Last weekend showed why the Champions Cup is up there with the best rugby competitions in the world. In Sunday’s game which saw Racing 92 lose by one point to a strong Toulouse outfit, the commentators remarked that we were watching rugby not from this planet. The same could be said for the whole weekend.
A superb try from Keith Earls broke Edinburgh hearts, Saracens showed why they are the favourites to win it all this season and Ulster put forward one of the best defensive displays seen this season in a narrowly losing effort against current holders Leinster in the other games from the weekend.
The semi-finals will see Saracens host Munster at the Ricoh Arena and Toulouse travel to Dublin to take on Leinster. Before those matches can be thought about and digested, let’s look back at the top performers from the quarterfinals and see who impressed the most.
1. Cian Healy
Whenever a prop wins a turnover, it’s a cause for celebration, winning two is unheard of. That’s what Cian Healy managed. He partnered them with 11 tackles.
2. Stuart McInally
The Edinburgh hooker won three turnovers and made 14 tackles on a day where Edinburgh needed their big players to step up in defence and they did.
3. Ben Tameifuna
The 153kg prop put himself about was in his 50-minute stint on the pitch he was everywhere. His work at the breakdown was impressive, winning a turnover.
4. Tadhg Beirne
The Irish turnover machine struck again, slowing down Edinburgh ball at the breakdown, making it difficult for them to create any sort of attacking platform.
5. Kieran Treadwell
He pounced on the ball after Rory Best’s charge down to kick start what was the game of the weekend and made a massive 19 tackles, coupled with 21 metres made.
6. Nick Timoney
Any of the Ulster back row could have featured in the team of the week. They all excelled on the pitch and Timoney’s huge 21 tackles earns him his spot.
7. Bernard Le Roux
He was a nuisance for Toulouse all day, causing havoc at the breakdown and in defence. He made them work for a hard earned victory.
8. Jack Conan
A worthy man of the match who carried hard and defended excellently. He racked up 67 metres and 16 tackles.
9. Ben Spencer
We don’t often get to see Ben Spencer as Richard Wigglesworth holds the Saracens nine shirt but that may change after Saturday’s performance. His box kicking made a torrid day for Glasgow even worse.
10. Ross Byrne
His 72nd-minute penalty epitomised his performance. His kicking from hand was excellent and to nail a touchline penalty with cramp and the game on the line takes some bottle.
11. Keith Earls
His try scoring heroics, including an excellently taken second try, won Munster the game. His experience will be key come the semi-final stage.
12. Brad Barritt
The Saracens captain put in a performance which we have come accustomed to from him, leading from the front in both defence and attack.
13. Darren Cave
One of the veterans of the Ulster team who featured in the 2012 final and his experience showed. His defensive work was of the highest order.
14. Lucas Tauzin
Tauzin was not even in the matchday squad but turned on the style in Paris and his offload to set up Medard’s try was the highlight of the weekend.
15. Liam Williams
The Welsh fullback carried through his form from the Six Nations and superbly gathered an Alex Goode chip for the try of the game.