Team of the Week: Champions Cup

Date published: December 19 2016

Big results over the weekend in Europe as the PRO12 sides enjoyed more success, dominating our selection this week.

Both of last season’s Top 14 finalists went on the road and lost, with the Scarlets stunning Toulon and Racing disappointing away to Glasgow Warriors.

With ten games to consider and plenty of nominees, here is our selection.

Team of the Week: Champions Cup, Round 4

15 Stuart Hogg (Glasgow Warriors)Delivered another assured display as the Warriors put Racing 92 to the sword at Scotstoun. Hogg was superb at the back and gained an impressive 78 metres from 11 carries, made one clean break, beat a defender and succeeded with two offloads. Clermont’s Isaia Toeava, who scored an excellent solo try, and Tiernan O’Halloran of Connacht also impressed.

14 Noa Nakaitaci (Clermont)The French international was unlucky not to cross the whitewash as the Top 14 scored five tries in their win over Ulster, but he was a constant threat in attack. Nakaitaci gained 82 metres from eight runs with three clean breaks and beat six defenders. Adam Byrne of Leinster also did well.

13 Bundee Aki (Connacht)Caught the eye with another superb attacking effort during the Irish province’s hard-fought triumph over Wasps in Galway. From 19 carries, Aki gained 94 metres from one clean break, made an offload and beat three defenders. Also did his bit in defence with six tackles and moves from inside centre to edge out Leinster’s young centre Garry Ringrose.

12 Scott Williams (Scarlets): An impressive effort during a memorable home win for the Welsh region against Toulon, and Williams was rewarded with the only try of the match for his efforts. Williams posed a real threat with ball in hand and gained 91 metres from an impressive 15 runs, with one clean break and three defenders beaten. Comes in ahead of Toby Flood of Toulouse.

11 Nemani Nadolo (Montpellier):  The behemoth winger was at his destructive best in his side’s loss to Castres and proved a real handful with ball in hand. Nadolo kept the defenders busy throughout the encounter gaining 129 metres from six runs with three clean breaks, three defenders beaten and he also managed an offload. He beats out Clermont’s Nick Abendanon and Paul Perez of Toulouse.

10 Finn Russell (Glasgow Warriors)Russell was simply outstanding in Glasgow’s rout of Racing 92 on Friday with a Man of the Match performance. He kicked eight points, had a try-assist, made four clean breaks and beat 10 defenders, including three offloads. It was a commanding performance which totally overshadowed his much fancied opposite number Dan Carter. Honorouble mentions for Camille Lopez, Jack Carty and Owen Williams, the latter pair having landed vital kicks to win matches for heir teams.

9 Luke McGrath (Leinster) McGrath was at the heart of Leinster’s 60-13 thumping of Northampton Saints, contributing with a try and three clean breaks, running 34 metres with eight carries and making 73 passes in a dominant display from his team.

8 Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors): His 100th appearance for the club could hardly have gone better. Not only did the Warriors win 23-7, but Strauss even scored his side’s first try as early as the fourth minute in a frantic start to the game. Strauss broke the line twice and made an offload, running 49 metres with nine carries and making nine tackles without missing any. Jackson Wray, Anthony Jelonch and Thomas Waldrom were also impressive over the weekend.

7 Yannick Caballero (Castres)The flanker stole an incredible five lineouts from Montpellier while also making three offloads and beating three defenders. He ran 43 metres, helping Castres win 29-23. Josh van der Flier deserves a mention for his contribution to Leinster’s win over Saints.

6 Aaron Shingler (Scarlets)Shingler had a try-assist in the narrow victory over Toulon with a fine pass to Scott Williams, while he also made a clean break and executed 14 tackles in an industrious performance. Alexandre Lapandry and Tala Grey also deserve a mention.

5 Jonny Gray (Glasgow Warriors): Not exactly a shock to see Gray at the heart of a famous Glasgow win, and the future British and Irish Lions lock made his presence felt once more. Rarely misses a tackle, finishing with 12, and he also worked tirelessly with 12 carries and a key lineout steal. Sébastien Vahaamahina impressed elsewhere.

4 Ultan Dillane (Connacht)Huge shift in the engine room for Connacht in their win over Wasps, with Dillane impressing on both sides of the ball. Made good ground with 42 metres from his 11 runs, including a couple of offloads, while Dillane was also his side’s joint top tackler in defence, finishing with 15.

3 Tadgh Furlong (Leinster)Great power to brush off three Northampton tacklers on his way to the line for a try in Leinster’s rout in Dublin. Busy as ever in attack and defence as Furlong continues to put together an impressive run of form

2 Ken Owens (Scarlets)The Scarlets captain was relentless against Toulon, at the heart of a top effort from his front row as the Welsh region pulled off a famous win. Owens hit 11 lineouts and carried well, but his 12 tackles as the Scarlets clung on were vital. Fraser Brown of Glasgow Warriors and Clermont’s Benjamin Kayser both shone.

1 Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers)Becoming a firm crowd favourite at Welford Road with his runs in the loose, and Genge enjoyed another impressive outing in the absence of Marcos Ayerza in the win over Munster. Beat defenders and made good yardage. He sneaks in ahead of the Scarlets’ Rob Evans.

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