With the Autumn Internationals just around the corner it was slightly surprising to see Mike Brown in action for Harlequins – it certainly raised the question of who would be in the starting line up against Fiji. However the full-back did no harm to his chances with a well taken try, latching onto an excellent pass from Williams and powering his way over the line. An excellent take under the high-ball early in the second half earned him the accolades of Connor O’shea stating, “Mike Brown for two years has been the best full-back in the country”. It remains to be seen who will be wearing the number 15 shirt in a couple of weeks’ time against Australia. Will it be Brown or Goode?
It seemed fitting that the long wait for Sale’s first win and the first real glimpses of what Danny Cipriani is capable came to fruition at the same time. The number 10, celebrating his 25th birthday, set the ball rolling, manufacturing the first try out nothing with an intelligent pass. He then followed this up with something a little more special, an excellently weighted pass for Leota allowed the centre to steamroller his way over the line. With the changes being rung in the coaching set-up Sale looked to this game as a turning point to their dismal start to the season. With Steve Diamond stepping in to relieve some of the pressure, it seems players like Cipriani can start showing what they are really capable of.
Varndell and Wade have been two of the most exciting wingers in the Premiership so far. Whilst their team’s performances have been lacking at times, the explosive wingers have consistently provided excitement and high class finishing. The weekend was no exception for Varndell in his side’s narrow defeat to Saracens. The former England winger is certainly knocking on the door again as he finished off a brilliant flowing move, leaving Richard Wigglesworth for dead and scoring in fine style. His form would certainly suggest he is up there with the likes of Sharples and Monye. However his sparse international performances have rendered him down the pecking order.
With the Autumn Internationals taking their toll on the Pro12 squads, the door was opened up for fringe players, such as Ian Keatley, to show what they are capable of. Although the Cardiff Blues defence at times was shambolic, Munster’s first try was exceptionally well worked with Keatley at the heart of it. The centre broke through the first line of defence before offloading well out of the tackle. A great angle off Laulala’s pass following the second phase of play saw Keatley burst through the line again, before once more offloading out of contact to send O’Donnell over. There is great competition going on in Ireland’s backline as Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll near the end of their time in the limelight. Keatley’s positional flexibility may serve him well within the coming few years.
By Jono Frank