Aviva Premiership Team of the Week: Round 16

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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

16 thoughts on “Aviva Premiership Team of the Week: Round 16

  1. From the few highlights I saw, that Stephenson bloke looked excellent. Running some clever lines at pace.

  2. I know I’m going to get slated but I don’t care. Although Cipriani was excellent for Sale, I think Goode should get the nod.
    To be told you’re starting at 10 instead of 15, just 30 seconds before you run onto the pitch, and then go out and run the show, and kick 13 points for your team is something I don’t think many would have expected. We all know what Cipriani is capable of, but this game showed a lot of doubters what Goode is capable of. Even when he’s thrown in at the last minute. And he’d only been training with the team from Wednesday!

    1. I think the fact that we are having this conversation, probably reflects the worrying situation where England probably don’t have a Plan B yet at FH. Flood going to France, Burns off form, Ford unproven, Goode unknown, Myler journeyman (might be a bit harsh on him!). Wilko…….. just joking! Mind you with the exception of NZ and Ireland, does anyone else have a true understudy that they know will be able to step up?

      As has been mooted on another post, into the NZ cauldron for someone in June. Sink or swim comes to mind!

      1. To be fair I think Ford will be a better understudy to Farrell than Burns. The fact that Farrell and Ford have played a fair bit together probably helps to a degree. Ford has been outstanding for Bath this season, and deserves his place on the England bench. If Farrell were to get injured, then we’d be in trouble. Ford starting with Goode or Tewlvetrees as back up is not a situation SL wants to be in.
        Until Burns gets in a Tigers shirt, and can prove himself there I think he should be left in the Saxons.

    2. You beat me to it Dazza.

      I too would have gone with Goode. I have always been a fan of Goode, even though I acknowledge that he has not always been at his best at the back for England.

      I do wonder whether he might be playing regularly at 10 if he were not at Saracens.

      1. I would love to see him play more at 10 for Sarries, and with the players we have in the squad, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t. I’m thinking when Hodgson retires (can’t be too long) maybe then he’ll get more opportunities. Farrell, Hodgson and Mordt are the only 10’s in the senior squad.

    3. Totally agree- one wayward kick out of hand aside, Goode was excellent! Helps when you play behind the Saracense pack and Burger is literally decapitating Bath players like he’s William Wallace, but I though he really performed. Nice to be talking about him in the positive for once!

    4. To be fair, Cipriani wasn’t starting, either, he wouldn’t have been expecting to come on in the first 5 minutes.

  3. Interesting to note the different coaches reactions from the come backs of JD and Manu. JD’s coach bigs him up for a return to Wales, whereas Manu’s coach plays down his chances. Different periods of lay off I accept, but probably partially reflects the relative importance of club v country in the two countries.

    1. I actually thought – albeit from bits of the game – that Tuilagi looked a little rusty. I would be a bit nervous about rushing him back in next week.

      1. I agree. A couple of times he ran wide forcing his winger either tight to the line or back inside, whereas the Tuilagi we want to see, and usually see would go through the defence. I would rather stick with 36 and Burrell. Or move Burrell to 12, and play Barritt at 13? Another player who showed what he’s capable of on Friday night. Not very often you see Barritt kick, but his grubber was excellently placed and weighted for Strettle to run on to. And obviously we know what he can do in defence.

      2. To be fair I think that he is rusty. Somewhat inevitable after such a long layoff. That pours oil on my attempt to stir up a debate!!

        I’ve always thought Barritt has done a decent job for England. Never let anyone down. OK he doesn’t necessarily have the full range of fancy attacking skills, but what he does, he does fairly well. I’d still have him around the squad at the moment. Still think 12T’s and Burrell deserve more time. They’ve both shown flashes, unlike say Tomkins who didn’t show anything.

  4. Is it definitely confirmed Goneva is leaving the Tigers next season?

    Gutted if he is… been our stand out back all season.

    1. It’s not been confirmed yet, just rumoured I think. They’ve made an approach though, and Goneva has apparently said he’s got a ‘tough choice’ to make.

      Wouldn’t begrudge him a move as he’s been brilliant for Tigers but I’ve always got the feeling his face didn’t quite fit – remember that weird absence in the middle of last season? He’s won a title with Tigers, so I’d probably expect him to chase the money and head to France, and fair play to him, he deserves it.

      1. Saw Castres were interested… I wouldn’t begrudge him the move either- he deserves the big pay more than most!
        I know what you mean about that strange absence- bit weird as he had been in brilliant form, but maybe we are all conspiracy theorists and he just went of the pace. A shame though as he has literally single-handedly won us several games with his ability (montpellier comes to mind)… Really has that rare ability to conjure something from nothing. Was looking forward to a duo of Benjamin and Goneva next season. Any world class wingers available? Wish we had poached Yarde.

        Nevermind, all the best to him if he goes!

  5. the rugby blog should start doing subs as well!!!
    will hooley and danny cipriani would definetley be there

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