Nigel Yalden: Team of the Quarter Finals

Author
Nigel Yalden,
Publish Date
Tue, 24 Jul 2018, 4:46PM
Gareth Evans was the Forward of the Week. (Photo / Getty)
Gareth Evans was the Forward of the Week. (Photo / Getty)

Nigel Yalden: Team of the Quarter Finals

Author
Nigel Yalden,
Publish Date
Tue, 24 Jul 2018, 4:46PM

New Zealand’s involvement in the Super Rugby playoffs was halved in the quarter-finals as the Crusaders showed their title pedigree … again, the Hurricanes found some lost mojo to better the Chiefs while the Highlanders squandered a 17 point to lead to get rolled in Sydney.  It is against that back drop that Radio Sport Rugby Editor Nigel Yalden has compiled his NZ Team of the Quarter-Finals:

1) Daniel Lienert-Brown (Highlanders) had an excellent involvement in Sydney Saturday night; he tackled, supported and cleaned out accurately and was strong in his core roles at scrum and lineout time

2) Ricky Riccitelli (Hurricanes) is a busy wee critter on the rugby field, with and without the ball.  He just seemed to be everywhere, whether it was carrying the ball himself or supporting his team mates on their carries and being defensively staunch.  He was also part of a much improved Canes effort in the scrums and lineouts

3) Owen Franks (Crusaders) was … well he was Owen Franks.  A very good effort in his 100th Super Rugby game by Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen (Hurricanes) as well  

4) Michael Fatialofa (Hurricanes) was tireless on Friday night.  He made excellent lineout call including calling his own number frequently, tackled like a man possessed (game high 19) and generally muscled up in all aspects of the physical battle

5) An excellent all round performance from Scott Barrett (Crusaders) with and without the ball including the snaffling of two turnovers; he was active, accurate and robust as usual

6) Lachlan Boshier (Chiefs) did not stop from first whistle to last.  His involvement in the loose forward battle was second only the next bloke you’ll read about.  Boshier was about as accurate as you could get on a rugby field and the last minute try was a fitting reward for his unwavering effort on the night

7) Gareth Evans (Hurricanes) was the Forward of the Week for me.  He outshone the All Blacks incumbent, and quite considerable I might add, and was a constant presence whenever and wherever the ball went to ground.  If Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd sticks with Evans at openside this weekend, we are in for a treat because Matt Todd (Crusaders) wasn’t far behind Evans in terms of his performance against the Sharks the following night

8) Kieran Read (Crusaders) is looking really sharp, really keen and really accurate in what he’s done since his return from the long term back injury. The Crusaders are benefiting now but I suspect the All Blacks selectors will be the ones smiling the most in a months’ time

9) Bryn Hall (Crusaders), in tandem with his old mate at first five, was calm and controlling on Saturday night as the competition favourites methodically ground their South African opposition down.  Yes he has a great platform to work off, but he’s utilising said platform to the fullest of his ability

10) Another good night at the wheel of the Crusaders machine for Richie Mo’unga (Crusaders)  Like his halfback running mate, Mo’unga is taking full advantage of an excellent Crusaders pack to showcase his array of talents. 

11) Ben Lam (Hurricanes) looked more like the Ben Lam of earlier in the season.  His involvement was much higher with the ball, defended really well and even got a turn over.  The bloke on the opposite side Friday night Shaun Stevenson (Chiefs) had an excellent contribution in a losing effort.

12) Can’t deny it folks; I’m really struggling with this one.  Ngani Laumape (Hurricanes) defence provide some key moments against the Chiefs including two really timely turnovers.  On the hand, Ryan Crotty (Crusaders) broke the game open early with incisive running and was his typical high quality, reliable self throughout the contest.  I’m going with Laumape on the basis that “defence wins championship” but could very easily be convinced to flip flop – Backs of the Week

13) Anton Lienert-Brown (Chiefs) just edges Rob Thompson (Highlanders); both very willing ball carriers (ALB 17 times, Thompson 18 carries) both excellent defensively (ALB 10 tackles, Thompson 12 with two misses a piece) as well however Lienert-Brown has better ball security and affected two turnovers to earn selection

14) I have chopped and changed between Julian Savea (Hurricanes) and Waisake Naholo (Highlanders) through two viewings of each game and I think that largely because I’m finding it hard to look past the significance of the yellow card issued to Naholo.  Yellow card aside, Naholo was one of the best Highlander on the park but …

15) Solomon Alaimalo (Chiefs) had a couple of lovely moments in another top all round effort in Wellington.  This young man has All Black written all over him and it’s now a case of when not if.  I’d love to see him taken on the Japanese leg of this year’s End of Year tour and given 20 minutes off the bench against the Brave Blossom, if the situation in that test match were to allowed it

Selection criteria: Must play for a NZ franchise but does not have to be eligible for All Blacks

NIGEL YALDEN IS RUGBY EDITOR FOR RADIO SPORT & NEWSTALK ZB

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