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TheScore.ie’s Irish XV of the fourth Champions Cup weekend

It was a decidedly mixed weekend for the provinces in Champions Cup action.

15. Rob Kearney

Rob Kearney Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It was between Kearney and Jones but the Munster fullback was disqualified for his reckless trip on Camille Lopez that severely hindered his team’s chances. Kearney was improved from last week’s horror show, and was one of Leinster’s top ball carriers.

14. Tommy Bowe

Tommy Bowe is tackled by Rhodri Williams and Rhys Priestland Source: Presseye/Darren Griffiths/INPHO

It was another strong outing for Bowe who is having one of his best season’s. He made the second most metres on the Ulster team and a late break almost yielded the winning try for his side.

13. Darren Cave

Darren Cave scores a try despite Scott Williams Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

Like Bowe, Cave is delivering quality performances week after week. He linked very well with his centre partner Luke Marshall to create Ulster’s only try.

12. Luke Marshall

Luke Marshall is tackled by David Odiete Source: Presseye/Darren Kidd/INPHO

JJ Hanrahan and Ian Madigan would both have been worthy inclusions but it was great to see Marshall back playing well again.

You are always apprehensive when someone with Marshall’s history returns from a long lay-off but the centre got through a lot of work. He was Ulster’s top tackler, made the third most metres and was their third highest ball carrier. You couldn’t ask for more on his return.

11. Simon Zebo

Simon Zebo is tackled by Nick Abendanon Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Should have put the ball into the stand just before half time but besides that, he had another strong performance going forward. In both games against Clermont, he made more metres than anyone else on his team. His spin move is becoming more effective each week and he seems to have kicked on nicely from his spell in the national team in November.

10. Ian Keatley

Munster’s Ian Keatley kicks a penalty to get the bonus point for Munster Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Firstly, Keatley’s kicking was top class. He nailed a monster penalty to start the game and showed great bottle to nab a losing bonus point for the visitors. But his general play was good too – he floated some nice miss-passes and made a couple of breaks. He seemed to thrive in having an additional playmaker in Hanrahan to share the load.

9. Eoin Reddan

Eoin Reddan makes a break Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Conor Murray was much improved from last week but without Reddan, Leinster would likely be facing elimination. Just like against Castres, it was the scrum-half’s contribution off the bench that conjured the winning score. Reddan’s snipe and instinctive quick tap from the penalty was about the only incisive moment Leinster mustered on the night.

1. John Ryan

John Ryan Source: James Crombie/INPHO

As the game wore on Clermont got the better of the Munster scrum, but for the majority of the game Ryan performed admirably. There probably isn’t a tougher first test in European rugby than playing in Clermont but Ryan burst into the Champions Cup in powerful fashion early on. He can be proud of his effort.

2. Sean Cronin

Sean Cronin is tackled by Tim Swiel Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Duncan Casey almost made it in for his spectacular intercept and for having just enough pace to make the line but ultimately we went for one of the few Leinster forwards to meet his ball carrying quota. Cronin popped up all over the field and was able to get over the game line consistently. He also made more metres than any other Leinster player.

3. N/A

Declan Fitzpatrick 27/11/2014 Source: ©Russell Pritchard/Presseye

For the second week in-a-row, no Irish tighthead performed well enough to be selected. The Leinster scrum was under pressure again so it would be hard to justify Mike Ross’ selection. Likewise, Ulster struggled in that area and Declan Fitzpatrick was sin-binned. Hasn’t been a good two weeks for Irish number threes.

4. Dan Tuohy

Dan Tuohy beats George Earle to the line-out ball Source: Presseye/Ben Evans/INPHO

For the second week in succession, Tuohy continued his return to full-fitness with another busy performance. He was Ulster’s top lineout target and also made seven tacklers, which was tied for second on the team. He is playing his way into the 6 Nations squad at the moment.

5. Paul O’Connell

Munster’s Paul O'Connell is tackled Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

After a subdued outing last week, O’Connell was back to his all-action best in Clermont. Besides the usual tackles and lineout takes, he even threw in a few side-door offloads and a miss-pass to titillate Munster fans.

6. Peter O’Mahony

Wesley Fofana and Peter O'Mahony Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Like O’Connell, O’Mahony returned to his usual standard yesterday and he was competing with his fellow flanker to see who could steal the most ball. He was also a very reliable lineout target.

7. Tommy O’Donnell

Tommy O'Donnell tackled by Morgan Parra Source: James Crombie/INPHO

O’Donnell was the best Irish player in round four and it wasn’t even close. He topped the Munster tackle and carries count with 11 apiece and also made the third most metres on the team. He also forced a number of turnovers including one in the opening seconds, which let Clermont know that the Munster pack were a far sharper unit than the one that underperformed at Thomond Park.

O’Donnell is becoming a more complete player with each passing week.

8. Jamie Heaslip

Jamie Heaslip tackled by Matt Hopper Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The only constant with Leinster this season beside the stuttering attack has been the amazing consistency of their captain. He always seems to be near the top of the tackle and carries count and Saturday was no different – 12 carries and 11 tackles.

N.B. We’ve limited this selection to players who are available to Ireland for the upcoming 6 Nations.

It looks like Dan Carter is going to move up north after the World Cup next year

Who knew O’Connell and Cudmore could stand together without beating the head off each other?

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