RUCK’s Team of the Week: Ayerza, Goode, Olding
There were some incredible comebacks in the Aviva Premiership this weekend while there were equally compelling clashes in both the Guinness Pro 12 and the French Top 14.
But who were the stand-out performers? After much debate here is our final selection – do you agree? Comment below.
Fullback: ROB MILLER (Wasps)
England Saxons fullback Miller, who signed a new deal with Wasps earlier this month, showed his quality with a number of threatening breaks, before he beat two weak tackles to score his team’s second try.
Wing: ASHTON HEWITT (Newport Gwent Dragons)
Hewitt spotted a gap and ghosted through for the opening try before battling hard to ensure Dragons held on for a much-needed 23-13 win against Leinster. The winger also made the critical break to set up the hosts second try, which was eventually dotted down by James Tovey.
Centre: SAM JAMES (Sale Sharks)
James went over for Sale’s third score within a minute of the restart and continued to cause the Exiles all sorts of problems with his intelligent running and precise passing.
Centre: STUART OLDING (Ulster)
Olding scored a try on his return to action for Ulster as they secured a bonus-point 32-13 Guinness Pro12 victory over Benetton Treviso at the Stadio Monigo. The 22-year-old went over for the crucial fourth try in a clinical second-half performance from the Irish province that kept them in the play-off hunt.
Wing: NEVILLE EDWARDS (Sale Sharks)
Sale director of rugby Steve Diamond praised the finishing skills of Edwards after the winger maintained his fine form by scoring two tries in the Sharks’ comfortable Premiership win over London Irish. The former Rosslyn Park player, who is best friends with the fly-half Danny Cipriani, was awarded a senior contract with the Sharks after impressing on a summer trial and has not looked back.
Fly-half: ANDY GOODE (Newcastle)
Veteran fly-half Goode rolled back the years for Newcastle Falcons as Quins let their lead slip. Dean Richard’s brought 35-year-old Goode out of retirement as a back-up fly-half, after All, Black Mike Delaney was injured. And the former England star’s second-half masterclass against Quins, which saw him kick 11-points from the tee, sparked a Falcons fight back, earning a 26-19 victory that lifts them off the bottom of the Aviva Premiership.
Scrum-half: SEBASTIEN BEZY (Toulouse)
Toulouse recorded a comprehensive triumph, with scrum-half Bezy crossing twice in a 54-3 thrashing of Pau in the Top 14.
Prop: MARCOS AYERZA (Leicester Tigers)
Ayerza scored Leicester’s first score; his first try in 95 matches, which got Leicester rolling before Tommy Bell’s late conversion cemented a narrow 19-18 win away at Gloucester. His scrummaging, as always, was also very impressive.
Hooker: SCHALK BRITS (Saracens)
Bath withstood severe pressure after the break, but their defence finally buckled when Brits, who was solid throughout the contest, crossed with 10 minutes left for what proved to be a match-winning try. The hooker is now set to shine as he will certainly be playing a lot more rugby with Jamie George away with England for the Six Nations.
Prop: TOMAS FRANCIS (Exeter Chiefs)
The 23-year-old tighthead, who is now in his second season with the Chiefs, put in another great display as Exeter romped to a comfortable away win against Worcester Warriors. Francis, who has been selected for Wales’ upcoming Six Nations campaign, with performances like this looks likely to have the chance to add to his seven Welsh caps.
Lock: MARO ITOJE (Saracens)
Itoje inspired a late Saracens comeback as the Premiership champions preserved their unbeaten record at Allianz Park this season with a 19-13 win over Bath. The second-row made a menace of himself in the ruck and eventually managed to unravel the Bath defence with Sarries finally taking advantage to secure the win.
Lock: MARK WILSON (Newcastle Falcons)
Flanker: TJ IOANE (Sale Sharks)
Flanker: JAKE HEENAN (Connacht)
Connacht’s forwards, led by an immense Heenan, bullied Scarlets’ pack into submission at Sportsground as Pat Lam’s men recorded their first Pro 12 win since December 11 with a 30-17 victory. The back-rowers pair of tries combined with his relentless intensity at the breakdown made him a shoe-in for RUCK’s team of the week.
Number 8: MANOA VOSAWAI (Cardiff Blues)
Number eight Vosawai showed his physical power and his incredible intensity as Cardiff Blues overcame Edinburgh.