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NPC Team of the Tournament

OPINION: Two very different finals between the divisions with an exciting blowout in the first and a brutal tussle in the second.


Waikato outplayed and outran Otago getting revenge over the Ranfurly Shield loss with promotion to the Premiership next year.

Breakthrough Player of the Season Quinn Tupaea of Waikato put in a man of the match performance scoring a try and setting up two more, while beating 6 defenders, making 9 tackles, winning a turnover and making not one single mistake.

Waikato not only attacked better, with more penetration and purpose, but also defended more resolutely, winning the contact and the battle at the breakdown.

But the biggest difference was the amount of mistakes Otago made in their backline, losing possession 17 as opposed to Waikato’s 7.

Right from the start, Waikato looked better and after a Sevu Reece try never relinquished the lead or even momentum, with their visitors only scoring in two short bursts.

Waikato eventually put Otago out of their misery, 36-13, in the very one-sided affair.


In front of an impressive crowd of non-paying supporters in terrible conditions, Auckland hosted Canterbury in the Premiership final.

Canterbury looked the much better team for much of the match.

Every time Auckland got close, Canterbury pulled away.

They had got their lead off a penalty try when Akira Ioane (otherwise excellent) went into the side of a maul, bringing it down and earning himself a 10-minute break.


Billy Harmon returned the favour with an awkward tackle getting himself some time off.

With 20 minutes remaining and a wide gap between the teams, Auckland stepped up a gear, stunning Canterbury with converted tries to Jordan Trainor and replacement Caleb Clarke.

The buzzer sounded and both teams looked out on their feet with the score was locked 26 all.

Auckland were 10 metres out and huffing and puffing, but Canterbury’s house was made of bricks.

The visitors won a turnover and swung it wide but the pass to the winger was high and went into touch, forcing extra time.

In extra time, Auckland attacked but couldn’t convert and then Canterbury attacked, missing a long penalty but getting a 5-metre scrum directly from a difficult bounce off the post.

They went through the phases and finally replacement Colonel Sanders dove over.

Auckland then went onto attack and after what felt like days, Mike Feagai drove over to even up the scores at the end of the first half of extra time.

After a fantastic run by Melani Nanai, Leon Fukofuka went around under the posts to put Auckland up with 6 minutes remaining.

Canadian Evan Olmstead, 95 minutes in, won a turnover penalty which would seal the match but Harry Plummer pulled it to the left in the pouring rain.

Canterbury made an incredible 208 tackles, but missed one too many, with Auckland ending their visitors long run, to take the title 40-33.


Team of the Season

15 – George Bridge (Canterbury):
Very comfortable under the high ball, a long clearance kick and exciting counter-attacking skills. All that you would want from a New Zealand fullback. In a tight final, Bridge ran almost triple the metres of anyone else in his team.
Big seasons from Jamie-Jerry Taulagi (Hawkes’ Bay), Wes Goosen (Wellington) and Shaun Stephenson (North Harbour).
Bubbling Under: Will Jordan (Tasman)

14 – Mitchell Scott (Otago):
Scott is such a tricky runner with a turn of pace and step to fool even the best of defenders.
Special mention to Regan Ware (Taranaki).
Bubbling Under: Melani Nanai (Auckland)

13 – Rob Thompson (Manawatu):
If he wasn’t stuck in such an underperforming team he might well be in Japan right now.
This was the most difficult position to choose as Rene Ranger (Northland), Braydon Ennor (Canterbury) and Levi Aumua (Tasman) were also excellent. Tupaea edges the backup spot due to an incredible final’s performance.
Bubbling Under: Quinn Tupaea (Waikato)

12 – Tinoai Faiane (Auckland):
TJ has a knack for setting up tries. His defence has improved drastically from last year and he is finding gaps in defences. Will be interesting to see how he does for the Blues next season under the tutelage of Leon MacDonald and Tana Umaga.
Special mention to the experienced Dwayne Sweeney (Waikato).
Bubbling Under: Thomas Umaga-Jensen (Wellington)

11 – Sevu Reece (Waikato):
Player of the Season
by some distance. A quad in the semi and double in the final sealed an amazing season. Reece had the best scoring record in a single season (14 tries) overtaking Zac Guildford (13) in 2009..
Bubbling Under: Jona Nareki (Otago)

10 – Mitch Hunt (Tasman):
Hunt had such a calm head and directed his team with aplomb even when under heavy pressure. He also had a solid kicking season.
Special mention to Josh Ioane (Otago) and Jack Debreczeni (Northland).
Bubbling Under: Fletcher Smith (Waikato)

