Heineken Cup - Team of the Round
January 16, 2012
Paddy Wallace was a streadying hand for Ulster in their rout of Leicester © Getty Images
John Afoa Steve Borthwick Tom Court Sean Cronin Stephen Ferris Phil Godman Leigh Halfpenny Alastair Kellock Casey Laulala Julien Malzieu Ruan Pienaar Andrew Trimble Paddy Wallace Pedrie Wannenburg Sam Warburton
The Heineken Cup group stages are almost at a close, but which individual performances caught the eye in another thrilling weekend of action? Here's our Team of the Round to explain all.
15. Leigh Halfpenny (Cardiff Blues)
While England rivals Mike Brown and Ben Foden both bagged tries, it was Halfpenny who put in the performance of the week at fullback, kicking 17 points as the Blues beat London Irish to remain on course for a first quarter-final since 2008-09.
14. Andrew Trimble (Ulster)
The giant winger showed his finishing prowess with two tries in the corner as Leicester were blown away at Ravenhill. Part of a stunning physical effort by Ulster.
13. Casey Laulala (Cardiff Blues)
With limited possession, the former All Black picked the perfect moment to strike against the Exiles, his break shredding the otherwise solid home defence to lay on the only try of the game for team-mate Sam Warburton.
12. Paddy Wallace (Ulster)
One of the province's old-stagers, Wallace brought calm to their efforts and played the role of midfield general to perfection against a classy Tigers pairing.
11. Julien Malzieu (Clermont Auvergne)
The winger's Top 14 form has been electric of late and he translated that on to the European stage with a hat-trick in Clermont's 82-0 demolition of Aironi. Should be in line for an international return with France during the Six Nations.
10. Phil Godman (Edinburgh)
After a hellish injury break, the former Scotland fly-half enjoyed a moment to savour as Edinburgh edged out Racing Metro in Paris on Friday, with his 80th-minute drop-goal sealing a 27-24 win to keep their quarter-final hopes alive.
9. Ruan Pienaar (Ulster)
The Springbok inked a new deal at Ravenhill this week and followed it up with a commanding performance behind a dominant pack. Slotted 21 points from the tee, including conversions to three of his side's tries.
1. Tom Court (Ulster)
The Australian-born prop hasn't always been the most solid set-piece operator, but he turned up in a big way against Leicester. Made strides towards further international recognition with Ireland.
2. Sean Cronin (Leinster)
The irrepressible hooker picked up the Man of the Match award in Leinster's hard-fought win over Glasgow and was a constant threat with ball in hand, as well as offering perfect service at the lineout. Should be there or thereabouts for the Ireland No.2 jersey.
3. John Afoa (Ulster)
There's little doubt that the All Black has added new impetus to Ulster. A tough, abrasive character in the tight and an explosive runner when given half a chance, he was massive against a traditionally dominant Tigers pack.
4. Steve Borthwick (Saracens)
Sarries have a watertight lineout and the former England skipper is at the heart of it. Their reliance on the set-piece is well-known, but when it runs as smoothly as it did against Biarritz, it's hard to argue with it.
5. Al Kellock (Glasgow Warriors)
The giant lock was in fine form, providing plenty of grunt from the engine room as Glasgow ruffled the feathers of the champions. Approaching his best after a mixed bag at the Rugby World Cup.
6. Stephen Ferris (Ulster)
The Ireland flanker took some stopping on Friday night, and plenty of Leicester players will be nursing bruises thanks to the former Lion's unreal work-ethic in defence.
7. Sam Warburton (Cardiff Blues)
The flanker scored his side's only try against London Irish, but it was the Blues' dogged defence and work at the breakdown that kept the Exiles at bay. He was at the forefront in terms of the grimy work on the deck.
8. Pedrie Wannenburg (Ulster)
Another of Ulster's big names to step up against Leicester, Wannenburg passed a late fitness Test before running himself into the ground both in attack and defence.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Proposals to remove promotion and relegation from the Aviva Premiership would be for the good of the game overall, argues John Taylor
Ireland have the world sitting up and taking notice - and rugby's structure in Europe will aid their Rugby World Cup bid, writes John Mitchell
Where does Italy's win over Scotland rank among their successes in the Six Nations? Scrum Sevens investigates
The tone was set early on in Dublin as a more clinical Ireland made England pay. All is not lost, however, argues Phil Vickery