By Charlie Morgan
15. Robbie Henshaw (Connacht)
Some believe him to be Ireland’s successor to Brian O’Driscoll at outside-centre. Some reckon full-back is his calling. Wherever Henshaw’s future lies, it’s very big and very bright. Thanks to an outrageous bit of skill in the lead-up to Connacht’s Heineken Cup upset-clinching score to underline a fine outing, Toulouse know that now.
14. Timoci Nagusa (Montpellier)
It seemed fitting that Nagusa’s opposite man Miles Benjamin grabbed a brace – the Fijian was as comatose in defence as he was electric in attack. That said, there were two tries (one disallowed), an assist and some breathtaking play from him. Luke Fitzgerald and Keith Earls brought a decent case for more Irish personnel, but Nagusa lit up Welford Road.
13. Brian O’Driscoll (Leinster)
O’Driscoll has long since drained the well of superlatives dry, but this felt among his most special displays. A through-the-legs wonder-pass set the ball rolling and an interception try capped it off. In between that, there was plenty to purr about.
12. Dan Bowden (Leicester Tigers)
His midfield partner Niki Goneva was a fiendish wrecking ball as Leicester exploded out of the blocks on Sunday, but Bowden brought the cultured touches that cut Montpellier apart. Having served his three-year residency period, this former New Zealand Under 21 now qualifies for England, too – food for thought, indeed.
11. Jonny May (Gloucester)
The crazy, mazy runner at last enjoyed some semblance of a platform as Gloucester’s forwards fronted up at Murrayfield. He capitalised fully, laying on an assist for Martyn Thomas following a sublime 50-metre break and provided a constant headache for Edinburgh’s defence.
10. Rhys Patchell (Cardiff Blues)
This excellent 20 year-old has it all – silky distribution, a thunderous boot and bags of tenacity. Scored a try and smashed over a penalty from close to 60 metres, while many other lovely interventions (not least a no-look offload in the shadow of his own posts) confounded the Glasgow defence. Warren Gatland has to have taken note.
9. Kieran Marmion (Connacht)
Another young Irishman enhancing his rocketing reputation, Marmion was tidy around the park and shunted over for the short-range effort that clinched Connacht’s astounding victory.
1. Thomas Domingo (Clermont)
A weekend of French woe did not extend to the unthinkable – Clermont losing at fortress Stade Marcel-Michelin. Domingo was typically rambunctious in helping extend Les Jaunards’ unbeaten home stretch to 69 games, racking up 11 carries to soften up the Scarlets.
2. Sean Cronin (Leinster)
One early hook against the head proved a false dawn for Dylan Hartley and Northampton. Leinster’s top metre-maker, Cronin produced running lines that were fully committed yet icily intelligent – personifying the approach that obliterated Saints.
3. Taufa’ao Filise (Cardiff Blues)
It appears nobody has told Mr Filise that most 36 year-old tightheads are content with leaning into scrums long enough to earn a beer. This supremely fit Tongan made 14 tackles during a harum-scarum clash at the Arms Park, shackling the dangerous Nikola Matawalu around the fringes on a few occasions.
4. George Robson (Harlequins)
Graham Kitchener gave Stuart Lancaster a hefty nudge as the outstanding figure in a scintillating East Midlands encounter. Robson was colossal though, and it would be criminal to ignore Harlequins’ fantastic bonus-point sojourn in Nantes, which was forged from their pack’s iron reolve.
5. Craig Clarke (Connacht)
Some laughed when Connacht leader Clarke said his team could arrest a miserable losing streak at the Stade Ernest-Wallon. They bargained against a back-to-back Super 15 winner with enough juice in the tank to make 18 tackles.
6. Macauley Cook (Cardiff Blues)
Scampering away to send Alex Cuthbert down the touchline in the opening exchanges on Friday night, Cook set the tone for an all-action shift. For sheer, bloody-minded work-rate, the 21 year-old epitomised his injury-ravaged side’s desire.
7. Sean Dougall (Munster)
Having started the season in the British and Irish Cup with Munster A, Dougall is becoming more influential for his province with early opportunity. A try within two minutes foreshadowed plenty of hard-work, not least when the red-head harried after a galloping Luke Charteris to force a forward pass
8. Johnnie Beattie (Montpellier)
A 74-point seesaw thriller was open enough for Beattie to showcase his marauding best, and the Scotsman delivered handsomely by mixing robust charges with impressive dexterity – thoroughly entertaining.