15. Rob Cooke – Gloucester
The former Pirates man is the first of a few Gloucester-men in this Team of the Week. Excellent with the boot, his accuracy kept Gloucester’s lead ticking over even as Saints began to show some life. Displayed some excellent touches on the counter-attack as well, he is surely one of this summer’s most under-rated signings. Sale’s Rob Miller was also excellent.
14. Mark Cueto – Sale
Cueto is included not only because he became the all-time leading Premiership try-scorer but also because he exemplified everything that was good about Sale on Friday night: commitment and passion. The joy on the faces of the Sale players when first Braid, then Cueto, went over for tries that may well prove vital down the line told you all you needed to know about this group’s desire to stay in the league.
13. Elliot Daly – London Wasps
An electric break from Daly set up Wade’s first try and he threatened with the ball in hand all evening. He didn’t take a backwards step in defence against Quins’ abrasive centre pairing either, an excellent showing from the versatile Wasps back.
12. Kyle Eastmond – Bath
Starting to make a real impact at Bath, the ex-League star showed his outstanding attacking ability with two fantastic passes to set up two of Bath’s tries. The fact that Gary Gold is shifting him all over the backline shows what a quality player he is and how quickly his game has adapted. A notable mention too for Shane Geraghty’s assured performance for the Exiles.
11. Jonny May – Gloucester
A brace of tries marked a return to form for the Shed’s favourite speedster; he left both Pisi brothers grasping at the air for his first with a lovely change of pace. Always looking to get on the shoulder, his 2nd half yellow card, which could have cost Gloucester dear, did not detract from his clinical finishing.
10. George Ford – Leicester
Given a great platform by his dominant pack, Ford attacked the gainline and varied Leicester’s game with play of the highest quality. Kicked his goals as well, an aspect of his game that he may feel has been short of his best this season. On the way out of Leicester for more regular game-time, he will be missed in the East Midlands.
9. Peter Stringer – Bath
The old journeyman could prove a shrewd bit of business for a Bath side looking to get out of the mid-table doldrums. His service was excellent and he marshalled the Bath pack with all the experience and composure we have come to expect from the ex-Munsterman.
8. Sione Kalamafoni – Gloucester
The man of the match at Franklin’s Gardens was a towering presence throughout. Provided plenty of go forward in both attack and defence, as well as being key to Gloucester’s excellent lineout. Part of the Pacific Island trio which propelled the Cherry and Whites to a memorable win.
7. Akapusi Qera – Gloucester
An honourable mention for Qera’s excellent opposite number Ben Nutley, who was the only standout player in a rudderless, ineffectual Northampton performance. Qera however just shades it, as his powerful, no frills defensive work in the tackle and at the breakdown stopped the Saints from getting their big runners over the gainline. A Herculean effort.
6. Daniel Braid – Sale
The former All Black made an immediate impact at the Salford City Stadium, with a try on debut. However, along with Seymour he was a total nuisance on the floor, disrupting Exeter’s possession at every possible opportunity. He will need to maintain this kind of performance if Sale are to avoid the drop. Praise too for young Wasp Sam Jones who was a thorn in Quins’ side all evening.
5. Marco Wentzel – London Wasps
The beating heart of the Wasps revival this season, Wentzel is perhaps the league’s premier lineout operator. He also did his fair share around the park on Saturday evening, hitting ruck after ruck and exemplifying the grit that Wasps showed in addition to their clinical finishing.
4. George Skivington – London Irish
The Exiles’ set-piece fared much better than in recent weeks, in no small part due to the performance of Skivington. Powerful in the scrum and dominant in defence, he led the Irish line with authority and stifled any Saracens hopes of gaining any forward moment.
3. James Johnston – Harlequins
One of the best tight-heads in the Premiership, after initially struggling with his scrummaging last season, Johnston has turned into the cornerstone of the Harlequins pack. His dynamic carries (including one lung-busting charge from halfway to the 22) served as flashier examples of his tireless work in getting Quins going forward.
2. Rob Webber – Bath
With a try on his return from injury, his first since his move from Wasps in the summer, Webber wasted no time in adding to a Bath side who haven’t dominated up front as they would have liked this season. The Bath lineout was strong and laid the foundation for an efficient team performance.
1. Nick Wood – Gloucester
Gave Tom Mercey a torrid time in the scrum and was unfortunate to be on the wrong end of a few dubious decisions. Similarly prominent in the loose, making hard yards around the tackle area and proving a nuisance on the floor.
by Patrick Cheshire (@jpcheshire)