European Team of the Week: Jonny May Stakes His Claim for England Spot
This weekend's action brought with it the conclusion of this season's Heineken Cup pool stage, where a not-so-surprising batch of European contenders made it through to the next phase of competition.
Ulster, Munster, Leinster, Saracens, Leicester Tigers, Toulon, Clermont Auvergne and Toulouse are the eight teams who will make up the quarter-finals, only one of whom failed to win in their final group outing.
The Amlin Challenge Cup also saw its latter stages take shape with a selection of this weekend's finest individuals taking precedence in the European team of the week.
1. Cian Healy, Leinster
This weekend's performance from Cian Healy was a demonstration in the kind of balance that the modern prop should be aiming for, providing equal worth in both loose play and at the set piece.
Defensively, the Irishman could have been more clinical, but Healy's well-taken try was just the icing on the cake of an outing that saw him beat two defenders from eight carries, as well as match Adam Jones in the scrum.
2. Dave Ward, Harlequins
Another man-of-the-match display from Dave Ward sees Rory Best limited to an honourable mention this week as the Harlequins hooker stormed to 33 metres with ball in hand.
Thirteen tackles made and four defenders beaten along the way, Ward was one of but a few visiting attackers who proved too much of a handful for the Scarlets defence.
3. Anthony Perenise, Bath
Showing all the agility of a winger, Anthony Perenise's try helped pile further woe upon Bordeaux's Challenge Cup cause this weekend as Bath rampaged to a 54-13 win.
Jeff Poirot could hardly stand up to the 31-year-old's might in the scrum, Perenise providing a reliable outlet in all regards.
4. Courtney Lawes, Northampton Saints
Courtney Lawes is certainly doing no injustice to his pursuit of a place in England's starting XV ahead of the Six Nation, pitching in with another astute outing against Castres.
No Saints player managed a higher tally of tackles than Lawes' nine at Franklin's Gardens, although a tad more discipline at the breakdown wouldn't have gone astray.
5. Elliott Stooke, Gloucester
Elliott Stooke beats the likes of Paul O'Connell and Alun-Wyn Jones to the No. 5 jersey, starring as one of the key components during a crunch victory over Perpignan for Gloucester.
Although there was little on the line for this Heineken Cup duel, Stooke stood tall at the line-out, offering 13 tackles and making two turnovers in the process.
The lock's eagerness to get forward in the loss was but another bonus for the Cherry and Whites' win.
6. Juan Smith, Toulon
The South African didn't offer a lot with ball in hand, but there was little more that Toulon could have asked of their blindside as Juan Smith got about the pitch in Glasgow.
Eighteen tackles made in total and an overall menace to compete against at the breakdown, Smith reigned supreme within his own realm this weekend.
7. Gerhard Vosloo, Clermont Auvergne
Not many will have been expecting an out-of-shape Racing Metro side to triumph at Clermont this weekend, but it's thanks to players like Gerhard Vosloo that Vern Cotter's side can boast such security.
The back-row utility comes in at openside after making nine tackles and two offloads, but the tale of his outing against Racing was undoubtedly a two-try contribution, capping off a busy day for Vosloo.
8. Gareth Evans, Gloucester
An extremely rounded outing from Gloucester's Gareth Evans was good enough to beat James Coughlan's performance for Munster this weekend, the Irishman only just missing out on the No. 8 spot.
Evans' 79 metres made with ball in hand was impressive, but the seven tackles, one clean break and one turnover helped his side best Perpignan in more than one facet of the match.
9. Ruan Pienaar, Ulster
Not for the first time this season, Ruan Pienaar took a leading grip on the points collection for Ulster, bagging all 22 of his team's haul in the slight victory at Welford Road.
The South African scored Ulster's only try of the day against Leicester nudging the rest of his contribution from the tee and leading his side to bigger and better things once again.
10. George Ford, Bath
A host of Heineken Cup fly-halves stood out from the crowd this weekend, but Bordeaux's potentially threatening presence was swatted to one side at The Rec, largely thanks to the catalytic performance of one George Ford.
By a combination of his boot and fluid hands, the Bath No. 10 pitched in with three try assists and also managed to barge over for one of his own, his decision-making on-point as ever to finish with an individual points contribution of 17.
12. Wesley Fofana, Clermont Auvergne
Philippe Saint-Andre is fortunate to be able to rely upon an asset as fine as Wesley Fofana, who persevered through stormy conditions to register 91 carrying metres, beating five Racing Metro defenders.
His breaks through midfield led Clermont into superb attacking positions time and again, with Les Bleus hoping for similar impact in the coming Six Nations.
13. Jonny May, Gloucester
Jonny May picked the opportune moment to make his talents even more known to England selectors, running for a gargantuan 155 metres against the Perpignan defence, scoring from a barnstorming 60-metre break that left the French hosts grasping at thin air.
11. David Strettle, Saracens
Granted, Connacht may not be considered the greatest defensive threat in Europe's elite competition, but David Strettle's exploitation of certain weak points made the job look all too easy this weekend.
The winger will have given Stuart Lancaster reason to pause in future selections thanks to a hat-trick of tries from just nine carries.
14. Semesa Rokoduguni, Bath
Semesa Rokoduguni's physical offering from the right wing was enough to push Mike Ford's team over the line against their French visitors.
The Fijian carried for 115 metres, beating seven defenders on his way to a two-try haul against Bordeaux.
15. Mike Brown, Harlequins
The standout piece in Harlequins' back line this weekend, Mike Brown was seamless at Parc y Scarlets, running for 134 metres with ball in hand, beating four defenders, making six offloads and another four turnovers for good measure.
Special mention for Saracens' Alex Goode, who ran for 177 metres in Saracens' No. 15 spot against Connacht.
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