It was the second last round of fixtures in the RaboDirect Pro 12 at the weekend. Connacht blew a twelve-point lead against Cardiff, Leinster earned a two point victory against Ulster and Munster crossed for seven tries in their hammering of Edinburgh. Here are the top 10 Irish players from the week’s games.
10: James Cronin
Cronin continued has fine season with a bulldozing performance against Edinburgh. The Dolphin loose head prop is putting huge pressure on David Kilcoyne as the number 1 loosehead in Munster and will hope to start in their final games.
9: Roger Wilson
Wilson’s return to Ulster from Northampton has not gone as well as he would have hoped. The back rower has found game time difficult to come by but he put in a very impressive performance at the weekend and was a constant threat when running at the Leinster defence.
8: JJ Hanrahan
The clamour for JJ’s inclusion for the starting out half berth at Munster has died down a little due to the form of Ian Keatley. Hanrahan gave everyone a reminder of his qualities with a flawless kicking display and a high quality passing game on Saturday.
7: Shane Jennings
Usually more noted for his defensive work, Shane Jennings was the match winner for Leinster against Ulster scoring a fine try on 59 minutes. A superb dummy opened the Ulster defence and was the highlight of a great win for Matt O’Connor’s men.
6: Andrew Conway
Another swashbuckling showing from Conway against Edinburgh was topped off by a splendid finish for Munster’s opening try. He was a persistent thorn in the home team’s side and will hope to see more game time in the last few RaboDirect Pro12 games.
5: Robbie Henshaw
Henshaw put in another fine showing for Connacht against Cardiff. The highlight of his game was a not so typical pick and go from a close in ruck that resulted in Connacht’s second try.
4: Conor Murray
Munster are a different team when Murray doesn’t play and he showed his wide array of talents at the weekend. Having been replaced at scrum half by Duncan Williams, he later returned to play out half and even kicked conversions to two late tries.
3: Brian O’Driscoll
All the way through his glittering career, O’Driscoll has come up with big plays at vital times in important games. Against Ulster he did it again with an exquisite offload for Shane Jennings match-winning try.
2: Paul O’Connell
O’Connell took out his frustration following Munster’s Heineken Cup exit on Edinburgh. Ireland’s captain carried the ball more than usual and put in some massive hits in defence as he darted around the pitch like a man possessed.
1: Paddy Jackson
Ulster’s out half came out on top in his battle with his rival Ian Madigan as he scored all of his side’s 20 points. He even blocked Madigan’s clearing kick in the process of scoring a try. Jackson has had to take on more responsibility with Ruan Pienaar out injured and stepped up to the challenge once more against Leinster.
John Keogh, Pundit Arena.