Schmidt’s List: Reds’ Wallabies duo make big impact while the ‘Junkyard Dog’ shows he’s not a flash in the pan

David Skippers
Schmidt's List image 6 May 2024.jpg

Fraser McReight and Tim "The Junkyard Dog" Ryan of the Reds, and Len Ikitau of the Brumbies.

In our second instalment of Schmidt’s List, we discuss selection prospects and topics that Wallabies head coach Joe Schmidt could be considering after the weekend’s games.

There was plenty of thrilling action during Round 11 of Super Rugby Pacific and although it was not a great weekend for Australian teams – with only the Reds and Brumbies being victorious – there were some players who caught the eye with outstanding individual performances which would have made a positive impression on Schmidt.

Andrew Kellaway shines in losing cause

In Melbourne, the Rebels were comprehensively outplayed en route to a 38-11 defeat against the Blues but utility back Kellaway was arguably the home side’s best performer as he came to the fore with a superb all-round display.

The 28-year-old, who is equally at home at full-back, centre or wing, was wearing the number 15 jersey during this encounter and shone in the execution of his core duties as he was solid when dealing with up-and-unders and put in a brave defensive display and eventually made nine tackles, while also testing the Blues’ defence as he finished with 49 metres gained after completing 11 runs which included six defenders beaten and three offloads.

The ‘Junkyard Dog’ is no flash in the pan

After announcing himself to the rugby world with an outstanding performance in a losing cause against the Blues in Round 10, there was plenty of pressure on Tim Ryan to deliver similar heroics against the Crusaders.

The big difference was that he scored his well-taken hat-trick in front of his home crowd at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane while he was in hostile surroundings in Christchurch this past weekend.

Despite that, the 20-year-old, who was making only his second appearance in the Reds’ starting line-up, was not fazed at all and took the fight to the defending champions.

Known as the “Junkyard Dog” due to his fighting spirit, the youngster played a leading role in his team’s triumph as he crossed for two well-taken tries which means he has now crossed the whitewash on five occasions and is just four adrift of Super Rugby Pacific’s leading try-scorers.

Harry Wilson’s fine form continues

As mentioned last week, the hard running Reds number eight was deemed surplus to requirements by former Wallabies head coach Eddie Jones in 2023 but if he continues on his current trajectory Schmidt will be forced to recall him for Australia’s international campaign this year.

The Reds registered a momentous 33-28 victory over the Crusaders, which was their first away triumph over the perennial Super Rugby champions since 1999, and Wilson was at the forefront of the Brisbane-based outfit’s onslaught.

The 24-year-old shone as a ball carrier and was rewarded with a try for his efforts but also made his mark on defence with 16 hits and if he continues with his current form he will be back in the Wallabies’ set-up for their mid-year Tests against Wales and Georgia.

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Fraser McReight back with a bang

After missing the Reds’ recent matches against the Highlanders and Blues due to suspension after he was red carded in their Round Eight defeat to Moana Pasifika, Wallabies openside flanker McReight returned to action in Christchurch and was one of the star performers against the Crusaders.

The 25-year-old’s return was a real shot in the arm for Les Kiss’ team as he hit the ground running with an outstanding all-action performance. McReight was a willing ball carrier throughout his 67-minute stint on the field and scored a deserved try.

He also shone on defence and finished the game with a match-high 22 tackles. However, it’s his prowess at the breakdowns which will please Schmidt as he competed relentlessly on the ground and managed to slow down his opponents’ ball on several occasions.

Len Ikitau catches the eye

Australia’s leading team, the Brumbies, who are currently occupying third position in the standings, had to dig deep to clinch a 28-20 victory over a plucky Fijian Drua outfit at GIO Stadium in Canberra on Saturday.

Although it wasn’t Stephen Larkham’s charges’ best performance of the season, their centre combination of Len Ikitau and Tamati Tua combined brilliantly throughout and played leading roles in their win.

While former New Zealand U20 representative Tua is ineligible for Wallabies selection for now, Ikitau is not as he has already represented Australia in 29 Tests.

Against the Drua, he was brilliant on attack and scored a brace of tries in that clash. The 25-year-old missed a large chunk of last year’s international season due to a shoulder injury but he could be back in Wallaby gold in 2024 if he continues to shine for the Brumbies.

Other notable performers

Although just two of the five Australian teams managed to secure victories in Round 11, there were some players who still made their presence felt with strong performances.

In Melbourne, Rebels forward duo Josh Canham and Josh Kemeny caught the eye with a fine all-round effort, despite finishing on the losing side to the Blues. Canham was solid in the lineouts while both put their bodies on the line defensively with Canham finishing with a team-high 20 tackles made while Kemeny was not far behind after making 18 hits.

Meanwhile, the Force’s poor form continued as they suffered a humiliating 56-7 loss to the Chiefs in Hamilton but one of the Perth-based side’s players who can hold his head high is veteran full-back Kurtley Beale, who put in a fine attacking display and finished that match with 121 metres gained.

Elsewhere, Brumbies back-row Luke Reimer came off the bench in the final quarter of their clash with the Drua and made a big contribution as he won a crucial turnover shortly after his introduction, put in some big hits on defence and crossed for a deserved try.

READ MORE: Super Rugby Pacific Team of the Week: Chiefs lead the way after superb win over Western Force