9 – Mitchell Drummond (Canterbury):
Came into his own late in the season and was a big part of Canterbury making the final away from home.
Special mention to Richard Judd (Bay of Plenty) and Finlay Christie (Tasman).
Bubbling Under: Brad Weber (Hawkes’ Bay)

8 – Akira Ioane (Auckland):
Ioane has always been a devastating ball carrier but this season he has upped his workrate on defence and become a menace at the breakdown too.
Bubbling Under: Dylan Nel (Otago)

7 – Mitchell Jacobson (Waikato):
Waikato’s breakdown was noticeably weaker without the older Jacobson brother. Especially when the younger brother was out for the whole season.
Special mention to Dillon Hunt (North Harbour).
Bubbling Under: Mitch Karpik (Bay of Plenty)

6 – Dalton Papali’i (Auckland):
Was a huge influence at both blindside and openside for Auckland and fully deserved his All Blacks call up.
Bubbling Under: Ethan Blackadder (Tasman)

5 – James Tucker (Waikato):
Was a standout in all facets of lock play and when he shifted to blindside late in the season he was certainly no slouch there either.
Bubbling Under: Paripari Parkinson (Tasman)

4 – Luke Romano (Canterbury):
The veteran had a season reminiscent of his peak All Blacks days and has been rewarded with another shot at the big time.
Bubbling Under: Kane Laupepe (Bay of Plenty)

3 – Marcel Renata (Auckland):
A big workrate on both attack and defence, combined with solid scrumming. Renata ticks all the boxes.
Special mention to Angus Ta’avao who was brilliant for the first few rounds before being called up to the All Blacks.
Bubbling Under:
Josh Iosefa-Scott (Waikato)

2 – Andrew Makalio (Tasman):
Very strong all around performer, with a knack for hitting the line hard. His improvements at set piece have been noticeable this year.
Special mention to Ash Dixon (Hawke’s Bay), James Parsons (North Harbour) and Asafo Aumua (Wellington).
Bubbling Under: Samisoni Taukei’aho (Waikato)

1 – Wyatt Crockett (Tasman):
The best scrummager in the competition by a country mile. Best Forward of the Season.
Bubbling Under: Sam Prattley (Auckland)


Team of the Week – Round Ten: 15 Michael Collins (Otago), 14 Mitchell Scott (Otago), 13 Rene Ranger (Northland), 12 Tinoai Faiane (Auckland), 11 Sevu Reece (Waikato), 10 Jack Debreczeni (Northland), 9 Mitchell Drummond (Canterbury), 8 Akira Ioane (Auckland), 7 Billy Harmon (Canterbury), 6 Reed Prinsep (Canterbury), 5 Paripari Parkinson (Tasman), 4 Luke Romano (Canterbury), 3 Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen (Wellington), 2 Samisoni Taukei’aho (Waikato), 1 Wyatt Crockett (Tasman).

Team of the Week – Round Nine: 15 Shaun Stevenson (North Harbour), 14 Mark Talea (North Harbour), 13 Tamati Tua (Northland), 12 Ngani Laumape (Manawatu), 11 Malo Tuitama (Wellington), 10 Mitch Hunt (Tasman), 9 Warwick Lahmert (Taranaki), 8 Akira Ioane (Auckland), 7 Antonio Kirikiri (Manawatu), 6 Devan Flanders (Hawkes’ Bay), 5 Maanaki Selby-Rickit (Southland), 4 Kane Laupepe (Bay of Plenty), 3 Tyrel Lomax (Tasman), 2 Asafo Aumua (Wellington), 1 Wyatt Crockett (Tasman).

Team of the Week – Round Eight: 15 Will Jordan (Tasman), 14 Tyler Campbell (Waikato), 13 Braydon Ennor (Canterbury), 12 Quinn Tupaea (Waikato), 11 Sevu Reece (Waikato), 10 Mitch Hunt (Tasman), 9 Mitchell Drummond (Canterbury), 8 Dylan Nel (Otago), 7 Dillon Hunt (North Harbour):, 6 James Tucker (Waikato), 5 Kane Laupepe (Bay of Plenty), 4 Luke Romano (Canterbury), 3 Marcel Renata (Auckland), 2 Asafo Aumua (Wellington), 1 Wyatt Crockett (Tasman).

