15. Mike Brown (Harlequins)
Another weekend, another spot in a team of the week for Mike Brown. In truth, this was no-where near the Six Nations world-beater Mike Brown vintage, but it was still the top performance of the weekend from the back. Made metres every time he got the ball to finish with nine defenders beaten, and nipped over in the corner towards the end of the game for a try.
14. Josh Drauniniu (Worcester Warriors)
Drauniniu was pretty much the only shining light in what was a thoroughly dire game in the North-East, not that he or his teammates will care. He finished a good move from his backline for the game’s only try, and also returned a mammoth 119 metres made from eleven carries.
13. Duncan Taylor (Saracens)
The Scot comprehensively outplayed opposite number Elliot Daly as his clean break in the opening stages set up Jackson Wray for a try, and his side for a victory. He also offloaded well and defended strongly.
12. Anthony Allen (Leicester Tigers)
It is no coincidence that the Tigers’ upturn in form since Christmas has come with Allen’s return from injury. He is a wise head in the midfield, and knew where to be to exploit the space against Northampton and cross for his side’s only try. Also made 11 tackles and two clean breaks.
11. Sam Smith (Harlequins)
Smith leaves Quins this summer to be replaced by Marland Yarde, and of the two men wearing no.11 at the weekend it is the current Harlequin who shone brighter than his replacement. The winger scored a try to cap a sterling performance that saw him make 121 metres with ball in hand, three clean breaks, beat five defenders and make five turnovers. Stats aren’t everything, but it’s tough to argue with those.
10. Owen Williams (Leicester Tigers)
Cipriani stood out for Sale and there was a moment of magic from Nick Evans for Quins, but for the complete performance of the weekend look no further than Leicester’s 22-year old Welshman. A 100% success rate from the boot ultimately made the difference, but there was also plenty of brilliance with ball in hand as well as a commendable defensive effort from the fly-half.
9. Joe Simpson (London Wasps)
This was vintage Simpson, as the Wasps scrummie darted and jinked past defenders all afternoon long. He finished with two assists, one a booming box-kick that bamboozled the retreating Chris Ashton and the other a typically vibrant break around the fringe of a lineout.
1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
It was another hugely influential performance in the loose from Mako Vunipola, who carried strongly on ten occasions and was his side’s third-highest tackler with 12, all this despite being replaced on 60 minutes. He coped well in the scrums, too, albeit against a far-from-imposing Wasps unit.
2. Dave Ward (Harlequins)
Commendations to Jamie George for his brace, but Dave Ward was the standout hooker this weekend. Quins lost just one of their 14 lineouts, while the diminutive number two also got through a mountain of work in the loose, making 68 metres from 11 carries and completing 10 tackles.
3. Logovi’i Mulipoila (Leicester Tigers)
As ever, it was a solid set-piece performance from the Tigers, which owed a lot to Mulipola’s performance on the tighthead, a position at which he is becoming increasingly proficient. Like his front-row pals in this team, he also performed well in the loose, carrying for 27 metres and beating four defenders – not too shabby at all.
4. Elliot Stooke (Gloucester Rugby)
Gloucester claimed West Country bragging rights as the only side from that part of the country to win at the weekend, and their narrow victory over rivals the Chiefs owed a great deal to a wise-beyond-his-years performance from young Elliot Stooke. His afternoon had a bit of everything – lineout prowess, work-rate, physicality in the tight and soft hands in the loose.
5. Ed Slater (Leicester Tigers)
Handing this man the captaincy has been a masterstroke by the Leicester management. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it has galvanised Slater to reach new levels on the pitch. Against the Saints he was monumental in everything he did, but it was the physicality of his carrying that stood out – the six defenders he smashed through on his way to making 41 metres will tell you that.
6. Jackson Wray (Saracens)
The young English flanker is enjoying a rich vein of form at the moment, and against Wasps he was again one of Sarries’ standout performers. He showed great awareness to track Duncan Taylor’s break before turning on the afterburners to cross for the first try, and was also his side’s second-top tackler with 14.
7. Julian Salvi (Leicester Tigers)
The Australian maestro was at his best in defence against Northampton, topping his side’s tackle charts with 15 (none missed) and disrupting at the breakdown to finish with two turnovers. A true openside’s shift.
8. James Gaskell (Sale Sharks)
Sale continue to defy pre-season predictions and have a real chance of upsetting the big boys if this form continues. Gaskell may be off at the end of the season but he is determined to finish his career in the North West on a high – against Bath on Friday night he was superb, a consistent source of lineout ball and a menace with ball in hand.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images