Poor showing for the Irish in Champions Cup Team of the Weekend
The second round of Heineken Champions Cup action brought compelling wins on the road, red cards and runaway tries.
Here are the individuals that stood out.
15. Alex Goode
Dovetailing with Owen Farrell in phase-play and from kick-returns, Goode allows Saracens to use the full width of the pitch. His well-weighted grubber laid on Sean Maitland’s try after a mistake from Jean-Marc Doussain and he beat five Lyon defenders on the way to 55 running metres.
14. Darcy Graham
Graham is a livewire who roams around the field picking clever lines and finding holes, often making far bigger defenders look silly. He made 72 metres with ball in hand on Saturday, epitomising Edinburgh’s enterprise, and also punched well above his weight in defence. Another dimunitive dynamo, Cheslin Kolbe of Toulouse, continues to impress.
13. Manu Tuilagi
Tuilagi just beats Racing 92’s Olivier Klemencazk and Glasgow Warrior Huw Jones. He grew into an absorbing game on Friday night at Welford Road, stepping up in the second half with a clever pick-and-go and then a bulldozing try down the short-side that reflected a new-found confidence. He burst through eight Scarlets tacklers over the 80 minutes.
12. Johnny Williams
Williams is fully deserving of his second consecutive appearance in this team. He shone on both sides of the ball, an over-the-top flip pass to Gary Graham the highlight. Matt Scott tormented Toulon at times. His offload to Henry Pyrgos was gorgeous.
Two from two after toppling the champions, Toulouse now face Wasps in a defining double-header. Their defeat of champions Leinster was founded on industry and opportunism. Landing two of their three tries, Médard continued his exceptional start to the tournament.
10. Adam Hastings
Joey Carbery deserves a mention and Joel Hodgson won the official man of the match award at Kingston Park, once more steering Newcastle with admirable composure. Finn Russell provided a series of fantastic flashes that sliced apart Ulster. Hastings inspired a fine away win for Glasgow, though, scything over for an early try and conducting plenty of sweeping attacks with fleet footwork and neat distribution. Each of his two touches in the mesmerising lead-up to Jonny Gray’s score oozed class.
9. Henry Pyrgos
The box-kicking prowess of Pyrgos underpinned Edinburgh’s complete performance against Toulon. Then his fine support line brought a try. Seabastien Bezy of Toulouse and Scarlets’ Gareth Davies enjoyed strong outings and Will Chudley will prove to be a superb signing for Bath.
1. Guram Gogicashvili
A monstrous shove from the Racing scrum brought the hosts back into the game at the U Arena, allowing Antoine Claasen to burst away and release Teddy Iribaren. Gogicashvili, who only turned 20 at the start of last month, finished with 10 burly carries and eight tackles without a miss.
2. Fraser Brown
Camille Chat is a powerhouse who will spearhead Racing’s surge towards the knockout rounds. Stuart McInally of Edinburgh beat five Toulon defenders from 15 carries, landing a second-half try. Brown takes the place for an all-round effort featuring effective breakdown work, penetrative running and a flawless lineout return.
3. Dan Cole
Cole won a breakdown penalty at the start of Leicester’s stirring win over Scarlets and his scrumagging forced a few more later in the evening. He carried robustly, especially in the build-up to Harry Wells’ try. Apart from one lapse for Gareth Davies’ score, he also defended strongly.
4. Steve Mafi
An athletic finish provided the defining moment of Castres’ superb victory on Saturday. Mafi also confounded Exeter with defensive contributions, making nine tackles in his 74-minute stay. But he beat nine Exeter defenders too. That stardust sent 14-man Castres over the line.
5. Tadhg Beirne
Jonny Gray could have taken this spot. His late try, sealing a phenomenal team move with a typically tireless support line, complemented 20 tackles. However, Beirne stood out in a disjointed encounter at Thomond Park. Despite conceding two penalties, his mauling expertise and breakdown know-how helped Munster to a bonus-point victory. And he still summoned the energy for one big break, slick link play and plenty of tackling – felling 12 Gloucester runners.
6. Mathieu Babillot
Newcastle talisman Mark Wilson nudged Eddie Jones very hard ahead of the autumn Tests, making 15 carries and 18 tackles. Babillot, still just 25 years old, showed excellent leadership to help drag Castres back into the game from 14-0 and then keep the hosts on task after a red card for Maama Vaipulu. He did ship a penalty for taunting Ian Whitten but his disruption around the tackle area continually sapped Exeter’s ruck-speed.
7. Gary Graham
Ever-tenacious, try-scoring Graham was outstanding against Montpellier in front of Eddie Jones. His breakdown spoiling and dominant tackles laid the foundation for a truly epic finish. Graham’s performance had to be special to oust Thomas Young of Wasps and Edinburgh’s Hamish Watson. It really was.
8. Viliami Mata
Matt Fagerson is growing into a wonderful player for Glasgow Warriors. Zach Mercer of Bath will be disappointed with a missed tackle on Ashley Johnson, but did nicely otherwise. Mata’s body of work, comprising a jaw-dropping 22 carries with numerous offloads and eye-catching footwork, puts him atop the podium.