Joe Harvey selects his top performers in the Gallagher Premiership from Round 9 after an excellent weekend of action which saw Exeter loss their 100 per cent record and Bristol Bears thrash Leicester Tigers.
1.Joe Marler (Harlequins) – Propping against Greg Holmes, Joe Marler was an integral part of Quins’ win over Exeter on Friday night. It was the scrummaging ability of the former England international that contributed to Harlequins gaining penalty advantage and the ability to go forward. It can’t be emphasised enough how important Marler’s retirement from international rugby has helped Harlequins. His fitness has massively benefitted the team and just playing club rugby seems to have focussed the loosehead’s mind.
2. Harry Thacker (Bristol Bears) – Adding another two tries to his collection, Harry Thacker has now crossed the whitewash on five occasions in two games. Also making 17 tackles, gaining a turnover and consistently carrying the ball, this was another brilliant performance from Thacker. It is still fairly astonishing that Leicester’s board were willing to part ways with the young hooker. Benefitting from Pat Lam’s system, Thacker will only get better at Bristol.
3. John Afoa (Bristol Bears) – Despite only playing just over an hour, John Afoa could not be budged at scrum-time by opposite number Ellis Genge. Afoa also had a 10-minute spell in the sinbin, but it was Afoa’s scrumming against the highly rated Genge that was most impressive. Also making nine tackles and causing a turnover, Afoa certainly hasn’t lost it.
4. Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints) – Despite ending up on the losing side, Courtney Lawes put out a very good display for Saints as he made his return from England duty. Making 13 meters from 10 carries, it would be fair to say that Lawes made the hard yards for Northampton. Added to this, a defensive display that included 19 tackle completions, Lawes was undoubtedly one of Northampton’s top performers.
5. Ed Slater (Gloucester Rugby) – Playing for just over 70 minutes in this game, another strong performance from Ed Slater will still make you wonder why Leicester let him go. Not captain on this day, Slater led his forward pack to complete dominance over Worcester Warriors. Using his brute force, Slater carried the ball for 23 meters from only seven carries. Truly dominant.
6. Alex Dombrandt (Harlequins) – For the past three games, Alex Dombrandt has stood out for Harlequins. Partly due to his work rate as well as the way he carries the ball, the former Wales U20s player has caught the eye of many a Premiership fan. Causing a turnover and completing 10 tackles, Dombrandt also broke the gainline consistently, regularly putting Quins on the front foot.
7. Steven Luatua (Bristol Bears) – Former All Black Steven Luatua got through a lot of defensive work as the Bears overcame a lacklustre Leicester Tigers. Making a monumental 20 tackles against Leicester, Luatua was a massive part of Bristol’s win on Saturday. Added to this, the former Blues man made 30 meters for the Bears in attack.
8. James Chisholm (Harlequins) – A very strong ball carrier, James Chisholm has really come into a league of his own for Harlequins. Astonishingly, Chisholm scored only his first try of the season against Exeter this weekend. Still only 23-years-old, there is still plenty to come from the number eight. Making nine important tackles as well in this fixture, Chisholm proved his importance to Paul Gustard and the way that the club want to play for the foreseeable future.
9. Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints) – Undoubtedly Northampton’s player of the season thus far, Cobus Reinach again was amongst the headlines for Saints once again. Twice a try scorer in this fixture, Reinach was on the losing side as Northampton fell short against Newcastle at Franklin’s Gardens. Getting a turnover attributed to his name, Reinach has continually impressed for Chris Boyd’s men.
10. Ian Madigan (Bristol Bears) – This was a really controlled game from Ian Madigan. The Irishman kicked nearly all of his points as Bristol completely decimated Leicester at Ashton Gate. Landing three conversions and five penalties, Madigan did come under fire after not coming off for a HIA after Kyle Eastmond’s high shot. Also making 13 tackles, Madigan was a really influential figure for Bristol.
11. Nathan Earle (Harlequins) – Nathan Earle is on this list for one simple reason. His ability to cross the whitewash. Scoring two tries in this game, Earle proved again what a raw talent he still is. Added to this, he made a gain of 61 meters to keep Quins in the ascendency and Earle even got a turnover to his name. Impressive.
12. Francis Saili (Harlequins) – A two-time All Black, Francis Saili had restricted game time last season due to a succession of injuries. However, now completely fit, Saili has been a consistent player for Paul Gustard. Carrying the ball on 16 occasions, the Kiwi also had a turnover against Exeter.
13. Alex Lozowski (Saracens) – The only representative from Saracens this week, Lozowski moved back into the 13 shirt after a man of the match display last weekend on the wing. Handed the kicking duties for this game against Wasps, Lozowski showed his well-rounded skillset. Kicking five penalties and then two conversions, Lozowski didn’t carry the ball too often, but did make an impressive 16 tackles. An exceptional performance.
14. Luke Morahan (Bristol Bears) – Luke Morahan showed some of the form that saw him in many teams of the week at the start of the season. What was perhaps the most impressive thing about Morahan’s performance, was that he ran for 146 meters, but only carried the ball on nine occasions. Scoring a try, Morahan really benefits from when Pat Lam’s side get into full flow.
15. Mike Brown (Harlequins) – Since being left out of the England squads, Mike Brown has continually impressed for Harlequins. Breaking the gainline with relative ease at times, Brown completely outplayed his opposite number, Phil Dollman. Oddly, Brown hasn’t been known as an attacking force from fullback in recent times, but is impressing now.
Widely regarded as the most competitive rugby union league in the world...it can only be the Gallagher Premiership.
12 teams compete in the league over a season, playing every team both home and away, before four move into the playoffs and one is relegated.
The division is becoming more and more exciting as each year passes by so who will be lifting silverware at Twickenham in May?
At Talking Rugby Union, we aim to provide match reports and news together with our specially commissioned features and interviews.