1 – Ellis Genge (Leicester)
Again another masterclass from the youngster in the scrum who won essential penalties against his opponents in the front row and looked a threat in the loose with sidesteps and dominant carries despite the efforts of the Sale defenders. Also showed both the desire and gas to make a potentially try-saving tackle on Mike Haley. I will be shocked if the Baby Rhino is not going to South Africa.
2 – Schalk Brits (Saracens)
In what was his penultimate appearance at Allianz Park, the former Springbok was everywhere as you would expect to him to be as he firstly made a scything break through the middle of the ruck in the lead up to Sean Maitland’s try and continuously carried the ball, making a gruelling 64 metres from 19 runs and threw in some neat offloads for good measure.
3 – Juan Figallo (Saracens)
Dan Cole had another great shift and will be relieved to get the whole summer off to go on an all-inclusive but for me, Argentine Juan Figallo had another outstanding game for Saracens in which he outmanoeuvred his opponent Paddy McAllister in the scrum and carried the ball whole-heartedly when required, bursting over the tryline after a few pick-and-gos to get Saracens’ 1st try of the 2nd half.
4 – Maro Itoje (Saracens)
The England international played one of his better games of the season, probably knowing that his name isn’t going to be on that England squad list on Thursday. Picked up the ball from the ruck and darted over for his try while he was a constant presence in the carry, making dominant surges as he made 26 metres over the gainline and also made the effort in defence with 17 tackles made and only 2 missed.
5 – Evan Olmstead (Newcastle)
Despite being on the losing side, the Canadian Big Bear was a Herculean-type figurehead for the Falcons as he was dragged over the tryline to start off a Newcastle fightback and never gave up as he made 42 metres ball in hand as well as making 13 tackles with only one missed. He’s proving a big hit in the North and you can clearly see why.
6 – Dave Ewers (Exeter)
Picked up a stripped ball to burst over the whitewash before running round Harlequins defenders and offloading cleverly to captain Dave Dennis to score. Always a robust player when carrying the ball, Ewers in total made a powerful 29 metres ball in hand but also was very good in defence with 18 tackles to his name, so we can forgive him for the 2 tackles missed. Injury has meant his chance on the England scene has been limited but I reckon he is still within a shout of an England call for South Africa on Thursday.
7 – Brendan O’Connor (Leicester)
He is undoubtedly one of Leicester’s best forwards and they are incredibly lucky to have two gems of an openside at the club (Will Evans being the other one). He made 3 crucial turnovers against the Sharks that either lead to 3-pointers or to stop a Sharks attack. O’Connor is also such a powerful player ball in hand too but it will always be his defensive work that grabs the headlines.
8 – Taulupe Faletau (Bath)
Jackson Wray capped off a brilliant season with another great performance however Faletau, after just signing an extension to stay at the West Country Club, was even better. He ran onto a Cooper Vuna pass to score Bath’s 1st try from about 25 metres out before returning the favour somewhat to Vuna as his break and offload set up the Pacific Islander for his own score. In total he made a really impressive 107 metres ball in hand, that is some workload from the Welsh international.
9 – Kahn Fotuali’i (Bath)
It was great to see the Bath scrumhalf back at his best on Saturday as he looked threatening all the time with a very credible 30 metres made, provided a try assist and was very handy passing off the base as his forwards laid down the foundations for Fotuali’i to pass with both accuracy and speed.
10 – Joe Simmonds (Exeter)
George Ford had his best game in a long time while Cipriani was once again class for Wasps but for me Joe Simmonds was light years ahead. He had one of his best games I’ve ever seen from the youngster, creating three Exeter tries with a keen eye for the gap. Will he get an England call up, or will his opponent on the day Marcus Smith get the call instead?
11 – Sean Maitland (Saracens)
Jonny May was good for Leicester but Maitland for Saracens ever so slightly edges him as he was absolutely everywhere: on the end of a Schalk Brits break to score in the corner before providing the try-scoring pass to fellow winger Liam Williams and intercepting a loose Gloucester pass in the buildup to Mario Itoje’s score.
12 – Matt Banahan (Bath)
How fitting that on his last appearance for the club who have given him so much that the versatile back scored a hatrick and set up another one with a very classy offload. His 1st try was pure power as he burst over on the crash ball off the scrum, his 2nd try came from the back of the maul and his 3rd also came from the maul as he darted over on the blindside. Bath supporters will miss him deeply but their loss should be Gloucester’s gain next season.
13 – Manu Tuilagi (Leicester)
A very, well, Manu-type performance from Tuilagi in Round 22 with him bouncing off defenders, making powerful surges and some great offloading (including one in the buildup to Jonah Holmes’ try) while he made some big hits in defence as well. Will he go to South Africa? I’m not so sure, perhaps if he hadn’t had that pectoral injury against Wasps then maybe but we’ll see on Thursday.
14 – Jonah Holmes (Leicester)
In my opinion, criminally underused at his new club (along with Will Evans) who has been a special finding from the Championship. In a back three which should be Leicester’s 1st choice next season, Holmes was undeniably magnificent, showing great finishing prowess to score the Tigers’ 1st and showcased strength and agility to beat the cover defence to get Leicester’s bonus point score. His defence was also top-notch too as he read a Sam James pass to perfection to intercept the ball and save a certain try. People at Leicester are very excited about this youngster as they reckon he is the next Chris Ashton with his superb running lines and, you know what, I agree.
15 – Willie le Roux (Wasps)
Another industrious performance from the Springbok, who made a incredible 158 metres in attack – yes 158! It was his hitchkick along with gas to spare that lead to Jimmy Gopperth crossing before he was on the scoresheet as well by collecting a Gopperth offload to race away untouched to score in the 79th minute. He is in the form of his life at the moment and we hope he will once again don the coveted Green and Gold jersey.
Do you agree?
This will be the final team of the Week for the Aviva Premiership, next week I will publish my Team of the Premiership from the entire 2017/18 season.
By Jacob Bassford