RUCK’s Team of the Week: Biggar, Slater, Waldrom
Following two weeks of domestic action, the European Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup returned with some exciting looking Round Three fixtures this weekend and they certainly didn’t disappoint.
But who were the standout performers? Here are our selections.
Fullback: ALEX GOODE (Saracens)
The fullback put in an energetic display as Saracens romped to a 45-10 bonus-point win against Oyonnax on Sunday. It was a game where Sarries were far from strained, but Goode was in imperious form at the back with his ability to get over the gainline eventually meaning he finished the match with a fully deserved try.
Wing: TAQELE NAIYARAVORO (Glasgow Warriors)
The one-cap Australian international was at his rip-roaring best as he picked up a quickfire, and spectacular, hat-trick as Glasgow Warriors romped to a 43-6 bonus-point win against Scarlets. He could have had more, but the treble was a justified reward for his manful effort throughout the game.
Centre: PAUL WILLIAMS (Stade Francais)
Williams touched down a pair of tries as Stade Francais crushed Italian minnows Benetton Treviso 50-17 at the Comunale di Monigo for their first win in European Champions’ Cup this season; Samoa’s former Sale man scored a try in each half. The centre showed he will be an important figure for the French side if they are to go on to make a serious impact on the competition.
Centre: HENRY CHAVANCY (Racing 92)
Chavancy played a significant role as Racing 92 dismantled Northampton 33-3 at the Yves-du-Manoir for their second successive Champions’ Cup win. He rocked over for Sky Blues’ opening try on the right wing after a sustained spell of pressure on Saints’ line and was a menace to the stretched Saints defence throughout.
Wing: ANDREW FENBY (London Irish)
Fenby scored a hat-trick as the Exiles, who are bottom of the English Premiership, ran in six tries as they coasted to a 38-6 win against Edinburgh in the Challenge Cup. The 30-year-old winger, who was making his first start since the first day of the season, was in stunning form with his powerful running and impeccable finishing skills made him the obvious man of the match.
Fly-half: DAN BIGGAR (Ospreys)
It seemed destined that Dan Carter would be our number 10 or even George Ford following his last-gasp heroics against Wasps, but Ospreys man Dan Biggar’s display was nothing short of spectacular as he almost single-handedly guided the Welsh region to a 19-16 victory against Bordeaux at the Liberty Stadium . The Wales fly-half in imperious form scored all 19 of the hosts’ points, which included diving over for what proved to be the crucial try out wide. His side now lead the way in Pool Four.
Scrum-half: RUAN PIENAAR (Ulster)
In a brilliant team performance in both attack and defence, Pienaar was the creative lynchpin of Ulster’s incredible 38-0 win against Toulouse on Friday night. With a hand in most things Ulster did well on the ball, the South African showed he is still at the top of his game aged 31.
Prop: MARK LAMBERT (Harlequins)
Lambert went over inside six minutes as Harlequins thrashed Italian side Calvisano 50-10 to maintain their perfect European Challenge Cup record. The prop, who has been a stalwart at Quins since making his debut in 2004, scrummaged relentlessly with his try being just the second of his career in over 150 appearances for the Premiership club.
Hooker: NAZIR GASANOV (Enisei-STM)
The hooker touched down the crucial try as the Russian side made history with their first ever win in European rugby with a 10-7 win against CA Brive on Saturday. Gasanov managed to cross the line to give the Siberian side an unlikely lead and they were able to hold on for the upset.
Prop: BRIAN MUJATI (Sale Sharks)
The 31-year-old former South Africa international called upon all of his experience and scrummaging skills as a late penalty try proved to be the decisive moment for Sale Sharks as they battled to a 17-10 victory over Castres in the European Challenge Cup.
Lock: MITCH LEES (Exeter Chiefs)
Lees possibly scored the most significant try in Exeter history as he secured the bonus point in what will become a famous win against Clermont on Saturday. The forward played his part in the Chiefs dominant front eight but he isn’t just a powerhouse, his creative play around the breakdown makes him a genuine threat at all times. In this form, a first England cap shouldn’t be out of the question.
Lock: MARO ITOJE (Saracens)
The ever-improving second-row scored the crucial try that secured the bonus point as Saracens eased to a 45-10 bonus-point win in France. His ability to not just do the dirty work in the scrum and breakdown, but his strength to move with the ball in hand and find the right pass makes him the perfect modern day lock. He will either captain the Lions or save the world. Possibly both.
Flanker: ED SLATER (Leicester Tigers)
Tigers captain Slater, fresh of signing a new deal earlier in the week, played an influential role as Leicester recorded a historic 31-19 win on their travels against Munster. The 27-year-old’s leadership qualities and crucial turnovers made him, alongside back-row partner Lachlan McCaffrey, the main star of the emphatic win. His scrummaging was also exceptional.
Flanker: STEFFON ARMITAGE (Toulon)
Toulon’s 24-9 win against Leinster didn’t have much scoreboard action but had superstar Armitage available to steal the show with an impressive and ultimately crucial double, once again displaying his international class for the Top 14 side. The imposing back-rower has been frozen out of the England set-up due to his choice to play his club rugby outside the Aviva Premiership, despite being regarded among the world’s best openside flankers.
Number 8: THOMAS WALDROM (Exeter Chiefs)
Waldrom was magnificent as the Chiefs romped to a impressive 31-14 victory against Clermont, shaping The Chiefs dominant performance in what was a thoroughly entertaining game. This all-action performance from the New Zealand-born number 8, capped by two tries to follow his hat-trick against Wasps last week, could well also put the four-time England international back into the England fold, with head coach Eddie Jones watching on from the stands.