Champions Cup Team of the Week: Leinster and La Rochelle dominate as four clubs go home

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 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Before we look forwards to the fast-approaching semi-finals, we have selected the premier performers from the antepenultimate round of Champions Cup action.

15 Hugo Keenan (Leinster): Ireland‘s go-to full-back delivered once more, providing the provincial side with excellent kick coverage in defence as well as a dangerous set of legs in attack. The international made two clean breaks on the day, helping his side to a 23-20 away at Welford Road. Mike Haley of Munster and Max Spring of Racing 92 both win themselves honourable mentions for their respective performances against Toulouse and Sale.

14 Teddy Thomas (Racing 92): Thomas was awesome for Racing in their win at La Defense over Sale where he carried for just shy of 75 metres. He also finished one of the most spectacular tries in recent history, dropping the ball on to his foot for a short grubber kick while stumbling out-of-bounds before re-entering the field of play to pounce on the loose ball for a try. Simply outstanding. Leinster’s Jimmy O’Brien was outstanding in his side’s win over Leicester, but was overshadowed by Thomas’ wizardry the following day.

13 Chris Farrell (Munster): Both Farrell and Pierre Fouysacc made strong cases for their inclusion in the Team of the Week during Munster and Toulouse’s clash at the Aviva Stadium, but the home side’s outside centre earned the spot, despite losing. The Irish centre sliced through the Toulouse defence set up Haley for a try to give his side the lead just after half time. Farrell had similar success carrying the ball all game, gaining 83 metres in total with ball in hand.

12 Robbie Henshaw (Leinster): Channelling his inner Bundee Aki, Henshaw bulldozed over the line early on to boost Leinster’s early lead to 17 after Johnny Sexton converted his effort. He provided tough carries throughout as well as 10 tackles defensively. Levani Botia was a standout performer in La Rochelle’s win over Montpellier as was Pita Ahki for Toulouse as they kicked their way past Munster.

11 Matthis Lebel (Toulouse): In front of a booming Munster crowd at the home of Irish rugby, Toulouse’s wing helped keep the team in the contest held in the most hostile of environments. The twice-capped France international finished two tries for the visitors, one coming from a well worked move and the other from an outrageous Peato Mauvaka no-look offload which Lebel did well do finish. James Lowe was predictably brilliant for Leinster as both a wing and sweeper as they advanced to the semi-finals.

10 Finn Russell (Racing 92): Russell was incredible for Racing in their win over Sale, scoring a try of his own while orchestrating the Parisian side’s attack. His finest moment of the game came when he delivered an inch-perfect cross-field grubber kick to Thomas for a try. Later in the game, Russell volleyed a loose ball downfield, recovered it and scored to boost Racing’s lead.

9 Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster): The scrum-half proved yet again why he is regarded as one of the best in the world with a commanding performance versus Leicester. Gibson-Park kept Leinster progressing down the field, taking advantage of the momentum created by the dominant forward pack. Nolann le Garrec put on a kicking clinic from the tee for Racing, nailing five penalties and two conversions in the win over Sale.

8 Gregory Alldritt (La Rochelle): Always a work-horse in the forwards, Alldritt carried a whopping 21 times for an even more impressive 95 metres at Stade Marcel Deflandre. He played text-book rugby throughout, completing all seven of his tackles and providing a key turnover for Ronan O’Gara’s side. Zach Mercer, Jack O’Donoghue and Francois Cros were unfortunate to miss out on a spot, instead earning themselves honourable mentions after Alldritt’s overshadowing outing.

7 Victor Vito (La Rochelle): “VITO, VITO,” boomed the La Rochelle crowd in appreciation for the former All-Black after the flanker dotted down a try in the corner to lengthen the home side’s lead. It was an afternoon of flashy rugby for Vito in his final season; the openside attacked tremendously, running well with the ball and keeping momentum alive with two offloads to teammates. The ever-outstanding Josh van der Flier was ferocious in his efforts against Leicester, he even managed to barge his way through defenders for an early try for the visitors.

6 Peter O’Mahony (Munster): Munster’s fantastic captain rallied his team in front of a wall of noise at the Aviva Stadium in a game that his side were unfortunate to lose. Simply a menace at the breakdown, the flanker won four turnovers for the hosts at their home-away-from-home, helping the side remain in the tightly fought contest. Youngster Caelen Doris was lethal as usual for Leinster as he continues on his path for greatness and surely a Lions call-up.

5 Remi Picquette (La Rochelle): As is often the case for locks, it was not an afternoon of glory for Picquette when Montpellier came to down, but that’s not to say it wasn’t a successful one. The 27-year-old acted as the side’s secondary ball-carrier, got his hands dirty at the breakdown and successfully jackled for the hosts on the triumphant afternoon.

4 James Ryan (Leinster): Despite seldom touching the ball, Ryan was still able to make an impact for the URC leaders on their trip to England. The lock was fierce in defence, tackling well and working efficiently in the rucks to help his side remain leaders in the affair. Jason Jenkins narrowly missed out on a spot in the side as the utility forward was a positive impact for Munster.

3 Dan Cole (Leicester): One of the aspects of the loss that Leicester will be proud of is their scrum, with Cole putting in a relentless shift against Andrew Porter. Proving he still has gas in the tank, Cole made eight tackles in the 58 minutes he played, along with schooling Ireland’s loosehead.

2 Peato Mauvaka (Toulouse): A rare replacement inclusion in the Team of the Week is Mauvaka, who replaced Julien Marchand in the second half of play. The hooker was an instant impact from the bench, putting up stats similar to that of a starter with 11 carries, five tackles, two turnovers as well as that oh-so-fantastic offload to Lebel.

1 Dany Priso (La Rochelle): Priso grabbed attention early on with a long-range finish for the hosts to prove that forwards have gas too before laying down a near-perfect outing for the remainder of the game. The prop made 100% of his tackles for the hosts and scrummaged very well. For their scrummaging, Bevan Rodd, Rodrigo Neti, Cyril Baille and Ellis Genge all land themselves with honourable mentions.

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