This week had great defence, attack and a penalty-ridden effort, so a mixed bag in terms of the rugby played, whilst we saw a number of injuries to the league’s key players and a 100th CAP.
1: Dave Kilcoyne (Munster)
Kilcoyne had a magnificiant game against one of the best front rows in the league. He carried well and stood up to John Afoa not only in the scrum but around the park, and when he was substituted on 61 mins he physically showed the effort he had made. As the season progresses his match fitness will improve and watch out all those against him.
2: Mike Sherry (Munster)
Mike Sherry came on as an early replacement in the 2nd half. After Flanker Sean Dougall was yellow-carded Ulster threatened with a scrum five metres out, but Sherry hooked against the head and allowed Munster to clear their line. The 2nd half was all Ulster but the defensive effort in both the scrum and loose by Sherry was great to watch.
3: Dan Way (Dragons)
In a poor, penalty-ridden game at Rodney Parade, Dan Way came on to contest a scrum five metres out from the Blues line. He forced his opposite number up twice, before the third scrum attempt and the Dragons were penalised. After the Dragons went down 5-10 he stepped up a gear and hit hard, ran well and crossed the gain line.
4: Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh)
As part of a fantastic display at Murrayfield by Edinburgh, Gilchrist seemed to lead the back five around the pitch, tackling hard and clearing Zebre away from the ruck with relative ease. With Edinburgh, their backline generally gets the pludits but the work rate by Gilchrist was the cause of their success. A close second this week is Donncha O’ Callahan, seemingly not a player in his twilight years.
5: Johann Muller (Ulster)
Not a five but a four! Johann Muller picked his team up after a strong Munster side took an early 9-0 lead. He certainly led by example and was instrumental in turning the game in the second half. He took Lewis Stevenson and Neil McComb around the park and at times ‘bullied’ the Munster backline. Ian Keatley had a torrid time at the hands of Muller.
6: Simone Favaro (Treviso)
Favaro is playing in his first season for Treviso, and he made Saturday night in Italy a miserable one for Leinster. He was clinical in the contact area and but for the boot of Johnny Sexton, he would have earned Treviso’s victory.
7:Jon Edwards (Scarlets)
Edwards had simply a great all-round game, and whilst there are bigger names in the position, he made this selection his own this week. He punished poor breakdown work by Connacht and made himself a difficult player to bring down, using his full 16 stone to make the hard yards.
8: Jamie Heaslip (Leinster)
Nick Williams would have to agree that he gets dropped this week. Jamie Heaslip is my number 8 this time, returning this week to the full squad and captaining the side. After Treviso took the lead in the 77th minute, Heaslip rallied the Leinster squad into a position to allow the ever-reliable Sexton to drop the three points.
9:Henry Pyrgos (Warriors)
A number of strong competitors in this postion this week and I am sad to report that Chris Cusiter looks to be sidelined for some time. His replacement Henry Pyrgos stood up and took control of the game. He dominated his forwards and sped up the attack which led to a great win at Liberty Stadium.
10: Johnny Sexton (Leinster)
Johnny Sexton returned to the Leinster squad this weekend and looked as if he had never been away. On Saturday night he kicked 15 points including the heartbreaking drop goal which sunk Treviso from four points to one. He will stay under pressure in the Irish ten shirt from Munster’s Keatley and Ulster’s Paddy Jackson.
11: Tim Visser (Edinburgh)
Another two tries for Visser this week. No team of the week can be without him it seems. His speed, tackling and offload show that he is not just a scoring machine, but really turning into an all-round squad player. Warren Gatland and selectors will be watching him closely this season.
12: Jonathan Davies (Scarlets)
Jonathan Davies scored in the 80th minute to guarantee the bonus point win for the Scarlets, and he looked like scoring several times during the match. During Connacht’s attack he tackled, released and realigned quickly to prevent any Connacht width. With ball in hand, he committed several Connacht players, and created a huge amount of space. An easy selection this week.
13: Darren Cave (Ulster)
Darren Cave was the all-round back on Friday night, and in a mixed game for Ulster he was one of the few shining lights. His moment of the game was a huge Garryowen which cleared the Ulster line and he chased well ensuring that when it was caught by Ian Keatley, he allowed no time and managed to force the turnover.
14: George North (Scarlets)
The wing is turning into a difficult selection. Cuthbert was the one shining light for the Blues against Dragons, Tommy Seymour for Warriors was fantastic throughout the trip to Liberty Stadium, but George North wins by an edge. His dramatic attacking lines carved through the Connacht defence, and his efforts were rewarded on the 49th minute as he roared down the wing to score his fourth try of the season.
15: Jared Payne (Ulster)
Jared Payne was in fine form in a tightly-contested game at Ravenhill. He ran great lines avoiding the hard-hitting Munster squad, and looked the difference between the two sides. His quick-thinking gained nearly 70 yards when a line out was taken quickly, and he was rewarded a try in the second half which was the culmination of strong pressure. A Man of the Match performance.