Heineken Cup Team of the Week: Quarter-Finals

15: Mat Tait (Leicester Tigers)
Tait makes this team almost exclusively for his simply unbelievable defensive gather and ensuing break in the first half. After Toulon broke out from their own half, Bastareaud chipped ahead into Leicester’s twenty-two. Tait, dropping on the ball, first shrugged off the attention of the giant centre himself, before jinking his way round several more defenders. Did drop a clanger late on, but other than that it was his most assured performance in the Tigers 15 shirt to date.

14: Sitiveni Sivivatu (Clermont Auvergne)
This was a mesmerising performance from the Kiwi magician. A scything break and clever offload was enough to send Rougerie over and put his team ahead, before the best finish seen for a long time saw him cross the line himself after intelligent work from Fofana.

13: Casey Laulala (Munster)
Both Munster centres put in huge stints in the midfield on Sunday, comprehensively outplaying their Harlequins counterparts. It was all about power as Laulala, along with Downey, smashed into their opposition in both attack and defence. Bastareaud was excellent for Toulon also, while Rougerie was a handful.

12: Wesley Fofana (Clermont Auvergne)
Another world-class effort from Fofana. It was an excellent weekend for inside centres, with Downey a pillar of power for Munster and Giteau a box of tricks for Toulon. It was the Frenchman, however, who impressed most, with a try to his name as well as a gorgeous offload and assist to set Sivivatu free for his score.

11: Chris Ashton (Saracens)
Another step down the road to recovery from his woeful Six Nations, Ashton showed the kind of form that helped him make a name for himself a few years ago. Finished his try superbly well after cutting a beautiful line off Barritt’s inside shoulder, and proceeded to skip round three defenders en route to scoring. He even hit some tackles too!

10: Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon)
Billed as the master versus the apprentice, the duel between Wilkinson and Flood was an intriguing subplot in an enticing encounter in the south of France. In the end it was the master who came out on top. How many times in his career has Wilkinson guided his team to a victory like this? He ran the show in the way that only he can.

9: Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne)
After an out-of-sorts Six Nations, this was Morgan Parra back to his best. A delicate chip over the top for the first try married with some sniping breaks and his always-excellent service meant it was a fine weekend for the diminutive Frenchman. Ben Youngs was also commanding for Tigers.

1: Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Looking more and more like England’s number one loose-head prop. Another superb weekend for Vunipola saw him smashing tackles and rucks alike, with a couple of his trademark barnstorming charges thrown in there for good measure.

2: Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
Part of a Tigers front row that dominated their much-vaunted Toulonnais opponents at scrum time. There were several typically tenacious carries as well as a host of hits and a largely successful line-out. A disappointing outcome for the Tigers, but a strong individual effort from Youngs.

3: Matt Stevens (Saracens)
Dan Cole was nailed on for this spot until his stupid yellow card effectively cancelled out any late charge to victory from Leicester. Stevens was a handful in the loose while also being at the heart of a pack that suffocated Ulster in the tight exchanges. Still the roundest man on any rugby pitch.

4: Paul O’Connell (Munster)
It was spectacular stuff from the Munstermen on Sunday at the Stoop, and O’Connell’s eye-popping aggression typified the character and desire of his team. He was strong with ball in hand as well as a nuisance at the breakdown. Pointing to the skies at the end, it was spine-tingling to see how much this meant to him.

5: Nick Kennedy (Toulon)
Another Englishman enjoying a swan-song in the sunshine of the south of France, Kennedy was imperious in the middle of a Toulon pack full of big names. Soaring in the line-out and surprisingly mobile in the loose, it has been a fine season for the former London Irishman – Sunday was no different.

6: Peter O’Mahony (Munster)
His province’s performance oozed physicality, and no-one was more up for the fight than O’Mahony. Continuing some fine form from the Six Nations, his continued excellence is only likely to exacerbate Warren Gatland’s back-row headache. Abrasive, aggressive and precise, this was top stuff from the blindside flanker.

7: Will Fraser (Saracens)
Fraser said after the game that Sarries prided themselves on their defence and their physicality, and the young flanker was at the forefront of both these aspects of their game at Twickenham on Saturday. He was also at the back of a superb rolling mall in a game that saw his team strangle the life out of Ulster. Mention to Vosloo of Clermont.

8: Chris Masoe (Toulon)
Masoe is a master of the offload and this weekend was no different. Part of a Toulon pack that gradually asserted itself more and more as the game went on, the ex-Castres player showed some lovely touches in the loose as well. A sublime all-round performance. Mention to Kelly Brown who made a phenomenal 21 tackles.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

10 thoughts on “Heineken Cup Team of the Week: Quarter-Finals

  1. All being equal – some of this is astonishing! How Saracens get two of the front row, when the only part of the game Ulster out performed Sarries was in the scrum, surely the primary function of a front row is to be able to get parity when they pack down. Other than that you can argue a case, but its as fair as others – But not that front row – blinkers all over that I fear.

    1. Have you got any other suggestions for front row candidates? It is easy to criticize but I can not think of many others over the weekend who put their hand up. For example, the Munster Quins game – the scrum was dominated first half by Quins but second half Munster smashed up front – by your reasoning, both of these teams are out. My point is, is isn’t that straight forward.

      I thought that Vunipola had a very good game, scrum and in the loose – less so Stevens but I am struggling to think of a better tight head. I thought Cole but then your point about the yellow card was fair.

      1. Although on the losing side, I am pretty sure Afoa was much better than vunipola.

        Also, although I dont think he is quite in the team, I thought Ian henderson was superb for ulster. Brad barrit was also immense.

        1. Agree on Henderson and Barritt, but I do think Vunipola edged Afoa. Close though I thought Vunipola has more of an impact on the game.

  2. Think I would go with BJ Botha and Ayerza as the props, with Sarries second best at the scrum I can’t pick their props.

    Thought Bakies Botha was immense as well, so would pick him over Kennedy.

    1. I can see Ayerza, but Vunipola also had a good game so it could be either of them. And I really don’t agree on BJ Botha – Quins dominated the scrum in the first half (I recognize it reversed in the second half) – but I really don’t think he had a great game.

      Do agree on that Bakkies Botha had a good game – but his knee on Ayerza put a black mark against his name for me. And for that reason I can see why Kennedy edged him into the team.

  3. I wouldn’t say Sarries scrum was on top at any point – and I think the ref realised he was pinging Munster nadly – however Botha was good,Davit Zirakashvili i thought was good – Court for Ulster played well, and Ayerza – vunipola was alright – I was just shocked at Stevens choice. Heyman was pretty solid too.

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