Two more games down, one to go. Saracens absolutely demolished Clermont at Twickenham and Toulon did enough to see off a valiant Munster in Marseille, meaning TTT’s team of the week is largely made up of Saracens players:
1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens) – answered his scrummaging critics well by holding firm – in fact it was his teammates James Johnston and Matt Stevens on the other side of the scrum that struggled. Add in the effort it requires for a prop to make a charge down and over 20 tackles and you’ve got a mammoth shift.
2. Schalk Brits (Saracens) – the work rate this guy gets through is quite staggering given he’s a front row forward. Looking more like a centre-flanker hybrid, he ran a good support line and gave a beautifully timed pass to set up Ashton’s first try, won a turnover in the lead up to another and also put in more than his fair share of tackles.
3. Carl Hayman (Toulon) – the towering kiwi tighthead caused the Munster front row all sorts of problems in the set-piece resulting in a number of penalties which allowed Jonny Wilkinson to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
4. Mouritz Botha (Saracens) – industrious in defence and an expert in the chop-tackle, showing an exceptional ability to get low [or headbutt people’s feet to be more accurate] for such a big man, he also made some huge crunching hits.
5. Danie Rossouw (Toulon) – another weighty performance in the absence of Bakkies Botha and Ali Williams and Rossouw’s second row partner, Jocelino Suta, also deserves a mention. The pair hit rucks with incredible force, carried well and negated the impressive combo of the mighty Paul O’Connell and the ever improving Dave Foley.
6. Juan Smit (Toulon) – did the quiet stuff well, slowing down Munster‘s ball, making yards with ball in hand and tackling hard.
Deserves a mention: Kelly Brown (Saracens) – another Saracen who busied himself in keeping the Clermont attack at bay.
7. Jacques Burger (Saracens) – a Herculean effort in defence, the Namibian clocked up 27 thunderous tackles, each one seemingly almost making the Twickenham stands shake. His ability to stop a ball-carrier dead in his tracks is almost second to none. Deserved MOTM display.
8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens) – an unstoppable force with ball in hand, Vunipola was one of the main reasons that Saracens moved forward with what little ball they had. Most of the game was spent defending but when Vunipola did get his hands on the ball he made it count with significant metres every time.
9. Sebastien Tillous-Borde (Toulon) – quick and accurate distribution which allowed Wilkinson to slot one of his trademark drop goals and play a very flat game, putting his backline on the front foot.
10. Jonny Wilkinson (Toulon) – impeccable game management as he played flat to the line and kicked 21 of his team’s 24 points. He also made sure that Munster were unable to take advantage of Fernandes Lobbe’s [very bizarre and harsh] sin-binning, by taking a neat drop goal from a fumbled Munster kick-off receipt.
Deserves a mention: Ian Keatley (Munster) – a big occasion for the youngster but he was unfazed. He took field position well, was accurate in his place kicking, and challenge Toulon’s back three with sniping grubber kicks. If the guy was nervous, he didn’t show it.
11. Simon Zebo (Munster) – a heroic defensive tackle kept Steffon Armitage from scoring a try and he showed his running flair when given the opportunity. He also crossed the white-wash for the game’s only try, albeit a very dubious grounding that should have been referred to the TMO.
12. Brad Barritt (Saracens) – famed for his defence and gave one of the world’s most exciting running centre in Wesley Fofana next to no space in which to stretch his legs. A solid partnership with Marcelo Bosch.
13. Marcelo Bosch (Saracens) – as above, the Argentine centre has been a canny signing for Saracens this season and he worked impeccably alongside Barritt in marshalling a hugely talented Clermont backline. He also slotted a monster of a penalty from out wide on the halfway line.
14. Chris Ashton (Saracens) – busy all day. He kept Nalaga at bay (at one point barrelling the massive Fijian into touch), tracked well for his first try and took the second opportunistic one well with a skilful tap-forward to become the all-time record try scorer in a Heineken Cup season.
15. Alex Goode (Saracens) – immaculately fielded every single high ball like a jack-in-a-box as if he hadn’t been concussed in a mid-air Jared Payne tackle three weeks before. He returned the ball well too both with the boot and with the ball in hand, making 125 metres.