15: Mat Tait (Leicester Tigers)
This was a coming-of-age performance that, despite England’s three fullbacks for the Argentina tour being on show, has stolen all the headlines. Tait was assured at the back, making a double whammy of try-saving tackles in the first half and sweeping up any loose ball Evans and Care sent his way. He was adventurous in attack and had a hand in two tries before scoring one himself.
14. Niall Morris (Leicester Tigers)
Another in a long line of typical Tigers wingers/fullbacks, Morris may not be the quickest but he makes up for that with an industrious work ethic. He is strong in the tackle and, as all top wingers do, possesses the healthy knack of being in the right place at the right time, as evidenced in his try this weekend where he popped up off his wing to canter in under the posts.
13. Manu Tuilagi (Leicester Tigers)
It wasn’t the type of headline-grabbing performance that we are perhaps used to from Tuilagi, but to judge it a failure on that basis would be cruelly unfair. What was most impressive about him this weekend was the way he went about his business quietly, and actually allowed the back three outside him to excel. His powerful burst past Botica and beautifully timed inside ball for Morris’ try was testament to the much more well-rounded game he now possesses.
12. Anthony Allen (Leicester Tigers)
It is tough to gauge quite how important Allen is to the Tigers as he is simply always there. All that can be said is that he does the stuff no-one else wants to do, smashing tackles and making the tough yards to allow the likes of Tuilagi and Tait around him to shine. He may never make it onto the international stage again, but few Tigers fans will mind if that means he remains in the heart of their midfield.
11. Vereniki Goneva (Leicester Tigers)
Where has he been all season? One can only assume he had some sort of falling out with Cockerill (it wouldn’t be the first time) as since his return a week ago he has been simply brilliant. Looking like the heir apparent to Alesana Tuilagi, Goneva has pace and power to burn and showed both to finish an opportune try brilliantly just before the break. Also works incredibly hard in defence, which could never really be said of Tuilagi.
10. Stephen Myler (Northampton Saints)
Austin Healy in commentary was gushing about Myler’s performance, particularly in defence, and quite rightly so. The Saints blew Sarries away with their physicality and even Myler, far from renowned for his tackling, got stuck in with a series of huge hits. And after a few early wobbles from the tee, his kicking was exemplary and took the game away from the home team. Comprehensively outshone his opposite man Farrell, who looks worryingly out of sorts.
9. Lee Dickson (Northampton Saints)
This was Dickson’s sort of game, all niggle and abrasiveness. Behind a dominant pack he looked good, and probably nailed down the starting England jersey in Argentina this summer. He also showed great vision to send GJ Van Velze down the blindside for his try, having noted Chris Ashton’s absence from his wing. Ben Youngs deserves a mention as one of the Tigers’ Lions that went well once again.
1. Soane Tonga’uiha (Northampton Saints)
Tonga’uiha clearly just does not want to leave for France, and contributed heavily in adding an extra cap to his Saints career in two weeks’ time. He had Matt Stevens on toast in the scrum and was back to his boisterous best in the loose, which has been lacking at times this season.
2. Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints)
Both Hartley and Tom Youngs were superb this weekend, which will have pleased Gatland no end. Hartley pips it into this team, however, for leading his team to a massively unexpected win. His belligerent spirit seemed to inhabit the whole Saints team on Sunday, for which he deserves great credit. He was, as always, a nuisance at every opportunity, which is exactly what is necessary to beat Sarries.
3. Brian Mujati (Northampton Saints)
The Saints have made some superb front row signings for next season, but boy will they miss this unit. Mujati taught young Vunipola a lesson at scrum-time, and was more obvious in open play than he is usually. What a pair of props Racing Metro are inheriting.
4. Geoff Parling (Leicester Tigers)
It is becoming a somewhat broken record, but Parling was once again imperious at line-out time against Quins, ensuring his team a solid platform to play from. His ever-developing ball-carrying skills were on show once again also, including one cheeky shimmy in the first half that fooled few but looked excellent.
5. Christian Day (Northampton Saints)
To out-master Steve Borthwick at the line-out is no mean feat, but that is exactly what Day managed at Allianz Park yesterday. He is one of a few in this team who are now looking desperately unlucky to have been overlooked for the Argentina tour, especially given the squad’s lack of a line-out expert.
6. Tom Croft (Leicester Tigers)
A 60m try is not something many wingers achieve very often, but a 6″6′ blindside flanker who also has to concern himself with all the nitty-gritty physical stuff too…? It was an astonishing effort from Croft that brought the entirety of Welford Road to its feet – you suspect there may even have been some Quins fans inwardly marvelling at its brilliance. Then there was his try-saving tackle on Care in the first half, which he had no right to make and without which Quins could well have opened up a sizeable lead.
7. Tom Wood (Northampton Saints)
Wood is renowned for his quiet work-rate, and doing the unseen stuff that allows the rest of the team to excel – so to see him smashing tackles and carrying ball was a bit of a shock. But that is exactly what he, along with the 22 other Saints, did, and it caught Sarries completely unawares.
8. Samu Manoa (Northampton Saints)
How this man did not get nominated for Player of the Season is beyond baffling. Many would argue – and it is tough to disagree – that he deserves to have won it. One can only imagine what it must be like to wake up the morning after having been on the end of one his shuddering hits, but it cannot be pleasant. On a day when the Saints simply blew Sarries away with their physicality, Manoa typified everything that was excellent about their performance.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43