Champions Cup Team of the Week: Munster and Harlequins well-represented despite contrasting fortunes

·7-min read
 Credit: PA Images
Credit: PA Images

Now that the dust has settled on the second legs of the Champions Cup Round-of-16, we’ve gone through the action to pick the best players from the weekend’s games.

Despite contrasting aggregate results, Munster and Harlequins lead the way with three players apiece in our team while Sale Sharks and Racing 92 are next highest with two representatives each.

Champions Cup Team of the Week

15 Telusa Veainu (Stade Francais): This weekend, Veainu showed his electric running power as he scored a free-running try after picking up a loose ball in broken play. The Tongan international notched up an excellent 149 metres with ball in hand, coupled with two line breaks, one turnover won, and a try assist. A complete display from the 31-year-old whose performance was good enough to be picked over the impressive Leicester Tiger Freddie Steward.

14 Louis Lynagh (Harlequins): The Harlequins flyer put in a brilliant performance, scoring a brace to almost earn his side of the better comebacks you will see. Lynagh broke the line twice and notched over 50 metres with ball in hand. Completing his performance was a single turnover won. Racing 92’s Teddy Thomas was a close runner-up after scoring a brace in a scintillating performance for his side in their win over Stade Francais.

13 Gael Fickou (Racing 92): France’s Grand Slam-winning centre continued his sublime form with a complete performance that saw him carry the ball 77 metres in nine carries with one clean break in that Parisian derby against Stade Francais. Fickou is playing with great confidence, linking play in and around his channel and is one of the form outside centres in the world. He comes in ahead of Leicester Tigers’ Matias Moroni out of our Team of the Week.

12 Damian de Allende (Munster): The World Cup winner produced a top-class performance for the Irish province, scoring a thrilling try thanks to a beautiful Simon Zebo offload in their win over Exeter Chiefs. De Allende made 11 tackles in that game, winning one turnover in the process. The Springbok carried well, gaining 25 metres from six carries and provided important go-forward ball for his side. Leinster’s Robbie Henshaw and La Rochelle’s Johnathan Danty also produced notable performances for their sides.

11 James Lowe (Leinster): The Irish wing produced a sublime performance against Connacht at the Aviva Stadium, scoring a whopping four tries with two try assists to add. The New Zealand-born speedster showed his complete skill-set and benefitted from brilliant positional play that saw him often in the right place at the right time, the mark of a world-class finisher. Lowe’s stunning performance kept Leicester’s Harry Potter, Stade Francais’ Adrien Lapegue and Ulster’s Ethan McIlroy out despite solid performances from the trio.

10 Joey Carbery (Munster): After a narrow loss to Exeter at Sandy Park, Munster had 80 minutes to bounce back – and that’s exactly what they did with Carbery leading the way. On his return to the side, having missed last week’s clash, the fly-half provided 21 points for the hosts, helping to secure the victory. Carbery was perfect from the tee all day, nailing two conversions and slotting four penalties. The Ireland international also scored Munster’s first try after using misdirection to slip through Exeter’s defence. Romain Ntamack earns an honourable mention for his performance in Toulouse’s victory over Ulster.

9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow (La Rochelle): La Rochelle’s number nine Kerr-Barlow had a fantastic outing versus local rivals Bordeaux to help his side to a 62-36 aggregate win. The former All Black was involved in two of the tries scored, providing a grubber kick for Levani Botia to dot down while also scoring one of his own after a fantastic break from Danty. Faf de Klerk was next best as he was able to provide a spark for Sale to help them take down Bristol at Ashton Gate.

8 Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins): The European Rugby Player of the Year nominee strengthened his claim for the award after assisting two tries and adding one of his own in a narrow aggregate loss to Montpellier 60-59. Dombrandt made a line break not even one minute into the contest to set up Huw Jones for an easy finish before dotting down one of his own later in the first half. Three minutes before half-time, he set up Lynagh for his first try after a pick-and-go from the base of a scrum. La Rochelle’s Gregory Alldritt also played well putting in a typically gritty performance.

7 Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers): Reffell was a brick wall for Leicester defensively against Clermont Auvergne. The uncapped Wales-and-England-eligible flanker made 18 tackles and turned over the ball twice for the hosts at Welford Road. Surely with performances like this from Reffell it’s only a matter of time before Eddie Jones or Wayne Pivac comes calling? Meanwhile for Leinster, Josh van der Filer had yet another fabulous outing in blue as he delivered 21 tackles for the hosts in their win over Connacht.

6 Peter O’Mahony (Munster): O’Mahony’s return for the second leg proved to be pivotal for Munster with their skipper resuming his role as a breakdown menace. Three turnovers were won by the blindside who also made all 14 of his tackles against Exeter’s pack who carry more often than average sides. Anthony Jelonch was unfortunate to miss out on this spot after a near perfect game on the Toulouse flank.

5 Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks): Although Leinster’s Josh Murphy came to the fore with a solid effort in their one-sided victory over Connacht, he misses out to De Jager, who was one of Sale’s star performers in a deserved away win over Bristol. The Springbok World Cup winner did his bit as a ball carrier, gaining 31 metres from seven carries and also made his mark in the lineouts where he won several balls and also shone on defence with eight tackles made.

4 Paul Willense (Montpellier): The Top 14 outfit advanced to the quarter-finals by the narrowest of margins despite going down to Harlequins at the Stoop but it wasn’t through a lack of effort from the behemoth France international, who stepped up with a solid all-round display. Willemse won his fair share of lineout balls, put in a big effort in the tight exchanges and is preferred to Baptiste Chouzenoux, who impressed for Racing 92 against Stade Francais.

3 Will Collier (Harlequins): Collier was at the forefront of Harlequins’ forward effort as he emptied the tank in their clash against Montpellier. The 30-year-old gave his all during a 50-minute stint and did well in the implementation of his core duties. He came to the fore with a strong scrummaging performance and also put his body on the line on defence, especially at close quarters. Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong also had a good game against Connacht.

2 Camille Chat (Racing 92): There were solid performances from Toulouse’s Peato Mauvaka and Akker van der Merwe of Sale Sharks but it’s Chat who gets the nod as he delivered an outstanding performance in his side’s triumph over Stade Francais at Paris La Defense Arena. Chat had a good attacking game, gaining 52 metres from three carries but also shone with his breakdown work and won a crucial turnover.

1 Bevan Rodd (Sale Sharks): This was a difficult choice as Leicester Tigers captain Ellis Genge, once again, caught the eye with a fine all-round display in his side’s win over Clermont Auvergne but we’ve opted for Rodd, who was one of Sale Sharks’ star performers in their triumph against Bristol Bears. Rodd stood up well in the scrums, put his body on the line in defence and his breakdown work was outstanding as he won two turnovers.

READ MORE: Champions Cup: Five takeaways from Round-of-16 second legs as home and away aggregate matches are a success

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