15. James Hook (Perpignan)
An assured and confident performance all round from the Welshman, reminding all of those in the UK what a good player he is. Scored all of his side’s points in defeat at Kingsholm including an excellent long range drop goal. Mike Brown for Harlequins in a losing cause was fantastic, and Phil Dollman was rapier like for Exeter and both get very honourable mentions.
14. Matt Jess (Exeter)
A superb performance from the underrated Jess who, as part of one of the best all-round team performances of the season, caused Cardiff’s very pink Blues all sorts of problems. Fantastic running lines, surprising strength and a willingness to get involved all over the pitch. Super finish for his try. Marc Andreu of Racing gets a mention for a great breakaway try.
13. Maxime Mermoz (Toulon)
Toulon’s first half performance was staggering in its efficiency as they made table-topping Glasgow look particularly average. Mermoz scored two tries and took some beautiful running lines to complement the sumptuous handling happening all around him.
12. Scott Williams (Scarlets)
Possibly the performance of the weekend from the centre who must now be a dead-cert to start alongside his club captain, Jonathan Davies, in the midfield for Wales this Autumn. A man who clearly loves the weights machines, he was a brutal force in defence, helping to nullify what small attacking intent there was from Quins. In attack he scored the try of the weekend, throwing a couple of outrageous dummies as he sped to the try line. Simply brilliant. Mention to Chris Wyles of Saracens, who scored a superb solo try himself.
11. Jordan Williams (Scarlets)
A player with enormous potential, Williams scored a fantastic try in his side’s win at the Stoop. If he is able to continue finishing moves off in this way it will not be long until he starts seriously pushing Alex Cuthbert for a start for Wales. He is a rare talent, and as sharp as bitter lemon. Fetu’u Vainikolo and Tommy Bowe were also very impressive this weekend.
10. Paddy Jackson (Ulster)
Jimmy Gopperth of Leinster ran him close with a performance that indicated what an astute replacement he may well be for Jonny Sexton, but any fly-half that is able to maintain his calm in the face of a Tigers’ onslaught with such a superb kicking display deserves recognition. His cross-field kick for Tommy Bowe’s try was inch perfect too. A great weekend for the Ulsterman. It was also great to see Rhys Priestland play as well as he did on the European stage.
9. Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh)
There was really only one player in consideration this weekend for the scrum-half slot. Laidlaw completely bossed the game for Edinburgh as he directed his forwards to dominance over Munster, and linked brilliantly with his backs. Tackled his heart out and forced a number of turnovers.
1. Emmanuel Felsina (Toulon)
Not one of the big names at Toulon, but certainly one of the biggest men. A titanic performance from the French loose-head who was responsible for killing the Glasgow scrum in the first half. He was involved a number of times in the loose, standing up in the tackle, offloading with soft, sympathetic hands, and allowing some of the superstars to play around him.
2. Sean Cronin (Leinster)
A massive performance from the hooker; he seemed to be everywhere. He was solid in his throwing, dynamic in his work at the ruck and maul, and was found on more than one occasion burning down the wing. A brilliant assist for O’Brien’s try.
3. Martin Moore (Leinster)
On as an early substitute, his introduction was immediately noticeable in both the tight and loose. Moore was a real focal point in a forward dominated performance from Leinster. Dan Cole was strong in a losing cause for the Tigers.
4. Sean Cox (Edinburgh)
A superb performance from the exiled Englishman, as Edinburgh were able to gain a physical advantage against a massive Munster pack. Cox was the best lock on the park in a game that featured O’Connell, Ryan and O’Callaghan. His line out work was superb as he secured both his own and his opponents’ ball, and he was a serious influence in the loose. His work at rucks all over the pitch was particularly noticeable.
5. Ali Williams (Toulon)
Half of possibly the scariest second row partnership ever assembled, Williams edges out Bakkies Botha for his involvement in nearly every aspect of an extremely fast-paced match. At 202cm and 118kg he should not be as mobile as he consistently is. He was nuisance; a big, nasty, snarling, team-leading, ball-handling nuisance.
Richie Gray must get a mention for an all-action performance to indicate he may be back to his best in time for the Autumn Internationals.
6. Tom Johnson (Exeter)
If he had been on the pitch for the whole match Johnson would have been the pick of all the players for the weekend. As it was, he had to leave the pitch after 30 minutes, but what a half-hour he produced. Like a man possessed, he took the ball in to contact at a ferocious pace, won turnover ball, tackled any man in lurid pink and outshone even the Lions’ captain, Sam Warburton, who looked lost at what he was up against. It was a real shame Cardiff’s Robin Copeland was not on the pitch for longer too, because as a second half replacement it was his example his team-mates followed as they began a mini comeback at Sandy Park.
7. Sean O’Brien (Leinster)
O’Brien at club level is something to behold. He was at his destructive and bombastic best this weekend. Along with Cian Healey, O’Brien punched holes in the defence every time he got his hands on the ball, and was responsible for some spine-tingling tackling. He is such a brilliant player when he plays like that and deservedly scored the game’s only try. Ben White of Exeter is extremely unlucky not to make this side, as he was part of the back row effort that enabled the Chiefs to build that unassailable lead.
8. Dave Ewers (Exeter)
An astounding performance from Ewers who was compared at one point in commentary to Louis Picamoles such was the havoc he was causing. One to watch for England if he can maintain this level of performance; he never took a step back and was brutally physical at times as he carried the ball in to a terrified looking Blues defence.
By Chris Francis (@mckrisp)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images