1. Ryan Grant (Glasgow Warriors)
The Warriors loosehead enjoyed a fine domestic season last year that saw him win a great many plaudits, and eventually a Lions call-up. On Friday night, he was part of a Glasgow front row that exerted plenty of pressure on their opponents in the scrum, and was typically busy in the loose, taking on more than his share of the defensive and ball-carrying duties. Rightly or wrongly, he has conceded too many penalties for his liking at scrum time in the past two weeks, but there are signs aplenty that he is returning to form.
2. Richard Hibbard (Ospreys)
Hibbard turned in a characteristically physical performance at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday evening, carrying well against poor Edinburgh defence. The Lions tourist barrelled over for two close-range tries, and was involved plenty in and around the breakdown. He also consistently made yards around the fringes in a desperately disjointed game. The only disappointment was that he was replaced before he had a chance to complete his hat-trick!
3. Adam Jones (Ospreys)
A comfortable fixture for the Welsh stalwart, never being seriously troubled in the scrum, but showing up well around the field. Like Hibbard, he carried well and made ground with ball in hand, particularly in the tight exchanges at the Liberty Stadium.
4. Andrew Coombs (Dragons)
An inspirational performance from the Dragons captain in their spectacular victory over rival Welsh region the Scarlets. Coombs was immense in defence, particularly in the closing stages, and contributed hugely to the visitors’ failure to cross the gain line in over half of their carries. Elsewhere, he led from the front as a ball-carrying option, and did well at the set piece.
5. Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors)
The younger brother of Richie is acquitting himself superbly for the Warriors, and has already been a stand-out performer in their victories over Ulster and Leinster. This week, he carried superbly once more, making ground consistently with ball in hand, and getting Glasgow on the front foot. The Warriors have yet to concede a try this season, and Gray has contributed to that solid defensive record with some excellent close tackles.
6. Dimitri Basilaia (Edinburgh)
Found himself up against it at the breakdown, with the tigerish Sam Lewis causing Edinburgh problems, but his overall performance was one of precious few positives for the Scots. He carried tirelessly in an effort to get his side going forward, and looks to have found his best position at blindside.
7. Sam Lewis (Ospreys)
The young Ospreys openside was outstanding in defence, working hard to top the tackle charts with fifteen, almost double that of his nearest rival – back row colleague Morgan Allen. With ball in hand, Lewis was energetic, forcing Edinburgh onto the back foot.
8. Rob McCusker (Scarlets)
Stepped up to the physical mark set by the Dragons pack, doing plenty of hard work in attack. He made a crucial try-saving tackle on Hallam Amos in the first half, but was ultimately unable to impact upon the final result.
9. Brendon Leonard (Zebre)
Zebre’s capturing of the Kiwi scrum-half marked one of the summer’s shrewdest Pro12 signings, and it appears their decision to bring him in will pay dividends. He will be pivotal to any success the Italians enjoy this season, and he demonstrated his ability to control games on Friday night, with his performance winning many plaudits. He capped an excellent all-round display with what turned out to be the try that sealed his side’s first ever competitive victory, and a superb tackle to scythe down Leigh Halfpenny during the game’s last play.
10. Mat Berquist (Treviso)
Another New Zealander playing his rugby in Italy, Berquist was in brilliant form with the boot, kicking well from hand, and grabbing nineteen of his side’s twenty-nine points off the tee. His prolific goal-kicking punished Munster time and time again – firstly aiding his side to draw level, then to stretch their lead beyond the grasp of their visitors.
11. Ludovico Nitoglia (Treviso)
Treviso recorded an impressive home win over high-flying Munster, with Nitoglia bagging a brace of tries from the wing. The Italian international found himself in space on the right-hand-side to notch his first five-pointer, then showed good awareness to dive over the line for his second.
12. Scott Williams (Scarlets)
The Scarlets centre, playing alongside returning Lions tourist Jonathan Davies, looked dangerous in attack, and showed good footwork and agility with ball in hand. Managed to grab himself a first-half try after a nice inside ball from Davies.
13. Darren Cave (Ulster)
Was a bright spark in attack for Ulster during their hard-fought victory over Connacht on Saturday evening. Caused the home defence plenty of problems, and narrowly missed out on a try after a good breakaway.
14. Sean Lamont (Glasgow Warriors)
The experienced Scotland international was busy again in his side’s victory over Leinster on Friday night. He came off his wing looking for work, and made good yards with ball in hand. He has a tendency to “hit” rather than tackle with good technique, but his defence this week was good, and he covered back well when required.
15. Richard Fussell (Ospreys)
Fussell showed his class with a tidy showing in a game that was disjointed to the extreme. Some intelligent running coupled with soft handling created a number of opportunities for his side, and he provided Eli Walker with assists for both his tries. The second, in particular, came from a deft grubber kick up the left-hand side, and was weighted perfectly for Walker to latch onto and canter over. He didn’t have a lot to do in defence, but his kicking from hand was largely solid.
By Jamie Lyall (@JLyall93)
Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images