Team of the week: Saracens lead the way after Champions Cup win over Leinster


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14. Jack Nowell (Exeter Chiefs)

Nowell scored a magnificent solo try against Northampton, picking up the ball just past the Saints 10-metre line before jinking and slaloming past five defenders to score.

That earns him a spot ahead of former Exeter wing Santiago Cordero, who bagged a try and made 75 metres with ball in hand as Bordeaux beat Edinburgh in the Challenge Cup quarters.

13. Semi Radradra (Bristol Bears)

Henry Slade and Sofiane Guitoune both caught the eye but there is simply no stopping Radradra at the moment.

The Fijian was breathtakingly brilliant against the Dragons, who had no answer to his explosive ball-carrying.

Radradra averaged almost 10 metres per carry as he made three line breaks and beat five defenders, scoring a try and throwing a lovely offload to set up Ben Earl for his first.

12. Pita Ahki (Toulouse)

Ahki and midfield partner Guitoune wreaked havoc against Ulster, with the former scoring the fourth of Toulouse’s five tries.

The ex-Connacht back made 66 metres off 10 carries, beating three defenders as Toulouse ran riot.

11. Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse)

The brilliant South African set Toulouse on course for the Champions Cup semi-finals with two brilliant first-half tries against Ulster.

Jacob Stockdale would have been cursing his luck after twice finding himself one-on-one with Kolbe, who bamboozled the Ulsterman with some brilliant footwork.

Kolbe also showed his strength with a powerful fend on Stuart McCloskey and was even hoisted up in the air to collect restarts.

10. Alex Goode (Saracens)

No Owen Farrell? No problem. As he done many times in the past, Goode seamlessly slotted in at fly-half and led Saracens to a hugely impressive win in Dublin.

The 32-year-old collected Duncan Taylor’s brilliant offload to score Sarries’ only try and was also successful with five of his six kicks off the tee as his 19-point haul helped end Leinster’s 25-game winning streak.

9. Antoine Dupont (Toulouse)

Teddy Iribaren kicked 20 points in Racing’s win at Clermont while Richard Wigglesworth’s box-kicking and overall game management was excellent for Saracens.

However, they were eclipsed by the performance of Dupont the following day as Toulouse tore Ulster apart.

The France scrum-half scored Toulouse’s third try early in the second half to put the result beyond doubt and it was fully deserved. He kept his side playing at a high tempo and was a constant threat with ball in hand, making 106 metres from 10 carries and also providing a try assist.

1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens)

Special mention to Manny Iyogun, who recently converted from No 8 to loosehead and was excellent for Northampton against Exeter’s international front row.

But he is edged out by Vunipola, who made a mockery of pre-match questions over his fitness.

The England prop was heroic in defence against Leinster, making 18 tackles and missing just one, while he also chipped in with five carries and produced a masterful scrummaging display.

2. Camille Chat (Racing 92)

The France hooker is a hard man to stop with ball in hand, beating three defenders off six carries and committing many more in Racing’s quarter-final victory away to Clermont.

Chat also held his nerve at the lineout, finding a jumper with nine of his 10 throws, and formed part of a powerful driving maul.

3. Vincent Koch (Saracens)

Saracens had the Leinster scrum on toast, winning eight scrum penalties, and Koch was key to their dominance.

The Springbok was incredible at the set-piece – and just as good in the loose. Koch formed part of an outstanding defensive display, making 15 tackles and winning three turnovers.

4. Maro Itoje (Saracens)

Michael Rhodes picked up the man of the match award but Itoje certainly ran him close.

The England and Lions lock was world class in every facet, making a team-leading 19 tackles in a performance that won’t have gone unnoticed by Warren Gatland when he considers who will be his captain next summer.

Itoje was in Leinster’s faces all afternoon. His line speed in defence meant the province’s playmakers had no time on the ball and saw him make a crucial interception in front of his own tryline.

5. James Ryan (Leinster)

Ryan got through a mountain of work against Saracens and enjoyed a great battle against Itoje, with the pair tipped to be the Lions second row partnership in South Africa.

Ryan made 17 carries against Saracens and helped drive Andrew Porter over the line to kickstart their comeback.

6. Michael Rhodes (Saracens)

This was one of the South African’s best games in a Saracens shirt. He and Itoje were menaces at the breakdown, Rhodes winning three turnovers as they denied Leinster the quick ball they sorely craved.

Rhodes could easily have seen yellow for taking down an advancing maul, as well as a borderline hit on Johnny Sexton, but he was unwavering in defence, making 15 tackles and also claiming six lineouts as Saracens boasted a 100 per cent return on their own throw.

7. Jacques Vermeulen (Exeter Chiefs)

The 25-year-old took his tries tally for the season to nine with a brace against Northampton as Exeter progressed to their first Champions Cup semi-final.

Vermeulen’s first was a typical Chiefs try, a close-range pick-and-jam, while the South African’s second was a beauty as he rode a tackle, skipped past two defenders and then stepped one more en route to the tryline.

Brilliant in attack, Vermeulen was also resolute in defence, making 15 tackles and missing none, while also winning three lineouts.

8. Ben Earl (Bristol Bears)

The England forward shifts from openside to No 8 in our team of the week after shining in Bristol’s dominant win over the Dragons.

Earl scored two tries in as many minutes during the first half, displaying an impressive turn of pace and brilliant footwork to cross for his first.

Earl made 78 metres from 12 carries, six tackles and a defensive turnover in a man-of-the-match display.


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