Team of the Week – Round Seven: 15 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi (Hawkes’ Bay), 14 Regan Ware (Taranaki), 13 Braydon Ennor (Canterbury), 12 Dwayne Sweeney (Waikato), 11 Tevita Li (North Harbour), 10 Mitch Hunt (Tasman), 9 Jamie Booth (Manawatu), 8 Marino Mikaele Tu’u (Hawkes’ Bay), 7 Dillon Hunt (North Harbour), 6 Billy Harmon (Canterbury), 5 James Tucker (Waikato), 4 Tom Parsons (Hawkes’ Bay), 3 Josh Iosefa-Scott (Waikato),  2 Andrew Makalio (Tasman), 1 Wyatt Crockett (Tasman).

Team of the Week – Round Six: 15 George Bridge (Canterbury), 14 Matt Duffie (North Harbour), 13 Levi Aumua (Tasman), 12 Scott Gregory (Northland), 11 Ben Lam (Wellington), 10 Mitch Hunt (Tasman), 9 Finlay Christie (Tasman), 8 Thomas Waldrom (Wellington), 7 Mitchell Jacobson (Waikato), 6 Pita Sowakula (Taranaki), 5 James Tucker (Waikato), 4 James Blackwell (Wellington), 3 Marcel Renata (Auckland),  2 James Parsons (North Harbour), 1 Wyatt Crockett (Tasman).

Team of the Week – Round Five: 15 Wes Goosen (Wellington), 14 Mitchell Scott (Otago), 13 Matt Faddes (Otago), 12 Tinoai Faiane (Auckland), 11 Sevu Reece (Waikato), 10 Fletcher Smith (Waikato), 9 Jono Kitto (Northland), 8 Dylan Nel (Otago), 7 Dalton Papali’i (Auckland), 6 Vaea Fifita (Wellington), 5 Paripari Parkinson (Tasman), 4 Ben Fotheringham (Southland), 3 Josh Iosefa-Scott (Waikato),  2 James Parsons (North Harbour), 1 Wyatt Crockett (Tasman).

Team of the Week – Round Four: 15 Wes Goosen (Wellington), 14 Nigel Ah Wong (Counties Manukau), 13 Rob Thompson (Manawatu), 12 Dwayne Sweeney (Waikato), 11 Sevu Reece (Waikato), 10 Fletcher Smith (Waikato), 9 Brad Weber (Hawkes’ Bay), 8 Dylan Nel (Otago), 7 Mitchell Jacobson (Waikato), 6 Mitchell Crosswell (Taranaki), 5 Mitchell Dunshea (Canterbury), 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (Auckland), 3 Kalolo Tuiloma (Counties Manukau),  2 Robbie Abel (Auckland), 1 Sam Prattley (Auckland).

Team of the Week – Round Three: 15 Wes Goosen (Wellington), 14 Ben Lam (Wellington), 13 Rob Thompson (Manawatu), 12 Teihorangi Walden (Taranaki), 11 Jona Nareki (Otago), 10 Mitch Hunt (Tasman), 9 Te Toirua Tahuriorangi (Taranaki), 8 Akira Ioane (Auckland), 7 Mitch Karpik (Bay of Plenty), 6 Dalton Papali’i (Auckland), 5 Jack Whetton (Auckland), 4 Luke Romano (Canterbury), 3 Angus Ta’avao (Taranaki),  2 Asafo Aumua (Wellington), 1 Reuben O’Neill (Taranaki).

Team of the Week – Round Two: 15 Will Jordan (Tasman), 14 Melani Nanai (Auckland), 13 Rob Thompson (Manawatu), 12 Thomas Umaga-Jensen (Wellington), 11 Manasa Mataele (Taranaki), 10 Matthew Lansdown (Waikato), 9 Brad Weber (Hawkes’ Bay), 8 Sam Henwood (Counties Manukau), 7 Mitch Karpik (Bay of Plenty), 6 Liam Mitchell (Manawatu), 5 Ben Nee Nee (North Harbour), 4 Luke Romano (Canterbury), 3 Angus Ta’avao (Taranaki),  2 Ash Dixon (Hawkes’ Bay), 1 Ross Wright (Northland).

Team of the Week – Round One: 15 Shaun Stephenson (North Harbour), 14 Seta Tamanivalu (Taranaki), 13 Levi Aumua (Tasman), 12 Matthew Johnson (Southland), 11 Rene Ranger (Northland), 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop (Wellington), 9 Richard Judd (Bay of Plenty), 8 Akira Ioane (Auckland), 7 Lachlan Boshier (Taranaki), 6 Ethan Blackadder (Tasman), 5 Aaron Carroll (Bay of Plenty), 4 Quinton Strange (Tasman), 3 Marco Fepulea’i (Auckland), 2 Andrew Makalio (Tasman), 1 Wyatt Crockett (Tasman).

By Richard Neal

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