Planet Rugby

Heineken Cup: Team of the Week

07th April 2014 12:11


Heineken Cup quarter finals Team of the week 2014

In-form: Williams & Parra

Now the dust has settled on the Heineken Cup quarter-finals, we thought it right to praise to those who shone in the last eight.

Heineken Cup: Team of the quarter-finals

15 Delon Armitage (Toulon): The former England full-back's loping runs and accurate punts kept Leinster on their toes. He was good under the high ball, covering for Drew Mitchell, and finished off a tidy performance with a booming penalty late on that must have been close to 60 metres.

14 Blaine Scully (Leicester Tigers): Simply put, the American didn't deserve to end up on the losing side. He was relentless in attack, making close to 80 metres and chasing down Garryowens as though his life depended upon catching the ball. Kept his cool to send Jordan Crane over for an important try before half-time, and tackled his heart out. Chris Ashton enjoyed another impressive showing for Saracens but tarnished a super try by goading the home fans, while Mitchell was dangerous in attack though suspect under Jimmy Gopperth's up-and-unders.

13 Mathieu Bastareaud (Toulon): "Basta" seldom impressed during the Six Nations, but this was a different story. His hands need work, and his decision-making is often poor, but he bails himself out by bulldozing would-be tacklers and forcing a gang of opponents to come and haul him down. Unfortunately for Leinster, he played well in the Mayol sunshine, swatting aside six defenders, making 62 metres and eschewing a huge overlap to hammer his way to the line and pop up for Mitchell to score. Praise must go too to Casey Laulala, whose intelligent play often created space out wide for Munster.

12 Matt Giteau (Toulon): Superb all-round display from the experienced Aussie, who slotted in at fly-half with Jonny Wilkinson's injury. He made more metres than any other player, scything through the Leinster midfield time and again. Giteau beat three defenders and proved his small stature belied a hard-tackling tyro with a couple of jarring hits.

11 Tommy Bowe (Ulster): Bowe's performance epitomised to perfection the spirit and defiance shown in adversity by Ulster's 14 men. Against the odds, he made 75 metres in attack, beating an impressive nine defenders in the process, and constantly forced his way over the gain-line. Simon Zebo looks back to his best for Munster, with his defending especially notable on top of a try and assist, while Toulouse's Hosea Gear provided the only bright spark for Guy Noves's men with a scintillating score.

10 Owen Williams (Leicester Tigers): Aged just 22, Williams faced his most daunting task yet inside the fearsome Michelin cauldron. But the Tigers playmaker was unfazed, showing nerves of steel to land a pair of cracking long-range penalties, and great vision with his kicking from hand - one cross-kick in particular leading to Crane's try. Warren Gatland must be watching on with interest.

9 Morgan Parra (Clermont): A very tidy performance from the Clermont nine, who rarely lets the pressure get to him, and always seems to have an extra half-second at the base of a ruck. He kicked well, and mixed up play nicely as the hosts came roaring forward during the first half. Conor Murray had another fine all-round showing at Thomond Park with some powerful sniping runs.

8 Steffon Armitage (Toulon): Simply immense. The younger Armitage was titanic in every aspect of his play: a swift and powerful runner, a fearsome defender and an immovable object at the breakdown, winning penalties and turnovers that stifled what momentum Leinster were able to generate. He made more metres (63) than any of his team-mates, and showcased his full range of skills with a fine break and kick through. A mention too for Munster's James Coughlan, who, in a less spectacular manner than Armitage, made his mark on the Toulouse pack.

7 Juan Smith (Toulon): Unthinkable that the former Springbok captain had retired through injury a year ago. Toulon's gamble on his fitness is paying off in spectacular style, and you wouldn't bet against Smith following in the footsteps of veterans Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield and winning a Bok recall on this evidence. Unlucky not to score a try, the openside was a relentless carrier and nailed ten tackles.

6 CJ Stander (Munster): Munster fans could have been forgiven for feeling a little uneasy as skipper Peter O'Mahony headed for the bench with less than 20 minutes gone. They needn't have worried. Stander produced a Man of the Match performance, with three clean breaks, 21 metres, and ten tackles, burrowing over for a try early in the second half. He was also a real nuisance at the breakdown for a Toulouse back-row loaded with power but short on scavenging nous. Damien Chouly showed up well for Clermont too, making good ground against a traditionally solid Tigers defence.

5 Danie Rossouw (Toulon): Another South African thriving on hard ground and wide open spaces in the South of France. Rossouw may as well have been running out at Loftus on Sunday, as he rolled back the years to splinter the Leinster midfield with a combination of raw power and deft handling. Rossouw's aerial prowess also starved the visitors of clean line-out ball, an area where Toulon were utterly dominant.

4 Paul O'Connell (Munster): O'Connell was a force of nature at Thomond Park once again, showing up well in the loose and delighting the home crowd with his last-minute try. Down to 14 men, and soon to be shorn of Ruan Pienaar and Rory Best, Ulster needed captain Johann Muller to lead from the front. That he did, assuming the bulk of the line-out responsibility with his first-choice hooker sidelined.

3 Davit Zirakashvili (Clermont): Dominant at the scrum, and surprisingly nimble in the loose, the Georgian capped a fine all-round display at Marcel Michelin with beautifully timed run and inside pass to set up Wesley Fofana for a try in the first half.

2 Schalk Brits (Saracens): With Ulster a man short, gaps were bound to appear, and Brits is a man who loves to exploit such opening. He made a staggering 90 metres on the Ravenhill turf - from eight carries at that - as well as beating five defenders and making 12 tackles. Toulon's Craig Burden was similarly impressive in the loose, puncturing the Leinster line time and again.

1 Cian Healy (Leinster): Healy tried manfully to turn things around for Leinster, and was one of few in visiting ranks to consistently make ground against the Toulon defence - 29 metres to be exact. His scrummaging continues to improve, and though penalties flew in from all sides on Sunday, he can be largely pleased with his display in the tight, and his ten tackles on a baking hot day not suited for props to shine.

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