Heineken Cup Team of the Week: Round 3

Heineken Cup

1: Cian Healy (Leinster)
Looking increasingly like a starting Lion, Healy showed again that he can cut it against a top level scrummaging side, forming part of a front row that did not wilt in the face of a ferocious challenge from Clermont. He was also typically dynamic in the loose, getting his hands on the ball to carry confidently.

2: Rory Best (Ulster)
Best made 16 tackles against the Saints on Friday night, a phenomenal figure for a hooker. With a young pack around him, Best seems invigorated by their youthful exuberance and put himself about the park superbly. A fine leader and a man who will be vital to Ulster’s charge this season as they look to reach consecutive finals, and possibly go one better.

3: Carl Hayman (Toulon)
Toulon’s vice-like grip on Pool 6 was tightened this weekend with an ugly but hard-fought win at Sale. The vastly-experienced Hayman tore into his youthful opposition and served up penalties on a platter for Jonny, which ultimately made the difference.

4: Tommy Hayes (Exeter)
Exeter’s maiden win in the Heineken Cup came at the Parc Y Scarlets, a place that has claimed the scalp of many a big name side. That Exeter won here, then, speaks volumes of their character, and no one epitomises this better than their captain Tommy Hayes.

5: Donnacha Ryan (Munster)
The Saracens lineout has rarely looked as clueless as it did this weekend and Ryan, along with his lineout-operating cronies, must be praised for the way they disrupted an area that Sarries usually control.

6: Iain Henderson (Ulster)
Ulster are the team to beat this season and young Henderson has stepped into the huge shoes of Stephen Ferris with aplomb. Another sterling performance featuring strong ball-carrying and ferocious tackling contributed to the defeat of Northampton at the Gardens: no mean feat.

7: Chris Henry (Ulster)
Another member of this young Ulster back row that has so impressed this season. With bags of physicality and a canny operator at the breakdown, Henry relished the challenge of fronting up to what is an impressive Saints pack. Mention to Salvi at Leicester who bagged a brace.

8: Louis Picamoles (Toulouse)
The man-mountain of Toulouse’s back row continued his fine form this weekend, making more metres than any other player. He also produced a beautiful offload to put Census Johnstone in in the corner.

9: Morgan Parra (Clermont Auvergne)
That old cliché that French scrum halves are ‘little generals’ proved to be true once again this weekend, as Parra bossed a close but vital win for Clermont. He also bagged 12 points with an impressive kicking display. Mention to Exeter’s Haydn Thomas who cut a brilliant supporting line to dash over for a try.

10: Dan Parks (Connacht)
Parks’ one-dimensional game has done for many a big-name team in a Scotland shirt in years gone by, and this weekend he helped new club Connacht to a momentous victory against European stalwarts Biarritz. It wasn’t the prettiest performance of the round, but with precision place-kicking and smartly taken drop-goals I doubt many Connacht fans will care. Mention to young pretenders Paddy Jackson and Rhys Patchell who put in impressive performances that belied their years.

11: Juan Imhoff (Racing Metro)
The diminutive Argentine winger had a storming autumn and continued his try-scoring form against Cardiff, jinking his way past one defender before showing impressive strength to hold off the attentions of two others and cross in the corner.

12: Florian Fritz (Toulouse)
He may have the youth of Gael Fickou snapping at his heals, but Fritz isn’t ready to give up his berth just yet. Showing quick feet to go with the power we all know he possesses, he danced through a gap and then showed impressive pace to cross for the opening try and start a torrid afternoon for the Ospreys.

13: Aurélien Rougerie (Clermont Auvergne)
The talisman of Clermont was at his boisterous best against Leinster on Saturday, a totem-pole of pace and power in the midfield that gave his forwards something to aim at. He shackled Leinster’s usually expansive attacking formation and produced a couple of slick offloads to put his wide men in space.

14: Fetu’u Vainikolo (Connacht)
The man who announced himself over the autumn with a famous try against Scotland scored again this weekend with one that he will surely remember for just as long. No dancing feet required this time, just plenty of pace as he sped away from the desperate defenders to set up a famous victory for Connacht.

15: Jared Payne (Ulster)
Man of the match in an Ulster performance that will have had the traditional European superpowers sitting up and taking note (and has seen them take over a considerable portion of this team), Payne was inch-perfect on Friday night. His tactical kicking was faultless, and he seems to glide over the ground with ball in hand, doing so to score Ulster’s 3rd try before setting up another.

By Jamie Hosie

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