15. Jean-Marcelin Buttin (Clermont Auvergne)
Buttin is enjoying his time as starting fullback, and after showing promise for a while now, is finally realising it. He is a player that seems to have plenty of time on the ball, and he used it all to bag an assist against Harlequins, while also linking brilliantly with those around him. Mention to Ulster’s Jared Payne, who was as dangerous as always.
14. George North (Northampton Saints)
This is what Northampton paid their money for. In a relatively even battle, North’s individual brilliance to race the length of the pitch gave Northampton a lead they just had to protect for the rest of the game – and that is exactly what they did. Superb stuff from the big Welshman.
13. Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon)
There wasn’t really a standout performer at 13 this weekend, but Bastareaud enjoyed a solid outing for Toulon as he made the most of plenty of opportunities to crash over the gainline.
12. Remy Lamerat (Castres)
Castres will be wondering quite how they managed to lose that game after racing to a 14-0 lead, but it certainly wasn’t anything to do with Lamerat’s performance. He played an important role in both of his side’s early tries as Castres flew out of the blocks, and ended the afternoon having beaten a monumental nine defenders.
11. Kristian Phillips (Scarlets)
Completing an all-Welsh wing duo, Phillips was another to score an inspirational individual effort over the weekend. Like North, his try for the Scarlets effectively confirmed victory for his side in a tough away environment. Mention to David Smith, who was brilliant for Toulon.
10. Jimmy Gopperth (Leinster)
Gopperth’s was undoubtedly the performance of the weekend, as he inspired Leinster to a captivating comeback against Castres. Twice, he jinked and danced his way to the line, and was also ruthless with the boot to confirm an important victory for his province. Mentions to Rhys Priestland and Jean-Marc Doussain, who were both vital in victories for their sides.
9. Danny Care (Harlequins)
Not all aspects of Care’s game were excellent at the weekend (some of his box kicking was dangerously wayward to Clermont’s brilliant back three), but purely for the moment of utter brilliance in Matt Hopper’s try, he makes this team. The speed of thought, and execution, are unparalleled in anything I have seen for quite some time. Ruan Pienaar went quite well for Ulster and deserves a mention.
1. Andrew Sheridan (Toulon)
It was brilliant to see Sheridan back doing what he does best, namely twisting and contorting his opposite man into horrible positions in the scrum, and reaping the benefits of it on the scoreboard. Part of a Toulon unit that was just too powerful for the Blues.
2. Chilliboy Ralepelle (Toulouse)
Toulouse’s was a performance worthy of their glowing European heritage on Sunday against Sarries, and their South African hooker put in a huge shift to help them to victory. 15 tackles is a stat indicative of his insatiable work rate.
3. Samson Lee (Scarlets)
Against a much-vaunted Racing Métro pack, the wild-looking Welshman was superb in helping the Scarlets pack exert dominance over them. Also got through a tidy amount of work in defence.
4. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints)
Lawes continued his fine form in Swansea with another performance brimming with power. There were a couple of notable carries, but more important were his contributions at the breakdown and line-out, where he snaffled opposition ball and secured his own team’s on several occasions.
5. Paul O’Connell (Munster)
‘Presence’ is something often talked about by players/coaches (see Rob Penney this weekend) despite being anything tangible to pundits/fans. Even those watching on, however, can see the influence O’Connell has on Munster, and he again gave every ounce of himself to the cause as the Irish province booked their knockout spot with a win over Gloucester.
6. Yannick Nyanga (Toulouse)
Part of a brutally brilliant back-row that went a long way to winning Toulouse the game, and with it gave them a great chance of bagging a home quarter final. Produced four brilliant offloads out of the tackle, and made two turnovers at the breakdown to ensure Sarries never really looked like coming back into the game.
7. Jordi Murphy (Leinster)
Worked hard to get himself on the end of what turned out to be a vital try for Leinster, taking the game far enough out of Castres’ reach that despite a late fightback they could not wrestle the points away from the impressive Irish province. Also tackled his heart out and was always busy with ball in hand, returning 42 metres from nine carries.
8. Louis Picamoles (Toulouse)
Toulouse’s pillar in the back row was at his best yesterday, and appears to be hitting some fine form at exactly the right time (from a French point of view, anyway). He carried sixteen times against Saracens, for a return of fifteen metres, and didn’t miss a tackle all afternoon. Mention to Jamie Heaslip and Robin Copeland, who who both carried seriously strongly.
By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images