European Team of the Week
The Heineken Cup once again assumed its place as Europe’s premier competition this weekend, producing a number of shock results and tide-turning displays.
Leinster, Toulouse and Ulster continued to dominate their pools thanks to some dramatic Round 2 wins, while Scarlets, Racing Metro, Toulon and Exeter Chiefs are all tied on six points in their respective groups.
The second successive week of European action gave setting to as many fine team performances as ever, with certain individuals standing out more than others, weaving their way into the Team of the Week.
Loosehead Prop: Emmanuel Felsina, Toulon
One of the most iconic moments from this weekend’s action was the sheer dominance of one Toulon scrum in particular, which actually succeeded in lifting members of the Cardiff Blues’ front row off the floor while still locked in.
Although his side would eventually suffer a dramatic defeat in the Welsh capital, Emmanuel Felsina was an impressive component of the Top 14 club’s set piece after coming on for Xavier Chiocci.
Hooker: Damien Varley, Munster
One of several hookers to go over the whitewash this weekend, Damien Varley beats the likes of Christopher Tolofua and Tom Youngs to a spot in this week’s lineup.
The Munster man threw well, winning all 11 of his line-outs and pitched in with an impressive seven tackles in a tense outing against Gloucester.
Tighthead Prop: Census Johnston, Toulouse
With a bit of grit and determination, Toulouse were able to overcome their Allianz hosts and register a late victory over Saracens this weekend.
That effort was helped on greatly by the graft of Census Johnston, who made 10 tackles, an average of almost five yards per carry and gave Mako Vunipola a difficult opponent in the scrum.
Lock: Courtney Lawes, Northampton Saints
In a defensively astute performance from the Northampton Saints, Courtney Lawes stood as one of the more impressive figures against Ospreys, contributing no less than 14 tackles to the cause.
A staggering tally for the lock, Lawes continues to show the kind of physicality that will undoubtedly place him in a better position with Stuart Lancaster.
Lock: Sebastien Vahaamahina, Perpignan
Eleven tackles and 27 metres made while in possession point to a leading show from Perpignan lock Sebastien Vahaamahina.
Three offloads for the Frenchman showed his capability to show swift hands, but Vahaamahina was perhaps a little too quick in the carry, conceding a couple of turnovers too.
Blindside Flanker: Peter O’Mahony, Munster
Elected Man of the Match at Thomond Park this weekend, there wasn’t a foot put wrong by Peter O’Mahony, who led his side to an essential comeback victory over the Cherry and Whites.
Playing from No. 8, the 24-year-old made 55 metres with the ball in hand, beating three defenders and constantly giving his side a strong platform to work from in their latest triumph.
Openside Flanker: Tom Wood, Northampton Saints
Alongside Lawes, Tom Wood featured as the star of the Saints’ show when playing without the ball.
The flanker seemed to be everywhere at times in an incredibly dynamic display, making a magnificent 20 tackles and eight carries.
No. 8: Gillian Galan, Toulouse
Thomas Waldrom gets a special mention for his display against Treviso, but it was the manner in which Toulouse’s triumph over Saracens came about that wins him a spot in the Team of the Week.
Although just 22 years of age, Galan propelled the French visitors into gaining the front foot time and time again, making 34 metres in the loose, a constant terror on the ball.
Scrum-Half: Rhodri Williams, Scarlets
Another fine outing for the young Welshman, who should now be firmly in the reckoning to feature among Wales’ Autumn internationals.
The 20-year-old was his usual energetic self against Racing and gave the French visitors a constant worry to think of in their defensive duties.
Fly-Half: Jonny Sexton, Racing Metro
Unfortunate not to set up the game-winning try in the dying second of Racing Metro’s draw at Scarlets this weekend, Jonny Sexton will rue missing out on what would have capped a pristine performance.
As well as kicking 16 points, the Irishman showed his taste for the running game and made over 40 metres from just eight carries of the ball.
Wing: Sitiveni Sivivatu, Clermont Auvergne
Having not missed a single tackle against Harlequins, Sitiveni Sivivatu’s input was again nothing short of brilliance in yet another match-deciding outing from the New Zealander.
That being said, as is only natural, it’s in attack that the veteran showed his real quality, running for no less than 122 metres and spearheading the Clermont assault.
Inside Centre: Cory Allen, Cardiff Blues
Having made 40 metres from just two carries of the ball, Cory Allen’s impetus in midfield was a consistent platform from Cardiff Blues in their pursuit of an underdog victory against the reigning Heineken Cup champions.
That being said, it’s the centre’s 10 tackles, the highest tally of any player on the day, that stood out from the rest.
Outside Centre: Chris Wyles, Saracens
Although some would argue that Chris Ashton was Saracens’ truer star of the show, the winger simply benefited from the fine work made in midfield by Chris Wyles.
The centre scored the only try of the hosts’ afternoon outing and made 45 metres from his seven carries to go along with his fine efforts in setting up those around him.
Wyles was also one of just a few players on his team not to miss a tackle against Toulouse.
Wing: Christian Wade, London Wasps
Christian Wade’s defensive tact shone as the winger silenced critics in their tracks, pitching in with one particular try-saving stop that halted Bayonne from taking the upper hand in their Amlin Challenge Cup meeting.
The wide man beats Andrew Trimble to a place in this week’s team, and although that comes without the Englishman scoring, his most recent game was a great advertisement for the youngster’s apparent “weaknesses.”
Fullback: Jared Payne, Ulster
Ulster’s victory at Montpellier was by no means a given, but thanks to several key individual displays the Irish province was able to claim a morale-boosting victory in southern France.
Providing a safe pair of hands at the back and functioning well alongside his other star assets, Payne’s 72 metres with ball in hand was the highest managed by any player in the fixture.