After another excellent Mitre 10 Cup season, it is time to select our team of the competition. There were some tough decisions to make here as the standard of play was nothing short of brilliant. There were as many as four standout performers to choose from in each position, especially among the backs. After some careful deliberation, and plenty of soul searching, here is your Mitre 10 Cup Team of the Season.
15. Matt Duffie – North Harbour
Justly rewarded with a call-up to the All Blacks squad, Matt Duffie was a star performer for North Harbour this season. Brilliant on the counter-attack, solid under the high ball, and a superb finisher, Duffie added a calmness and creativity to provide opportunities for his potent wingers Shaun Stevenson and Tevita Li. George Bridge deserves a special mention as he has was great for Canterbury, while Tim Nanai-Williams of Counties Manukau also stood out.
14. Braydon Ennor – Canterbury
The young Canterbury centre slotted in well on the wing this season. He showed power, skill, pace and some deadly finishing, which saw him tally ten tries, second overall in the try-scoring charts. Ennor, just edges Bay of Plenty speedster Joe Webber who showed his class with some remarkable tries this season. Wellington utility back Wes Goosen also pushed Ennor close for this position.
13. Tim Bateman – Canterbury
What an outstanding season from the Canterbury vice-captain, who finished off the year with a nine-try haul. Bateman was integral to Canterbury’s success this year as he was always creating space for his outside backs, scoring crucial tries, and putting in his fair share of hits in defence. He took over the captaincy when Luke Whitelock succumbed to injury and led his team well. Special mentions for Bay of Plenty’s Lalakai Foketi and Taranaki’s Seta Tamanivalu who were both impressive for their respective teams.
12. Jack Goodhue – Northland
Another rookie All Black tourist, Goodhue was at the heart of everything good about Northland this year. Solid on defence, a good distributor, and an elusive runner, he provided stability in the Northland back line. With the way he played in 2017 it is no wonder that Steve Hansen came calling. Pushed close by Matt Vaega of North Harbour who also had a stellar season.
11. Tevita Li – North Harbour
Back to his best, Tevita Li put in performances that were reminiscent of when he burst onto the scene a couple of years ago. Deadly finishing and an abundance of pace saw him finish the season as top try scorer in the entire competition with 11 to his name. The 22-year-old was very good, but he was closely followed by Otago winger Jona Nareki who also scored some memorable tries and was rewarded with selection for the All Blacks Sevens squad.
10. Richie Mo’unga – Canterbury
Undoubtedly the best fly-half in this year’s competition. Mo’unga gave a masterclass for Canterbury with his dazzling footwork, pace, creativity, and physicality. He carried on from where he left off in Super Rugby and was the driving force behind the Canterbury machine. He has received Steve Hansen’s attention on the back of his performances and it won’t be long before we see him in a black jersey. Stephen Perofeta of Taranaki and Jackson Garden-Bachop of Wellington had good campaigns and should look forward to playing Super Rugby next year where they can continue to enhance their games.
9. Mitchell Drummond – Canterbury
The nuggety Canterbury scrum-half had a standout season. He controlled the game, distributed well, and formed a formidable halfback partnership with Mo’unga. If Drummond keeps performing to this level, then he could conceivably push his way into contention for the soon to be vacant third no. 9 spot in the All Blacks squad. This has historically been a tough claim to make given the quality of scrum-halves in New Zealand, but Drummond is on the right path.
8. Jordan Taufua – Tasman
Bruising Jordan Taufua showed his mettle and experience from Super Rugby as he was a consistent performer for Tasman. Dominant in contact and with a high work-rate, he was a standout performer for the Makos. Pushed close by Taranaki’s Toa Halafihi and Canterbury’s Luke Whitelock.
7. Lachlan Boshier – Taranaki
Boshier had a wonderful 2017 season. A menace at the breakdown with outstanding pilfering ability, huge work-rate, and dogged determination in defence are some of the hallmarks of Boshier’s game. Chiefs fans will be delighted to have him on board for the coming Super Rugby season.
6. Tom Sanders – Canterbury
Big, strong, physical, dynamic and ruthless in contact, Tom Sanders was immense for Canterbury, swatting off defenders like flies and always making gain line metres. He provided a lot of front foot ball for the Canterbury backs and will be a huge loss for the Chiefs in next year’s Super Rugby as he moves on to play for the Crusaders.
5. Dominic Bird – Canterbury
Bird performed as expected for a player of his calibre. He forced his way into Steve Hansen’s touring squad, albeit temporarily on the back of a big year. He was a talisman for Canterbury this year scoring tries and getting around the park surprisingly well for a man of his (2.06m, 247kg) dimensions.
4. Alex Ainley – Tasman
The Tasman captain led from the front and performed his primary roles almost to perfection. Did a lot of the dirty work and was an integral member of the Tasman engine room that performed so well to provide the back line with a good platform to attack from. The veteran got on with his job, which is what you expect from a classy lock.
3. Alex Fidow – Wellington
It’s not often that you see a tighthead prop competing with backline players in the try-scoring charts. The young Wellington player showed a skill set that doesn’t fit in with his position and age. His solid handling, good line running and a nose for a score, were the hallmarks of what made him so good this year. The 20-year-old was no slouch in the tight exchanges either and he scrummaged well. Given more time we will surely see him donning the black jersey.
2. Asafo Aumua – Wellington
The walking highlight reel that is Asafo Aumua was, much like his partner in crime Alex Fidow superb this season. He showed us pace, power, aggression and huge physicality in every game. It is hard to believe he is only 20-years-old. His name was on everybody’s lips this season and he stormed his way into Steve Hansen’s All Blacks squad. He scored an impressive seven tries during the Mitre 10 Cup and definitely gets the nod at hooker.
1. Tim Perry – Tasman
Consistent and composed, Tim Perry was a great performer for the Makos this season. Called into the All Blacks squad to provide cover, he showed his mettle and scrummaged well for the Makos to provide the platform for them to launch their dangerous backs. Now he gets a chance to establish himself on the November tour.
Did we miss anyone obvious on our list? Let us know in the comment’s section!
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