15. Luke Arscott (Exeter Chiefs)
It was, in the end, in a losing cause, but Arscott’s return to the Exeter team was a huge positive for them. He always looked dangerous when he got the ball, beating a total of six ailing defenders, and generally swept up well at the back.
14. Miles Benjamin (Leicester Tigers)
After such a debilitating amount of time out with injury, it is great to see Miles Benjamin back and firing on the rugby pitch. Once one of the most lethal finishers around, he reminded us on Friday night of why he was once so highly thought of. There were several sparky breaks, as well as the awareness to offload and a turnover to boot. One dodgy pass aside, it was Benjamin’s best performance in a Tigers shirt.
13. Mark Jennings (Sale Sharks)
It was a pretty dry week for outside centres, none of whom really grabbed the attention. Jennings was the best of a bad bunch, then, always looking dangerous when he touched the ball and showcasing on several occasions the impressive turn of pace he possesses.
12. Ollie Devoto (Bath Rugby)
Whether at fullback, fly-half or centre, Devoto looks to have a bright future. It is a big ask for a partnership as young as his and Ford’s to dictate a game the magnitude of a West Country derby, but between them they coped superbly. There was also evidence of Devoto’s attacking prowess in his superb side-step, that saw him beat five defenders in total.
11. Sam Smith (Harlequins)
A superb performance from Smith, who didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon against Newcastle. A brace of tries were the icing on the cake, but there was much more than that to his performance – he averaged over ten metres a carry, beating five defenders in the process and throwing a couple of nice offloads.
10. George Ford (Bath Rugby)
Cipriani was superb for Sale in a losing cause, but Ford’s was the standout fly-half performance of the weekend. If not for him, Bath would have lost against an Exeter team that threw everything at them. Six from six from the tee and a smartly taken drop goal saw Bath home, however. Mention also to Toby Flood, who recovered from a poor start to lead the Tigers to a crucial victory at Kingsholm.
9. Danny Care (Harlequins)
Care is in sublime form at the moment. Both scrum-halves played well at Kingston Park on Sunday, but Care tormented the Newcastle defence to lead Quins to a convincing victory in the North East. As was noted in the commentary, he plays with his head up and you can see in his eyes that he is always weighing up what the best option is. What is most encouraging is that he is starting to take that option more often than not these days.
1. Marcos Ayerza (Leicester Tigers)
Playing a full 80 minutes is no mean feat for a prop forward, and Ayerza’s performance was one of real quality against Gloucester. Part of a front five that tore into the opposition in the set piece, the Argentinian also got through a huge amount of work in the loose, ending the game with ten tackles to his name.
2. Schalk Brits (Saracens)
Both elements of the set-piece were faultless, but it was Brits’ performance in the loose, as is so often the case, that was most impressive. He managed an astounding 17 carries, for which he returned a healthy 67 metres, and also seven passes – an impressive figure for a forward, especially when you consider it was higher than either centre managed. Mention to Dave Ward of Quins, who was almost Brits-esque in his support work and carrying.
3. Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers)
The foundation of the Tigers’ victory. Everyone has pointed out Gloucester’s shortcomings at the scrum – Cole made sure they were punished for them to the max. The sort of commanding performance that he made his name for.
4. Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints)
November’s player of the month backed up his award with another performance of the highest calibre against Worcester. An opportunist try capped a powerful performance that saw him beat four defenders and make 55 metres.
5. Damian Welch (Exeter Chiefs)
Welch could be in the team pretty much for his finish alone. Galloping down the left hand touchline, the gangly lock managed to beat three defenders on his way to the try-line to cross for a score that any winger would have been proud of. As it was, he also worked extremely hard to make 14 tackles, more than anyone else in an Exeter shirt.
6. Jamie Gibson (Leicester Tigers)
The hugely promising young flanker is starting to find his feet at Leicester, and on Friday night put in his best performance to date in a Tigers shirt. Worked hard for several strong carries, and got through a solid defensive shift also.
7. Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)
An exemplary all round performance from Wood. The England flanker made 13 carries, including a strong finish for his try, completed eleven tackles without missing any and was a reliable source of line-out ball for the Saints.
8. Sam Dickinson (Northampton Saints)
The powerful number eight has had a quiet few weeks, but returned to form on Saturday in the Saints’ win over Worcester. There were 18 of the powerful carries for which he has become known, culminating in 41 metres made.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images