Jono Frank reviews the weekend’s action, picking out players that could feature for the home nations this Autumn.
Adam Thompstone – Leicester Tigers
Hat-trick hero Adam Thompstone couldn’t have had a better debut. Despite owing much to the excellent performances of Toby Flood and Matt Smith, the 25 year-old winger displayed explosive pace and a clinical finishing ability to condemn Exeter Chiefs to a 30 – 8 defeat. The winger’s first try was a fantastic example of wing play and raw acceleration. Upon receiving the ball at an almost standing start, Thompstone was able to exploit the little bit of space in front of him to burst over the try line. With Ben Foden set to miss the Autumn Internationals, there are places in the back three up for grabs – could Thompstone be in the reckoning?
Owen Farrell – Saracens
Whilst Saturday’s papers were purring about the prospect of Freddie Burns, it was a somewhat more familiar fresh face that stole the show this weekend. Owen Farrell produced a faultless kicking display to not only claim all of his side’s points, but inflict a first defeat of the season on high-flying Harlequins. The 20 year-old has been in stiff competition with the fine form of Charlie Hodgson; however, this commanding performance provided a timely reminder that he is very much in the frame for the England number 10 shirt. The match was defined by the battle between the two fly-halves, with Farrell seeming to have the cooler head than his Kiwi counterpart Nick Evans.
Shaun Knight – Gloucester
Gloucester have a number of exciting, youthful players emerging. Fine performances from the likes of Burns and Billy Twelvetrees are testament to this, but it’s 22 year-old prop Shaun Knight, who capped off a plucky and resilient display with a well taken try, who gets my vote this week. Knight, who started the game on the bench, made the desired impact in the last 20 minutes as London Welsh fought their way back into the game. The youngster spoke to local press after the game and showed a maturity and understanding of the contention for places within the team. The importance of changes within the front row is aptly described as, “a 6- minute arm wrestle, or a 20-minute blast”, and Knight provided that impact just when it was needed. One for the future for England perhaps.
David McSharry – Connacht
Connacht will have come away with their heads held high from this derby match. To win so convincingly as underdogs and the manner in which they dispatched Leinster is quite an achievement. The player who contributed most to Connacht’s flowing rugby was 22 year-old centre David McSharry, the youngster opening the scoring with a fantastically timed run from deep to burst over the try line and was instrumental in initiating the move which sent Vainikolo over for Connacht’s second. Dan Parks’ excellent kicking stretched Connacht’s lead to cement their win over the European champions and the team’s second of the season.
Steffan Jones – Newport Gwent Dragons
A good performance by the Dragons was characterised by the decisiveness of young fly-half Steffan Jones, 21. Two well-taken drop goals showed not only the youngster’s ability, but also the vision and understanding to see an opportunity when it presents itself. The second of these attempts was particularly impressive as the fly-half recognised that the attack was slowing down and dropped into the pocket to calmly slot the three points. It was vital that the Dragons won as they are desperate to gather some momentum in order to kick start their season. The coolness under pressure and the presence of mind to take the points when they presented themselves is even more impressive.
By Jono Frank