Champions Cup: Top 5 Player Performances (Round of 16)

Champions Cup: Top 5 Player Performances (Round of 16)

It’s a Knockout!

We saw many top performances in a scintillating weekend of Champions Cup rugby. One that could force a case for a re-jig of the tournament’s formatting in the future!

If we can expect fast-paced rugby like when knockout stages are brought forward, then the organisers might just be sitting up in their chairs. Some of the world’s greatest players returning to action lead to some outrageous skills on display, and some hugely high-scoring games with some big names putting on a show. Here are some of the standout shifts from a brilliant weekend of European rugby.

Matthieu Jallibert

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Let’s start with Jallibert as one of Last Word on Rugby’s top Champions Cup performances. He was outstanding for Bordeaux in their win over Bristol, showing every facet of his game in the best light possible. This is something he’ll have been glad of with Romain Ntamack putting in a stellar performance for Toulouse.

Jallibert’s distribution was outstanding. Flat passes at the line, cut passes for inside runners, offloads through the tackle, you name it. He touched down for a try in a rather forward-like fashion just after halftime off the back of a strong attacking Bordeaux scrum. This showing his willingness to get stuck into the thick of it, something that you might not usually associate with a French outside half.

Some kicks he slotted were about as difficult as they come, giving hard proof (not that we particularly needed it) that France and Bordeaux have a world-class spot kicker on their hands that’s lethal from almost anywhere in the opposition half.

He still continued to attack the line late in the game when his team had slipped to 14 men. Taking the ball to the line and shipping a short inside ball to Ben Lamb. Then sending him straight through the Bristol defensive line to put through Dweba for the score.

A seriously impressive performance from the young Les Bleus Flyhalf. It’s going to be seriously exciting to see him face up against an unbelievable Racing 92 side in the quarters.

Teddy Thomas

It may be slightly disingenuous to focus too much on Racing’s massacre of Edinburgh in Paris. This is simply because it was so one-sided that it almost became unenjoyable. However, Racing’s host of French stars put in a brilliant shift.

It’s very difficult to single out just one top performer. Vakatawa, Machenaud, Trinh-Duc, Bernard Le Roux and Camille Chat, all put in excellent performances.

However, the young Teddy Thomas was the most eye-catching. He touched down for 2 tries, both of which displayed his searing pace. Although it was also pleasing to see him put in a tremendous shift defensively, both physically and positionally.

Romain Ntamack

The man currently sat behind Jallibert in Fabien Galthie’s pecking order really argued his case to shoulder the National side’s 10 jersey. Ntamack covered the essentials superbly. He dragged his team back from a negative position on the scoreboard on multiple occasions. He also stepped up to slot 4 conversions and 4 penalties. This totalling half of his sides points in their 33-40 win over Munster at Thomond Park.

His game management was fantastic in such a physical and high-pressure game against an extremely dangerous Munster side. His decision making and distribution was pinpoint going forward.

This epitomised just after half time as Toulouse came out firing, getting good quick front-foot ball. In the 43rd minute, Ntamack nudged through a beautifully weighted cross-field kick. Which Mattis Lebel gathered for the score.

Paolo Odogwu

Wasps fell agonisingly short at the death to an always dangerous Clermont. There were some standout performances in that French side; Matsushima, Nanai-Williams and Ravai all impressed. However, it was the Wasps winger that gave the most eye-catching performance.

A special mention also goes to the Wasps line-out which was exceptional at the Ricoh. A brilliantly executed set-piece early on saw the ball come fast off the top. Le Bourgeois going through and Odogwu running a brilliant support line to finish under the posts with an outrageous burst of speed.
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Ravai exploded through for what was awarded as a Clermont try. However, Odogwu made an outstanding covering tackle to get underneath the big man and hold up the score. Only for referee Frank Murphy to give the on-field decision as a try.

You can really feel for Odogwu and Wasps here. This was due to the wording and the on-field decision are crucial in the awarding of this score. We have to trust the referee’s eye, and we can never be sure whether Frank Murphy has indeed seen the ball brush a blade of grass that nobody else has seen. However, both in real-time and every angle of slow-motion, the ball appeared to be held up.

Great tackle none the less from Odogwu, who was also inches away from getting a second score just before halftime as he dotted down in the corner, only for the TMO to show a toe in touch. All round a brilliant performance from the Wasps winger, and a genuine case for getting into an England shirt.

AJ MacGinty

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Similarly to the Racing vs Edinburgh fixture, we cannot read too much into the Scarlets vs Sale match. However, AJ MacGinty’s shift here is worth a mention.

With a new club record for individual points scored in a European fixture (previously held by Charlie Hodgson), MacGinty came through with a personal tally of 32 points in his sides one-sided drubbing of the sorry Welsh outfit.

He slotted 6 conversions, 5 penalties and got himself a try for good measure. MacGinty’s score came off the back of a loose pass from Dan Jones. Which he deftly volleyed through and chased to touch down just to the right of the posts; a beautiful bit of footballing skill on display from the fly-half. A flat-as-you-like pass resulted in a score for Marland Yarde. Then Curry offloaded to MacGinty who scythed through the Scarlets line to put through Josh Beaumont.

MacGinty was at the heart of all the brilliant attacking play from Sale. The accuracy of his passing the standout attribute to a record-breaking performance.

“Main Photo Credits”
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