The Rebels maintained their winning ways, the Brumbies and Reds crashed back to earth and the Waratahs had a bye.
Who stood out in round three?
1. Tetera Faulkner
The Rebels loosehead was solid if unspectacular on a weekend in which the Australian teams’ scrums were largely dominated by their New Zealand rivals. The Rebels held their own though, with Faulkner’s efforts helping them to a second successive win. Will be gearing up for a massive clash against the Brumbies and tighthead Allan Alaalatoa on Friday night.
2. Anaru Rangi
Helped the lineout function effectively, especially early as the Rebels put their stamp on the match. Busy in both attack and defence and dug in, in the second half as the Highlanders threatened to come back. Made 13m from six carries as he helped the Rebels across the advantage line with some bullocking runs.
3. Sam Talakai
Solid effort in the front row along with Faulkner and Rangi to maintain the Rebels’ edge in the scrum. Won an important ruck turnover with just over 10 minutes remaining as the Highlanders pushed deep inside Rebels territory and threatened to steal momentum.
4. Luke Jones
Jones continues to impress in his return from France, with his efforts helping the Rebels set up a strong lead. Was missed after being replaced at the 55-minute mark and while he is in a battle with Matt Philip to retain his place at lock once Adam Coleman returns to a fulltime role, he could earn extra minutes with a switch to the side of the scrum.
5. Matt Philip
It’s an all-Rebels line-up in the tight five in the team of the week and Philip continues to earn his stripes alongside Luke Jones. Was busy all game against the Highlanders with eight carries and 10 tackles and has made a strong argument to keep his position at lock once Adam Coleman is ready for a fulltime return to action, with could come this week against the Brumbies.
6. Pete Samu
In his first start for the Brumbies after two outings off the bench, the former Crusader was among the few standouts in a losing side, winning four turnovers as he worked tirelessly at the breakdown. With youngster Rob Valetini rested, Samu made the most of his opportunities and continues to impress. Will push for another starting berth against the Rebels this week in what looms as an intriguing clash between the packs.
7. David Pocock
He may have conceded a yellow card for an early tackle on TJ Perenara midway through the second half but Pocock was his usual busy self, making 15 tackles and working tirelessly at the breakdown in an attempt to arrest the Brumbies’ slide against the Hurricanes. After suffering a concussion in the opening minutes of the Brumbies’ round one clash against the Rebels and sitting out round two, the match was Pocock’s first real outing of the season and one he will be glad to have under his belt ahead of Friday’s derby against the Rebels.
8. Isi Naisarani
The Wallaby-in-waiting officially becomes eligible for Australian selection next month and is firming as a World Cup contender by the round. At 195cm and 110kg, Naisarani is a weapon with the ball in hand, something the Highlanders learnt first hand as they attempted to stop his constant raids. It is not only with the ball in hand that Naisarani makes his presence felt though and his defence in the closing stages as the visitors threatened to pinch the win, was outstanding.
9. Will Genia
Another solid game from the Wallabies veteran, who is thriving in partnership with Quade Cooper once again. The pair has picked up on coach Dave Wessels flat attacking system well and are starting to find the comfortable groove they exploited so successfully for the Reds.
10. Quade Cooper
Turned the game against the Highlanders midway through the first half, helping the Rebels back into the match after being guilty of pushing the play early on. A sublime catch-and-pass with his feet off the ground led to Jack Maddocks’ try and worked his outside men into the game well, leading to several tries.
11. Marika Koroibete
The rugby league convert was guilty of poor handling on several occasions, with his errors halting the Rebels’ raids early in the match. For much of the match it looked as though it just wasn’t Koroibete’s night but he saved himself – and the Rebels – with one outstanding play late in the second term. Scurrying back to cover a Highlanders kick close to his own line, Koroibete won the ball and managed to withstand the attention of his opponent until the cavalry arrived and the Rebels were able to get the ball safely into touch.
12. Billy Meakes
Great chase just after halftime to be in a position to swoop on a Quade Cooper kick that say up perfectly to allow him to score and extend the Rebels’ lead. Also combined with Cooper in defence late in the match to hold Thomas Umaga-Jensen up and win an important turnover for the Rebels as the Highlanders threatened to storm back into the match.
13. Tom English
Worked hard off the ball and was rewarded with two tries as he ran strong lines, covering plenty of ground to get to the play on the second occasions. just pips Reds captain samu Kerevi, who spent most of the match against the Crusaders at 13 after Jordan Petaia was injured early and scored just before the break to keep Queensland in the hunt.
14. Jack Maddocks
With Reece Hodge making his return from injury from the bench, the Rebels back were out to impress in order to keep their spots. the young gun did not disappoint, running a strong line to be in position to accept a quick pass from Quade Cooper as the Rebels mounted their first-half comeback against the Highlanders.
15. Dane Haylett-Petty
Another captain’s knock from Haylett-Petty, with 81m from 10 runs and a steadying hand at the back. Recognises the Rebels have a way to go despite racking up two-from-two to start the season, underlining the high standards the Rebels have set for themselves this year.