It was the final round of fixtures in the Rabo Direct Pro 12 last weekend. Leinster were given a scare by plucky Edinburgh, Munster put in a woeful performance against an inexperienced Ulster side who won by two points and Connacht finished their campaign with a whimper, losing to the Ospreys by 25 points.
With the season winding down, the teams were much changed and a few younger players got their chance to shine. The following are the top 10 Irish players from last weekend.
10: Jordi Murphy:
Jordi Murphy has a big future ahead of him and he continued his fine season with a try-scoring display against Edinburgh. The former Blackrock College back rower should see his season extended with a trip to Argentina with Ireland.
9: Conor Gilsenan:
Gilsenan has impressed since going on loan at Connacht from Leinster. He capped his final game with the Western province with a try at the Liberty Stadium. Gilsenan now leaves Ireland for a move to the Aviva Premiership, after signing up with London Irish.
8: Stuart McCloskey:
The Dungannon centre has shown great form since making his debut for Ulster at the end of February. He put in some massive hits against Munster and also looked good when attacking. McCloskey was also named Ulster’s Academy Player of the Season. Expect to see a lot more of him next season and beyond.
7: Sean Dougall:
It now seems that Dougall has overtaken Tommy O’Donnell at openside flanker judging by recent selection decisions at Munster. He was one of the few players to come out with any credit after the awful performance against Ulster and also scored a try from Ian Keatley’s grubber kick.
6: Michael Heaney:
Heaney has had to be patient for his chances at Ulster but showed his qualities with a superb performance at Thomond Park. He started and finished Ulster’s only try, his box kicks were accurate in extremely difficult conditions and was very solid defensively.
5: Duncan Williams:
Duncan Williams continued his fine form against Ulster at the weekend. He was involved twice in Munster’s opening try, starting the move and then crossing the line for the score. It looks like he is starting to finally fulfil his potential and has been one of Munster’s most consistent players in the RaboDirect Pro 12 this season.
4: Dave Kearney:
The younger of the Kearney brothers is having the season of his life and it continued with another fine game against Edinburgh. Kearney scored his 3rd try in 18 RaboDirect Pro 12 games this season and will be key to Leinster bearing Ulster in the semi final.
3: Paul O’Connell:
O’Connell was Munster’s best player against Ulster. It was not a vintage performance from him or his team but his work rate was nonstop for the full 80 minutes. If Munster are to have any hope of beating Glasgow at Scotstoun on Friday, O’Connell will have to be at his very best.
2: James McKinney:
James McKinney was the star man at Thomond Park on Saturday. He kicked 14 of Ulster’s 19 points and was flawless in every aspect of his performance. His contract is unlikely to be renewed by Ulster and there will be plenty of interest if he can replicate that kind of performance.
1: Jonny Sexton:
Sexton was the best player on the pitch for Racing Metro as they beat Toulouse to secure a Top 14 Semi Final spot against Toulon. He kicked seven penalties from seven attempts as Racing thrashed the home sides set piece. Sexton controlled the game and will be the key man for the Paris side against Toulon.
You can see extended highlights of Sexton’s virtuoso performance here:
John Keogh, Pundit Arena.