15. Chris Pennell (Worcester Warriors)
Pennell plays on a different level to the rest of the Warriors, and therein lies their problem – they simply do not have enough players of his calibre, or that care as much. He was sublime again against Quins, cutting a beautiful line for his try, kicking his goals and generally threatening with ball in hand.
14. Sam Smith (Harlequins)
It was a convincing finish from Smith in an utterly unconvincing performance from his side. He still had plenty to do when Dickson passed him the ball five metres out, and he showed great strength to dot down in the corner despite the attention of two Worcester defenders. Also returned excellent stats: 94 metres made, two clean breaks, seven defenders beaten.
13. Ian Whitten (Exeter Chiefs)
In a weekend that contained some brilliant finishes, Whitten’s was up there with the best. Receiving the ball after two glorious passes from Slade and Jess, the Irishman chipped behind Ojo and had both the pace to collect the ball and the power to overcome the covering defence.
12. Tom Stephenson (Northampton Saints)
Stephenson has shot from relative obscurity to make the most of Luther Burrell’s absence and cement his place in the Northampton team with two tries in as many games. Against Gloucester, he cut a glorious line through the defence, and then stepped round two more defenders on his way to the line. Mention to Brad Barritt for his amazing 17 tackles, and a beautiful chip through for Strettle’s try.
11. Niki Goneva (Leicester Tigers)
How this man will be missed at the Tigers next season. He added a brace against Newcastle to take his Premiership tally to eight this season, the first a mesmeric blend of power, pace and composure as he handed off two players, chipped ahead and grounded. In seven carries, he beat six defenders – a deadly strike rate.
10. Danny Cipriani (Sale Sharks)
Back on his old stomping ground, Cipriani put on a fly-half masterclass to guide Sale to an impressive away victory over Wasps. His place kicking was almost perfect, and he then produced the moment of the weekend as he channelled his inner James Simpson-Daniel to throw an audacious switch-dummy, bought by several defenders, before laying on the try for Jonny Leota. Mention also to Alex Goode who stepped into the breach superbly for Saracens.
9. Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
This was Youngs’ best performance of the season by some distance. He may have been yellow-carded in the second half, but before that he mixed his game up superbly and looked to have the confidence back that has been so lacking at times this season. Kept defenders honest around the fringes with his darting runs, and his service for Williams, which has been previously erratic, was excellent.
1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Part of a Saracens pack that taught its Bath counterpart a lesson in how to win top-level games, Vunipola put himself about to make ten tackles and nine carries in a strong shift from the loosehead.
2. Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs)
Still just 20-years of age, this man is quite a prospect. On his first Premiership start, his work in the loose against London Irish was exemplary, an insatiable work rate seeing him carry strongly as well as making a nuisance of himself at an astonishing number of breakdowns. Line-out wobbles aside, this was a brilliant performance from the young hooker.
3. Kyle Sinkler (Harlequins)
One of a handful of promising English tightheads, Sinkler put in a strong showing against Worcester. Solid in the scrum, he was also to be found at the heart of several devastating rolling mauls, two of which lead to tries for his side. 19 metres returned with ball in hand is also a solid return for a tighthead.
4. George Kruis (Saracens)
An integral part of a huge defensive effort from Saracens, Kruis came second only to Brad Barritt in the tackle-stakes, making a monumental 14. He also carried well and showed the awareness and intelligence to give a couple of smart offloads.
5. Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers)
Captaincy seems to agree with Slater as he is in great form at the moment. Up at Kingston Park there was further evidence that his place in the England EPS is more than warranted, as he barged over the gainline on numerous occasions and flew into tackles with controlled aggression.
6. Tom Johnson (Exeter Chiefs)
At a time when there is a space in Lancaster’s England squad, Johnson’s performance was a timely nudge to the national selector that he is ready to step up. He made an astonishing 80 metres from just seven carries at the weekend, including two clean breaks, and also snaffled a turnover. Mention to Calum Clark, whose powerful performance was key to Saints.
7. David Seymour (Sale Sharks)
A former captain played a huge role in Sale’s current captain’s crucial try at Adams Park, as he ran a sensible support line off Mark Cueto before deftly drawing a man and giving to Dan Braid. Also weighed in with 11 tackles without a single one missed, and bagged two turnovers. A true openside’s game.
8. Jordan Crane (Leicester Tigers)
Thomas Waldrom and Pablo Matera both scored tries, but it was Crane who shone brightest in the Leicester back-row. He completed eight tackles without missing any, made 52 metres from 12 powerful carries, beating three defenders in the process, gave two offloads and snaffled three turnovers. A brilliant shift from the Leicester eighthman.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images