15. Luke Arscott (Exeter Chiefs)
It may have been in a losing cause, but Arscott was simply brilliant this weekend against Toulon. While he showed a tremendous workrate and willingness to attack with 16 carries (compared to just six kicks), he also got an impressive return on these efforts, making an astonishing 191 metres and beating 11 defenders. He also gave a lovely wide pass in the build up to Armand’s try – a superb all round performance. Mention to Jack Cuthbert, who kicked Edinburgh to an unlikely win over Gloucester.
14. Charlie Walker (Harlequins)
The young English winger was superb for Harlequins at the weekend, fizzing and bustling in attack, his blond mane of hair a beacon of movement with ball in hand. Took his try superbly well, brushing off the not inconsiderable figure of Dan Lydiate before burning away from the covering defence to cross the line. Mention also to Chris Ashton, who made several electric breaks against lowly Zebre.
13. George North (Northampton Saints)
North made a strong case for moving to the centre full time at the Aviva on Saturday. He picked a beautiful line off Burrell’s shoulder to crash over in the first half, and there was a delightfully soft give-and-take to set Pisi free in the second half that showed he has the subtlety as well as the power to thrive closer to the action.
12. Luther Burrell (Northampton Saints)
Completing and all-Saints centre partnership is Burrell, who, like North, showed that there are plenty of strings to his bow. Brilliant hands set up his partner in crime in the opening exchanges, while there were also several strong carries over the gain-line. As Leinster rallied in the second half, he also led the defensive charge with 13 tackles. Mention to Rhys Patchell, purely for kicking one of the longest penalties seen for a long time that ultimately proved vital in Cardiff’s win, and Duncan Taylor, who crossed twice for Sarries.
11. Napolioni Nalaga (Clermont Auvergne)
Two tries for the big Fijian winger, as he inspired Clermont to a vital away win – not something that happens very often with a French club. An opportunistic try after 17 seconds – the quickest in Heineken Cup history – as well as another in the second half to take the French giants away from the Scarlets, capped another excellent performance for Nalaga. Mention to Médard and David Smith, both of whom crossed twice as well.
10. Matt Giteau (Toulon)
Toulon may have stuttered at times this season, but on Saturday, with the mercurial Aussie at 10, they were at their fluent best. Giteau was at the heart of a backline that produced several moves that just ended up being too intricate for the Exeter defence.
9. Grayson Hart (Edinburgh)
It wasn’t a vintage weekend for scrum-halves, but in horrific conditions at Kingsholm Grayson Hart put in a solid performance for Edinburgh as they overcame Gloucester. Completed a mammoth 70 passes as he kept the tempo high for the away side. Mention to Ruan Pienaar who defied similarly atrocious conditions to marshal Ulster to a good win at Treviso.
1. Marcos Ayerza (Leicester Tigers)
Is there a loosehead with softer hands in world rugby? In the dying seconds it was Ayerza that drew his man superbly and gave the deftest of passes to Niki Goneva to cross the line for Leicester’s last-gasp winning try. It was a piece of work any centre would have been proud of. Elsewhere he was typically dominant in the scrum and a handful at the breakdown – the complete performance from the Argentine.
2. Tom Youngs (Leicester Tigers)
13 carries and 11 tackles highlight Youngs’ monstrously high work rate, and his try showcased that low-slung carrying style of his that is so difficult to stop. There were a couple of issues at the line-out, but ultimately Youngs’ performance typified the spirit that saw Leicester through against the odds in France. Mention to Dylan Hartley who was also excellent on a good weekend for English hookers.
3. Bj Botha (Munster)
Anchored a Munster scrum that was just as pivotal as JJ Hanrahan’s last minute brilliance against Perpignan. After disrupting the Catalans on their own scrum, they forced scrappy ball that saw the halfbacks have to touch down behind their own line, and from the ensuing Munster put-in, an inevitable penalty try was awarded.
4. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Lawes was an integral part of a powerful Saints pack that banished the memory of last weekend’s embarrassment on their home patch. He made a total of 11 tackles in a valiant defensive effort, while also managing to carry a menacing nine times. Perhaps not the headline-stealing performance of some of his peers, but equally as important.
5. Ali Williams (Toulon)
As is so often the case, the line-out was the basis of Toulon’s impressive win over a resilient Exeter side. Williams ran the show at the set-piece, winning all but one of his own team’s throws, and stealing five of the visitors’.
6. Luke Wallace (Harlequins)
He may have been wearing 6, but there is no doubt Wallace operates firmly as a no.7. He was imperious at the breakdown, completely outplaying the Racing Métro back-row. He also put in a titanic defensive shift, making 14 tackles in total.
7. Steffon Armitage (Toulon)
Like Wallace, Armitage dominated the breakdown for Toulon and ensured they had plenty of good ball with which to attack Exeter. He also disrupted the visitors’ own ball, and made several telling carries with ball in hand. Mention to Julian Salvi and Tom Wood, both of whom excelled in away wins.
8. Louis Picamoles (Toulouse)
Fifteen carries, 83 metres made, nine defenders beaten, eleven tackles and five points… stats don’t always speak for themselves, but in this case they absolutely do. Picamoles was back to his imperious best in the wet of Western Ireland on Saturday, inspiring Toulouse to bounce back from the embarrassment of last weekend. Very tough to leave out Samu Manoa, who was again imperious for the Saints.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images