, although Sam Cane’s contributions were limited by injury.
6. Jerome Kaino
Another brutish game by the big blindside flanker. Stopped the momentum of the Puma’s offloading game with 12 crunching tackles and provided some storming carries to give the All Black blacks some front foot ball. Has made the most metres out of any forward in the three rounds of the Championship.
5. Adam Coleman
Scored his first try for the Wallabies and seems to have that bit of mongrel that could help the confidence return to the team. Sam Whitelock played another hard man defensive game for the All Blacks, and leads all players for number of tackles in the Championship.
4. Brodie Retallick
Plays more like a link than a lock but adds a unique dimension to the tight play with strong running as well as astute and accurate passing. Oh, and the odd lineout win.
3. Ramiro Herrera
Part of an Argentinian front row who were hugely impressive in the first half against the All Blacks. Solid, if not dominating the scrum and tireless support play around the field.
2. Agustin Creevy
A huge game by the Argentinian captain, easily outshining Dane Coles. Had the most carries out of any Round three player (15), despite being subbed relatively early in the second half. Was a handful to tackle and when the Argentinians had the energy to implement their ‘attack the fringes’ gameplan, Creevy lead from the front. It was no coincidence that the Pumas morale disintegrated when he left the field. The Springboks’ captain Adrian Strauss also had a strong game, including a try-making intercept.
1. Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
A bustling, highly involved game including 13 carries and made a couple of busts through the middle which rocked the All Blacks in the first half.
Team breakdown: New Zealand 6 players, Argentina 5, Australia 4, South Africa 0.
(Additional statistics from nzherald.co.nz and espn.co.uk/rugby)
Kaal Kaczmarek, Pundit Arena