It was a weekend of consolidation in the Heineken Champions Cup, as a number of teams backed up impressive wins in Round 1 with similar results a week later, giving themselves a strong grip on their respective pools and healthy representation in our XV.
Ulster, Exeter Chiefs, Leinster, Northampton Saints and Toulouse all went two from two, whilst Munster and Racing 92 played out an entertaining 21-21 draw at Thomond Park, after both teams recorded wins in the opening round.
We have selected our XV of the week from the 10 matches, as teams begin to eye up the back-to-back fixtures in December and the potential quarter-final consequences and permutations that will come as a result of them.
- Mike Haley, Munster
An excellent all-round display from Haley who was as reliable as the last line of defence for Munster, as he was creative and efficient in his attacking responsibilities. Racing found success against Munster in the battle for the gain-line up front, though Haley made the most of the defensive and offensive opportunities that came his way, despite that advantage for the French side.
Silver – Elliot Daly, Saracens
Bronze – Thomas Ramos, Toulouse
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- Teddy Thomas, Racing 92
Racing’s wide man was in typically incisive form at Thomond Park and he repeatedly gave the Munster defence cold sweats. His footwork and turn of pace was usually good for making at least one would-be tackler miss, whilst he held up well defensively, too. It was a clean and clinical performance from the wing.
Silver – Rotimi Segun, Saracens
Bronze – Jack Nowell, Exeter Chiefs
- Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Sale Sharks
The South African’s ability to get over the gain-line was arguably the difference for Sale against La Rochelle, as the home side struggled to make the most of their one and two-man advantages during the game. Although Sale didn’t click fully in the game, Janse van Rensburg did his job well and gave Sale the early momentum that they maintained in the second half.
Silver – Henry Slade, Exeter Chiefs
Bronze – Sofiane Guitoune, Toulouse
- Sam Johnson, Glasgow Warriors
Although Glasgow were well-beaten by surging second half from Exeter, Johnson can hold his head high. The inside centre frequently broke the line and created attacking opportunities for his side, though most were stamped out by resilient and effective Exeter defence. Nevertheless, Johnson gave the English side their fair share of anxious moments.
Silver – Charlie Ngatai, Lyon
Bronze – Robbie Henshaw, Leinster
- Tom Collins, Northampton Saints
Collins was clinical against Benetton and his two tries were pivotal in ensuring Saints could come back from a slow start, secure the win and head into the December back-to-backs with two wins from two for the English club. He offered a contrasting but equally effective threat to usual standout Taqele Naiyaravoro.
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) November 24, 2019
Silver – Tom O’Flaherty, Exeter Chiefs
Bronze – Keith Earls, Munster
- Finn Russell, Racing 92
When given a platform to perform, there are few, if any more incisive operators in world rugby than Russell. The Scotsman came up with a number of moments of class at Thomond Park and helped his side leave Ireland with two points that could prove vital when the quarter-finalists are ultimately decided.
Silver – Dan Biggar, Northampton Saints
Bronze – Marcus Smith, Harlequins
- John Cooney, Ulster
The scrum-half continues to push his claim for a role with Ireland, as he guided his side to an impressive win over Clermont in Belfast on Friday evening. He tested the fringes, distributed the ball accurately and quickly and was a key component in ensuring that Ulster played the game in the right areas of the pitch.
Individual brilliance from @JCooney09 and what a try this was! ?
Fantastic feet from the scrum-half who has looked in fine form so far in #HeinekenChampionsCup ?
Will we see a better effort than this in Round 2?? ?? pic.twitter.com/IoN9gRGtLd
— Heineken Champions Cup (@ChampionsCup) November 23, 2019
Silver – Cobus Reinach, Northampton Saints
Bronze – Faf de Klerk, Sale Sharks
- Mako Vunipola, Saracens
Vunipola didn’t take long to shake off any potential post-Rugby World Cup rust, as he went about giving Saracens set-piece dominance and very handy platform for his cousin, Manu Vunipola, to operate from at a fly-half. His tireless work in the loose, not mention that efficiency with which he executes, continues to set him apart among loosehead props.
Silver – Etienne Falgoux, Clermont
Bronze – Alec Hepburn, Exeter Chiefs
- Hame Faiva, Benetton
The hooker bagged two tries as his Benetton side came within inches of a morale-boosting draw – or even a win – against Northampton. His lineout throwing was also relatively accurate and his contributions in the loose were telling. He led the way in another performance that underlines Benetton’s credentials at this level, after the encouraging display against Leinster in the opening round.
Silver – Corne Fourie, Gloucester
Bronze – Rob Herring, Ulster
- Levan Chilachava, Montpellier
The Georgian tighthead constantly put Gloucester under pressure on Sunday afternoon. He turned the screw at the set-piece and the English side really had no answer for the lesson in scrummaging that he put on. It wasn’t the most open game and Chilachava’s performance suited Montpellier’s game plan perfectly.
Silver – Demba Bamba, Lyon
Bronze – Charlie Faumuina, Toulouse
- Alex Craig, Gloucester
Craig played with energy and work rate against a Montpellier pack that generally had the advantage on Gloucester physically. His match-up with Jacques du Plessis was fun to watch and the South African went well into he saw red for elbowing a Gloucester player in the face during a maul.
Silver – Ultan Dillane, Connacht
Bronze – Romain Sazy, La Rochelle
- James Ryan, Leinster
A powerful and decisive display from the Leinster lock. The Irish province were not at their best out in Lyon, but Ryan’s contribution was particularly significant in ensuring that they returned home with a haul of four points. His ball-carrying was pivotal, whilst his defence on the gain-line was physical and unrelenting.
Silver – Jonny Hill, Exeter Chiefs
Bronze – Jean-Luc du Preez, Sale Sharks
- Dave Ewers, Exeter Chiefs
A second dominant and physical performance in as many weeks for Ewers, who looks like he is well passed his injury issues and showing the kind of form that had him linked with a regular role with England. He was too powerful at the contact area and in the defensive line for Glasgow to deal with and he helped disrupt the usually effective high-tempo style of the Scottish side.
Silver – Wenceslas Lauret, Racing 92
Bronze – Chris Robshaw, Harlequins
- Ben Earl, Saracens
The openside ran rampant at Allianz Park against the Ospreys and it took a performance of the highest quality to see off the challenges of the two prominent Irish opensides below. The Ospreys may not currently be the sternest of competition currently, though this was another marker put down by Earl, both with and without the ball, that he is ready to step up to international rugby and should be in contention for a back row spot with England.
Silver – Jordi Murphy, Ulster
Bronze – Josh van der Flier, Leinster
- Marcell Coetzee, Ulster
The South African’s bid to make the Springbok squad for the British and Irish Lions tour goes from strength to strength, with yet another physical and disciplined display in Europe. He showed all his assets as a back rower on Friday evening, dominating the breakdown, carrying with menace in the tight and not giving an inch in defence.
Silver – Carl Fearns, Lyon
Bronze – Sam Simmonds, Exeter Chiefs
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