RUCK’s Team of the Week: Ashton, Gopperth, Veainu
It’s been another exciting weekend of European action with some fantastic games taking place.
But who were the standout performers? Here are our selections.
Fullback: TELUSA VEAINU (Leicester Tigers)
The fullback was in inspired form as Tigers’ recorded a 17-6 win against Munster on Sunday, playing a key role in preventing the Irish province from scoring a single point in the second half. Veainu’s display was typified by his lung-busting run and tackle on Francis Saili that prevented the Munster centre scoring a length-of-the-field try, and saw Leicester deny their visitors a match point in the battle for quarter-final qualification.
Wing: CHRIS ASHTON (Saracens)
The winger is probably still the most natural scorer in the English game and served a timely reminder to new England head coach Eddie Jones of his talents with a crisply taken hat-trick for Saracens as the London club continued their perfect start to the season with a 55-13 win against Allianz Park. Ashton’s predatory instincts meant he was the standout player during the game for not just his scoring but his relentless chasing and committed tackling also.
Centre: JONATHAN DAVIES (Clermont)
Wales centre Jonathan Davies made a stunning try-scoring return when he helped Clermont Auvergne’s 42-10 demolition of Exeter in the Champions Cup clash. Davies was ruled out of the Rugby World Cup through a ruptured cruciate ligament, but six months after undergoing surgery he was ready to take to the field and it looked like he hd never been away.
Centre: STUART MCCLOSKEY (Ulster)
The uncapped centre was impossible to ignore as Ulster overcame Toulouse 25-23 on Sunday at Stade Ernest-Wallon. The Bangor Bulldozer put in 15 tackles in defence, but his real strength is going forward, which he did 10 times to gain 70 metres for his side. A first Ireland cap during the Six Nations should be a certainty.
Wing: JOSAIA RAISUQE (Stade Francais)
The little-known former Toulon back was in fine form, running in two hard-earned tries either side of half time as Stade Francais romped to a dominant 40-14 win against Benetton Treviso onSaturday. Although he was one of the most inexperienced players on the pitch, his contribution to the win was vital.
Fly-half: JIMMY GOPPERTH (Wasps)
The fly-half came to the fore as Wasps struck back against Bath on Saturday. Gopperth scored 23 points in the Coventry based sides second away win of their European Champions Cup campaign to remain firmly on course for the knockout phase. The New Zealander’s total was made up of a try, four penalties and three conversions
Scrum-half: GREIG LAIDLAW (Gloucester)
Gloucester, the Challenge Cup holders, put themselves within touching distance of a home quarter-final last night when they set a tournament record of 13 straight wins, thanks largely to skipper Laidlaw, who delivered 22 points made up of a try and a peerless kicking display.
Prop: KYLE MCCALL (Ulster)
Ulster’s commited performance on Sunday was demonstrated most of all from prop Kyle McCall. The forwards insane work-rate saw him make 21 tackles at Stade Ernest-Wallon while his scrummaging was also solid throughout.
Hooker: ANTONI ETRILLARD (Toulon)
The hookers emergence from the bench made a significant impact as Toulon powered past Leinster with a dominant second half display. Etrillard played a part in the holders being awarded a penalty try before crossing himself for what proved to be the match-winning score just after the hour.
Prop: KYLE SINCKLER (Harlequins)
The prop has played a key role in Harlequins so far perfect Challenge Cup Campaign and was in fine form again on Saturday as Quins romped to a convicning 59-7 win against Calvisano . Sinckler also scored a try, wriggling free of the last defender to force himself between the posts for the score. An all around fantastic display from the big man before he was replaced just before the hour.
Lock: ANDREI OSTRIKOV (Sale Sharks)
The Russian international was at his very best for Sale this weekend as the Sharks overcame Castres 31-10 in the Challenge Cup. The hosts power in the scrum and efficiency in the lineout of was led by Ostrikov, who also made some big tackles at crucial times throughout.
Lock: ALUN WYN JONES (Ospreys)
Although the Welsh region were on the end of a 33-27 defeat in France, their commitment was unquestionable. Their forwards, spearheaded by Wyn Jones never give up and following a monumental effort Ospreys returned to Wales with two deserved bonus points.
Flanker: JUAN SMITH (Toulon)
Smith starred as titleholders Toulon overhauled an 11-point interval deficit to power past Leinster 20-16 and knock the three-time winners out of the European Champions Cup on Saturday. The flanker’s try was the turning point for the hosts while his all-around play meant he was without a doubt the man of the match.
Flanker: TEIMANA HARRISON (Northampton)
The 23-year-old openside born in Opotiki, New Zealand made the most of his opportunity during Friday nights 9-9 draw with Racing Metro, playing a central role in Saints much-improved display. Harrison is averaging 4.5 metres per carry, which is by far the most of the Northampton forwards, and is even more than the majority of their backs. He seems like an excellent addition to the group.
Number 8: SAMUELA VUNISA (Saracens)
Sarries big number 8 Vunisa put in a commanding performance as they overcame Oyonnax 55-13 at Allianz Park. The Fijian-born Italian international’s impressive display saw him make 16 carries, 9 tackles and he also dotted down two tries. He is definitely a force to be reckoned with for the reigning Premiership champions.