As England were breaking their Autumn duck against the World Champions and Australia were chopping-up Welsh hearts, the RaboDirect Pro12 continued to plough on. Irish and Scottish teams welcomed back their International stars as the clubs looked to kick-on following a disruptive few weeks. Ulster preserved their unbeaten streak with a hard fought victory over the Scarlets, Edinburgh sneaked victory over Connacht while the Italian side, Treviso, dominated the Dragons. The other Scottish, Welsh, Irish and Italian teams dished out some excellent and entertaining Rugby, these are some of those stand-out performers.
15. Richard Fussell (Ospreys)
The impressive full-back grabbed himself a clinical second half try to clinch the bonus point and return the Ospreys to winning ways. Fussell was strong in the tackle, offered himself as an excellent support runner while maintaining some solid positional play to allow the home team to coast to victory.
14. Andrew Trimble (Ulster)
Trimble administered the final blow to a resilient Scarlets team as he used his blistering pace and perfect timing. The lightning quick winger intercepted a wayward Gareth Owens pass to power through the Scarlets defense and run in under the posts. Trimble offered speed, athleticism and a killer instinct allowing the Ulstermen to maintain their unbeaten run this season.
13. Christian Loamanu (Treviso)
The Japanese centre grabbed a try either side of the half, helping his Italian side secure their fourth victory of the season and moving them up to eighth in the table. The Italians have now recorded three wins out of four against Welsh opposition, with victories over the Ospreys, Scarlets and the Dragons.
12. Matt Scott (Edinburgh)
The impressive Scottish international slotted back into club play with ease as he collected a well taken try while providing a steady, solid defensive unit with Nick De Luca. Scott’s strong performance was capped by an excellent display of skill from Laidlaw who chipped forward to the onrushing Scott who side-stepped the last man to go over and send Edinburgh 17-10 up.
11. Fergus McFadden (Leinster)
The impressive winger proved to be one of Leinster’s executioners, running freely up and down the wing, tormenting the weak Italians. McFadden ran the channels and offered support while playing with guile and unrivaled skill.
10. Greig Laidlaw (Edinburgh)
One of the Scottish side’s most impressive players this weekend. Laidlaw showed his international class from the opening kick-off with slick passing, well placed kicks and excellent decision making. The young stand-off was instrumental in nearly all of Edinburgh’s attacks, he ran freely, punishing Connacht at will.
9. Kahn Fotuali’l (Ospreys)
Spread the ball quicker than anybody on the pitch, he displayed expert decision-making and controlled the match throughout. The man of the match played like a one man team setting up attack after attack, running the valiant Cardiff Blues into the ground.
8. Stuart McLnally (Edinburgh)
The big number 8 touched down with 15 minutes remaining to give his side a well deserved 8-point lead and all but securing the points for the traveling Scots. An excellent 40-yard break from David Denton was recycled quickly to allow for McLnally to storm over under the posts, ending an impressive, fast paced attack from Edinburgh.
7. Tommy O’Donnell (Munster)
Played like a demon, maintaining huge levels of intensity throughout precedings. Munster needed the strong flanker to break tackles, make gains and put in a powerful performance. He dominated a slack Glasgow team who could not cope with his pace, strength and skill.
6. C.J. Stander (Munster)
On his first Munster start, the former Springbok under-20 captain bagged a pair of excellently worked tries to help Munster put Glasgow to the sword. The impressive flanker scored his first points of the day on 8 minutes following a Glasgow penalty then struck again on 38 putting the Irish side up 21-3.
5. James King (Ospreys)
Offered excellent ball from the line-outs combined with hard running and strong tackling. He put the Blues line-outs under enormous pressure while being a complete terror throughout the match. An excellent performance from one of the Ospreys’ stand-out players, grabbing a try to round off his evening.
4. Neil McComb (Ulster)
Provided clean ball from the line-outs while working tirelessly in the scrums and in defence. He was always found running in the hard yards and offering himself at every breakdown. An excellent performance which helped maintain Ulster’s unbeaten run.
3. B.J. Botha (Munster)
Worked well against his opposition, Michael Cusack, helping Munster control the scrum, providing a steady platform for his team to work their magic in breaking a poor Glasgow team.
2. Sean Cronin (Leinster)
Consistent in the scrums and put in some good quality ball during the line-outs. He allowed the Irish side to build from set-plays, offering a steady pedestal for his backs to run hard and fast at the Zebre defense.
1. Duncan Jones (Ospreys)
The resilient prop put in a stabilizing performance. He was strong in the scrum and offered himself as a viable attacking option off the rucks and mauls. A tireless worker, leading from the front to get the job done, while helping his Welsh teammates to victory.
As the teams begin to ease their stars back following the Autumn Internationals, the RaboDirect Pro12 will fire-up and offer the fans a thrilling second half to an already impressive season. We have yet to see who can keep pace with the unbeaten Ulster as many teams are posturing behind them, but no consistent performers coming forward. Only time, pain and flowing rugby will show who the teams are that have the ability to stay the course and make a run for the Pro12 title.
By Alexander McLeman – Follow me @TodaysPlay