15. Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues)
The Welsh international was typically meticulous off the kicking tee and his 15-point haul helped Cardiff edge past the Newport Gwent Dragons. Halfpenny’s positioning was sound and his powerful running stretched the Dragons’ defence. His opposite man (Dan Evans) was also outstanding but Halfpenny ultimately proved to be the difference between the two sides.
14. Will Harries (Newport Gwent Dragons)
Harries showed plenty of pace and persistence to storm over for his side’s only try of the match. The winger looked threatening with the ball in hand throughout and he made significant gains. He also made a nuisance of himself at the breakdown and turned Cardiff over on several occasions.
13. Ashely Beck (Ospreys)
Beck got his side off the mark when he squeezed over the line in the 18th minute. The centre was direct in attack and showed plenty of pace and ambition to stretch the Scarlet’s defence. He also imposed himself on the breakdown and made three strong turnovers.
12. Gordon D’Arcy (Leinster)
D’Arcy was Leinster’s most potent attacking threat. He carried with intent and asked questions of the Connacht defence throughout, before cutting a beautifully timed support line to crash over late on and secure the win for Leinster. Ivan Dineen was also in contention after an impressive outing for Munster.
11. Dave Kearney (Leinster)
Kearney utilised his rapid acceleration and acute sense of timing to trouble Connacht. While, at times, Leinster struggled to penetrate the heart of the Connacht defence, Kearney stretched the hosts on the outside and covered plenty of ground with the ball in hand.
10. Paddy Jackson (Ulster)
The fly half did not seem fazed by losing the kicking duties to his scrum half. Jackson orchestrated his backline well and his kept side moving with pace and fluidity throughout. His delicate chip put Jared Payne over for Ulster’s opening score.
9. Ruan Pienaar (Ulster)
While Rhys Webb was brilliant for the Ospreys, the South African gave a complete kicking display to help Ulster to a crucial victory over the league leaders. Pienaar kicked 19 points from a range of angles and distances, with some monstrous penalty kicks and touchline conversions. He distributed well and gave Jackson plenty of quick ball to play with.
8. Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)
Heaslip and was typically gallant with ball in hand and one of very few Leinster players to carry to any effect.
7. Jordi Murphy (Leinster)
The flanker picked up his second successive man of the match award after another tenacious performance. In a game of few line breaks, Murphy persevered and bullied his way over the gain line with each determined charge. He was also central in the build up to D’Arcy’s late try.
6. Netani Talei (Newport Gwent Dragons)
Taleki was huge in defence, the Fijian lead the Dragons tackle count with 16. He showed plenty of willingness to take the ball on and ground out some hard yards with some powerful and dynamic carries.
5. Jake Ball (Scarlets)
Ball was a towering presence in the lineout and robust in defence. He carried with malignant intent and was one of few Scarlets players to leave any impression in the impressive Osprey defence. Ian Evans was also immense for the opposition.
4. Alun Wyn Jones (Ospreys)
The Welsh international was infallible at the summit of the Ospreys’ lineout. His set piece dominance gave his side the edge in a tight territorial battle, as the game was dominated by tactical kicking. Jones Lead the impeccable Osprey defensive charge with plenty of aggression and looked dynamic and effective in attack.
3. John Afoa (Ulster)
The New Zealander dominated his opposite man in the scrum, powerful and authoritative at the set piece. Afoa looked energetic and strong in attack and he imposed himself at the breakdown.
2. Sean Cronin (Leinster)
The ex-Connacht hooker never took a backward step, he was relentless in attack and charged over the gain line on numerous occasions. Cronin was also the cornerstone of the dominant Leinster set piece, he hit all his jumpers at the lineout and imposed himself in the scrum. Davide Giazzon was also instrumental in Zebre’s victory over Treviso.
1. Sam Hobbs (Cardiff)
Hobbs lasted only 47 minutes, but only his open side flanker (Josh Navidi) registered more tackles in the match. The Cardiff captain lead from the front in an aggressive defensive display and thundered into the Newport defence with some colossal carries.
By Nathan Hyde (@NathanHyde2)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images