Champions Cup: Two Cents Rugby picks his top five players of the semi-finals

·4-min read
Two Cents Rugby Credit: Alamy
Two Cents Rugby Credit: Alamy

With the Champions Cup semi-finals having been played out over the weekend, Two Cents Rugby selects five of the best players from the action.

In no particular order, the YouTube star went for two backs and three forwards, so without further ado, here they are. Have your say in the comments.

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Two Cent Rugby’s five top players

Jamison Gibson-Park (Leinster)

Player of the match in Leinster’s comfortable win over Toulouse, and highlighted his importance in driving the Irish side’s pack forward.

His bullet pass to stretch the Toulouse defence following the Thomas Ramos yellow card helped set up space for Leinster’s first try. Likewise, he picked out Josh van der Flier, again on the left, to set up the second.

Gibson-Park kicked well and sniped a few times to keep the Toulouse defenders on their toes.

There was perhaps a little less pressure on him with Antoine Dupont having to shift positions following the injury to Pierre-Louis Barassi, but still a classy performance from the nine nonetheless.

Uini Atonio (La Rochelle)

It’s sometimes hard to get props into lists like this because they’re not racking up a bunch of individual stats and have fewer flashy moments. That, plus what they do at the set-piece, is more of a team shift than any one player.

Still, given the dominance La Rochelle showed over Exeter up front, it’s only fitting that at least one of their front-rowers appears here.

Dominance at scrum time was the name of the game, with the Gregory Alldritt try directly coming from a forward pack getting huge go-forward.

Individually, Atonio made five from six tackles and beat a defender. Big shift from a big unit.

Dan Sheehan (Leinster)

Even rugby fans who dislike Leinster must admit watching Sheehan run the ball is an absolute thrill. As far as hookers go, he is devastating with his carrying.

It’s not unusual to see a hooker get over the whitewash with many teams mauling as they do, but when you see Sheehan’s name on the scoreboard, you genuinely don’t know if it was something involving grunt or something a bit flashier.

His pouncing on Toulouse’s loose ball to pinch a try from nowhere underscores the difference between him and most other guys wearing the number two jersey.

Sheehan finished the game with 55 run metres, three defenders beaten and 10 tackles. That plus a lineout operating at more than 90% made for an outstanding day.

He is a special player and worth the price of any ticket to see him live.

Jack Conan (Leinster)

In the quarter-final against Leicester Tigers, it might have been the backs who stole the show, but against Toulouse in the last-four the Leinster forwards showed us something special.

Conan’s carrying and defensive game was right up there with the best players of the round.

He highlighted his performance by bagging a couple of tries. For the first, he showed his power to crash through from an Andrew Porter pop pass., while the second was a little flashier with a dummy to coast over out wide.

Conan finished with more run metres than any forward in the match with 74, including a good carry over the advantage line to set up the Jason Jenkins try.

He had the most defenders beaten of the Leinster forwards and made 13 from 13 tackles. The back-row is in absolutely cracking form.

Tawera Kerr-Barlow (La Rochelle)

Another fantastic shift from a scrum-half this week so we have to acknowledge Kerr-Barlow.

Capped things off by bagging a couple of tries, the first finishing off a move with some slick handling, the second a confident snipe with just enough power and pace to get through a half gap.

He spun the ball with precision from the base of the ruck and even finished one of the top tackers for the game making 12 from 12, just one behind his teammate Alldritt – not bad for a half-back.

Australia may be well served by players in his position already, but surely Eddie Jones is keeping an eye on him.

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