And the Fantasy winner is...
March 19, 2013
Winning team - Time Toulouse XV (343 points)
After five rounds of intense competition, big decisions and huge tension, the 2013 Fantasy Game came to a thrilling conclusion this weekend. So congratulations to Ashley Wheeler, whose Time Toulouse XV topped the charts with a massive 343 points. Their solid final round score of 68 was enough to pip Alyson Parry's Charlie's Choice and Simon Chance's Umberto's misfits, both of whom finished agonisingly close on 340.
"Being a big Welsh fan, I was slightly biased towards picking Welsh players," says Ashley. "I just picked players who I thought were on form and would get me the most points, mainly from tries, and selecting players who I thought would be man of the match. I was lucky enough to have a ticket to the game in Cardiff and winning the competition just made my day even better."
You can see a full run down of the final leader board placings right here.
And we can now reflect on who were the top performers in this year's Six Nations - some more surprising than others. The statistics show who were the most profitable players and who may have boosted their chances of a place on the Lions tour of Australia this summer.
Ireland prop Cian Healy was the top performing front-row forward over the Six Nations, despite the disciplinary issues that saw him banned for a stamp on Dan Cole during England's victory in Dublin. Healy was suspended for Ireland's match against Scotland but crucially won a reprieve to face France, which helped him finish ahead of Wales' Richard Hibbard on 14 points. Both Healy's and Hibbard's totals were boosted by scoring tries.
Healy's team-mates Mike Ross and Rory Best both finished in a posse of players on 12 points despite Ireland enduring a disappointing tournament, in which they finished second bottom following their final day defeat to Italy. Scotland's Roddy Grant, who completed three of Scotland's five matches, and Italy's Martin Castrogiovanni, who touched down against France, also finished with 12 points. None of the English or French front-rowers were in the top six points scorers.
Geoff Parling has further enhanced his reputation as a world-class lock this Six Nations - and the Fantasy stats back it up. The England lock stands tall at the summit of the best performing second-rows charts. His try against Scotland, four full appearances and one part appearance sees him finish ahead of Scotland's Jim Hamilton on 19 points. With a man of the match award and five starts to his name, Hamilton is a close second with 17 points and a genuine contender for the Lions this summer.
Yoann Maestri was a mainstay of France's campaign, making five starts and only once being replaced by Philippe Saint Andre. The France coach copped much criticism for his selection but his commitment to Maestri was never questioned. Youngster Joe Launchbury continued his fine autumn form with a strong campaign for England, which was reflected in his 12 points in the Fantasy league. Wales' Ian Evans and Ireland's Donnacha Ryan were also impressive performers.
England skipper Chris Robshaw may have lost the Grand Slam and the Six Nations title on final day in Cardiff, but he still finished as the best back-row performer, alongside Italy's Alessandro Zanni, in the championship. It may be of little consolation to him now, but he was the only forward to win two man of the match awards during the tournament. By completing all five of England's matches as well, Robshaw finished with a whopping 25 points. Zanni's try against Scotland and one man of the match saw him finish alongside Robshaw.
Louis Picamoles was one of few positives for France and he was just one point behind the leading pair in the Fantasy charts. The France No.8 was the top carrier and top yard-maker in the tournament, and used his brutal power to cross for two tries - against Italy and Ireland. Despite copping some criticism, Ireland skipper Jamie Heaslip proved a profitable pick, as did Italy skipper Sergio Parisse. Justin Tipuric's dynamic display against England, in which he created one try and ended with the man of the match award, boosted him up to sixth in the standings.
Wales' Leigh Halfpenny was the top performer in this year's Fantasy Six Nations © PA Photos
The 2013 Six Nations was hardly a vintage year for scrum-halves. France pair Morgan Parra and Maxime Machenaud showed some flashes of quality but they were all too often frustrated by a laboured forward pack and an error-prone outside half. Parra's normally reliable left boot even deserted him. Italy pair Edoardo Gori and Tobias Botes shared the duties for the Azzuri, with neither nailing down the role. And England's Danny Care was unlucky only to start one match, though he did score a try against Scotland during one of his four cameo appearances.
So it was left to England's Ben Youngs and Ireland's Conor Murray to fight it out for top spot. Care's form coming off the bench meant Youngs was restricted to just one full appearance, despite starting four of the matches. But two assists takes the England scrum-half up to 16 points for the campaign. Top performer then goes to Murray - one of the positives for Ireland this year. His brilliant performance against France sees him finish with 19 points overall.
Grieg Laidlaw may have played the entire Six Nations at scrum-half but he is our top-scoring fly-half this year. Laidlaw was categorised as a fly-half having played most of his international rugby in the lead up to the Six Nations at No.10. But despite shifting position, he proved a might wise choice at No.10. The Scottish playmaker landed 22 kicks during the tournament, six more than any other contender, created one try and was also picked up a man of the match award. All for an overall haul of 42 points. Italy's Luciano Orquera, perhaps surprisingly, finished above England's Owen Farrell with 36 points after his man of the match display against France and three assists made up for landing just 11 kicks at goal.
Farrell started the tournament at quite a lick with an assist, seven kicks at goal and a man of the match award against Scotland. But as the tournament wore on he failed to create any more tries while his kicking went off key against Wales at the Millennium Stadium. France's Federic Michalak endured a miserable time with the pre-tournament favourites, which ended in agony as he suffered a dislocated shoulder. Though he did accumulate more points than Dan Biggar, whose were harmed by Leigh Halfpenny taking the kicking responsibilities for Wales. Ireland's Jonny Sexton and France's Francois Trinh-Duc looked good prospects ahead of the championship but injury and bewildering selection intervened.
In what will probably be his final Six Nations, Ireland's Brian O'Driscoll was the top performing centre with 27 points. His impressive tally was largely due to a terrific opening game against Wales, in which he created one try and was named man of the match. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect is that he managed to complete all five matches despite suffering from various injuries throughout the tournament. Matt Scott profited from, or rather was a major reason for, Scotland's best Six Nations showing for a while. The inside centre completed all of Scotland's games and scored and created a tries during their win over Italy.
Jonathan Davies has roared back into the Lions spotlight in recent weeks and thanks to his try against Italy and consistent selection he is joint second in the charts alongside Scott on 23 points. England's Manu Tuilagi had a mixed championship, scoring a crucial try against France before squandering two great chances against Wales at the Millennium Stadium. He is followed in the charts by Brad Barritt, who placed had appeared under threat from Billy Twelvetrees after the opening round. Mathieu Bastereaud's undoubted talents failed to reap big rewards for those who backed the French centre to be the star of the show.
Well it is not hard to guess who has been the player of the tournament - in Fantasy rugby terms anyway - this year. With 25 kicks at goal, one try, two man of the match awards and five full appearances, Leigh Halfpenny blasted away the opposition with 55 points. He now looks set to be an influential figure for the Lions in Australia this summer. Wales' try-scoring hero Alex Cuthbert comes in second behind his team-mate with 35 points after his two tries against England left his a the championships' top try-scorer with four.
Wesley Fofana began the tournament on the wing, which is where is placed in our Fantasy format, but it wasn't until he switched to centre that the points started coming for the Frenchman. He was fantastic against England, when he scored the first of his two tries. Scotland trio Sean Maitland, Tim Visser and Stuart Hogg also proved wise selections as they burst previous assumptions about Scottish try-scoring to bag five between them over the five games. Despite an unhappy campaign for Chris Ashton, he finished as England 's top outside back performer with 20 points. Elsewhere Simon Zebo was unlucky that injury denied him the chance to build on his brilliant opening to the tournament.
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