The best performers from the weekend’s domestic club finals in the Aviva Premiership and Guinness PRO14 dominate Team of the Week.
15. Chris Ashton (Barbarians)
Watch Chris Ashton's first half hat-trick for the Barbarians against England at Twickenham.
The former England flyer hit a remarkable first-half hat-trick for the Barbarians against England in their 63-45 win at Twickenham.
It was a strange sight to see the accomplished finisher execute his theatrical splash celebration, but in the black and white stripes of the visitors. And while one of the scores was a walk-in, Ashton was unlucky not to finish with a fourth try and turned creator for other scores.
For Saracens, Alex Goode was at his creative best against Exeter and most significantly in the opening quarter when after only 13 minutes he chased Owen Farrell’s chip and then demonstrated great guile to beat four defenders to the touchdown.
14. Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets)
Johnny McNicholl says he would trade all three of his tries in the final for the PRO14 title.
Scarlets Johnny McNicoll may have been a spectator for long periods against Leinster in Lansdowne Road, but he is more than worthy of inclusion in this list.
The fleet-footed Kiwi finished with the somewhat bitter-sweet achievement of a cup final hat-trick but still ended up losing out 40-32 in Dublin.
13. Semi Radradra (Barbarians)
Powerful and at the same time dynamic, the Barbarians’ centre delivered the play of the contest in Twickenham (and that’s saying something in a game that registered 15 tries). Radradra played a brand of heads-up rugby that England simply couldn’t live with.
His pace was searing, his passing accurate and his off-loads game-winning.
12. Piers Francis (England)
The young centre repaid Eddie Jones’ faith in selection with an eye-catching two-try performance that bodes well for the future.
While special mention must also be made of Brad Barritt. The Saracens’ captain was excellent in defence against Exeter in the Premiership final, demonstrating the kind of leadership and structure that escaped his side for a time earlier in the season.
11. Chris Wyles (Saracens)
The long-serving winger marked the final appearance of a 10-year career with a brace of tries. In a matchup of differing styles, Wyles best exemplified the difference between the two team’s attacking ambitions.
Special mention must also be made of Melbourne Rebels’ wingers Jack Maddocks and Marika Koroibete, with the latter claiming a hat-trick against Sunwolves in his side’s 40-13 Round 15 win in Super Rugby.
10. Johnny Sexton (Leinster)
Highlights from the Aviva Stadium where Leinster secured the Guinness PRO14 title with victory over the Scarlets
In a man-of-the-match performance, Sexton’s kicking off the tee may not have hit expected highs, but his work elsewhere made a more significant impact on the contest.
Superb kicking out of hand heaped pressure on Leigh Halfpenny and the Scarlets’ back three, while he set up a tries for James Lowe and Sean Cronin in yet another sublime display.
9. Ruan Pienaar (Montpellier)
The 34-year old Montpellier scrum-half controlled proceedings from start to finish in his side’s 40-14 Top 14 semi-final victory over Lyon.
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Pienaar turned creator for three tries in a performance of real substance.
1. Mako Vunipola (Saracens)
Mako posted a monumental performance for Saracens in their Premiership final victory over Exeter. He made 15 carries for 38 metres and hit 18 tackles while forcing the concession of two scrum penalties from his opposite number Tomas Francis.
2. Sean Cronin (Leinster)
Explosive pace has long been his signature, but the Leinster and Ireland hooker has become an almost throw-perfect lineout player. He was again at his bustling best against Scarlets.
But on an afternoon when England recorded their fourth defeat in a row, Jack Singleton’s dynamic performance proved a high-point straight out of the Barbarians’ playbook.
3. Tadhg Furlong (Leinster)
Yet again. the Leinster tight-head demonstrated the depth of his skills, passing out of the tackle, carrying like a loose forward and all the while ensuring the Leinster scrum remained rock steady.
4. Maro Itoje (Saracens)
Athletic and full of energy on a scorching day at Twickenham, Itoje delivered some key turnovers at the breakdown.
Meanwhile, in the French Top14 semi-final between Montpellier and Lyon, Paul Willemse left a physical mark on the men of Lyon. His powerful carries were a feature of the contest and his capped his contribution with a try.
5. James Ryan (Leinster)
The young Leinster lock possesses one of the most remarkable stats in the world game – he is yet to experience defeat as a professional, having finished on the winning side in all his totemic club and country appearances to date this season.
On Saturday, against the Scarlets, Ryan made the most tackles of any Leinster forward.
6. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe (Barbarians)
This entry is unashamedly biased in favour of one of rugby’s great servants – the rugged Argentinian, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe. He captained the Barbarians to a thrilling win over England and marked the contest with the most poignant full-stop.
In his final act, Lobbe returned to the pitch to convert his side’s last-minute try and was then hoisted aloft by his teammates.
7. Justin Tipuric (Barbarians)
Anything his teammate Semi Radradra could do in the off-load stakes, the Wales’ man tried to match, and almost succeeded. In a breathless often end to end contest in Twickenham, the back-row proved a fluid link-man vital to maintaining the continuity that secured his side’s victory.
8. Billy Vunipola (Saracens)
There were two notable No 8 performances in rugby headquarters this weekend with Barbarians’ Victor Vito crossing for two of his side’s nine tries against England. But for anxious England fans – and rugby fans eager to see the successful and sustained return of Billy Vunipola – Saturday’s victorious display against Exeter will have been particularly pleasing.
Vunipola delivered an immense try-scoring performance.