Heroes and leaders, the first round of the RE Super Cup was full of both, as Semi Kunatani and Joachim Pierart helped their sides to earn hard fought wins in the opening weekend of the competition. We go to the stats and why each selected “hero” deserves credit for those.
Top Stats of Round 1
- Kefentse Mahlo was the main runner of Round 1, finishing with an astonishing 176 metres made in his Super Cup debut. “Lobos” sensation Manuel Cardoso Pinto finished in close second (167), and Semi Kunatani in third.
- What an entrance by Matt More, as the Tel Aviv Heat winger scored three tries in his third game for the Israeli Franchise. Teammate Semi Kunati also finished with a brace, as Romanian Wolves Kefentse Mahlo, Paul Popoaia, Jacob Immelman and Levan Papidze.
- Young stalwart Mike Hansen was the top tackler of Round 1, taking thirteen foes down (100% accuracy), one more than Bohemia Warrior Krystof Zeman. David Wallis closes the top-3 in third after successfully clinching eleven tackles
Luka Matkava (Black Lion)
The Georgian fly-half started the 2023 Super Cup with a bang (or a couple of them), helping the Black Lion earn a win against the Castilla y León Iberians. The 22-year-old scored a stunning try for his side and helped to build two more, tearing up gaps in the Spanish line, finishing with one clean break and eight defenders beaten.
His in-game kicking also proved vital to keep the Iberians at bay, using the high kick to apply pressure throughout, that made the Spanish backs uneasy and unable to mount any effective counter-attacks. Matkava did as everybody expected, leading the Black Lion attack from the get-go and adding fourteen points to his name.
Semi Kunatani (Tel-Aviv Heat)
We started this Round 1 Standouts piece talking about heroes, and there was no bigger hero last weekend than Semi Kunatani. The physical loose forward was sensational for the Heat, running, carrying, and pushing forward continuously, finding solutions for his side when they were under pressure.
His break from an own 22-meter ruck to slice open the Portuguese defence and help Matt More score his first try proved to be critical for the Israeli side's victory. The 33-year-old scored a brace of tries in the second half, creating serious problems for the Lusitanos, and was imperial in his tackling duties, helping the Tel-Aviv Heat to get a precious 5 points out of their visit to Lisbon.
Joachim Pierart (Brussels Devils)
What a shift from the Devils forward pack, scoring five out of the seven tries for the Belgian franchise and winning the arm-wrestle in the Low Countries Derby. So, it is only fitting that our MVP pick is Joachim Pierart, as the Belgian international was like clockwork for his team, finishing with a 90% accuracy rate in the lineout throws, guiding the maul to score a try. The Brussels Devils front-row was relentless, and Pierart's work was key to guiding them towards an important win, providing a steady platform that ultimately broke Delta. The front row can sometimes be forgotten, but Joachim Pierart's efforts deserve to be highlighted and praised, as it was the pack who made the difference.
Paul Popoaia (Romania Wolves)
Almost 100% goal-kicking accuracy, two tries, several clean breaks, and a symphony that helped the Romanian Wolves land their biggest all-time win in the Rugby Europe SuperCup. Paul Popoaia, who missed the Rugby World Cup due to an injury, came back in the best possible manner, exerting influence in how the Romanian franchise operated against the Bohemia Rugby Warriors, with an overhaul of threatening kicks and handling tricks, opening gaps in the Czech block. The fullback scored 26 points in this first round and finished at the top of the Top Point Scorers Board, but was also the top try assisting player with two key passes.
This weekend’s matches will be on rugbyeurope.tv and on FloRugby in North America.
By Fransisco Isaac