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Pro12: Team of the Week

Ulster and Munster dominate the line-up after their inter-pro victories.

Ian Keatley tackles Fetu'u Vainikolo.
Ian Keatley tackles Fetu'u Vainikolo.
Image: ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

15. Robbie Henshaw

League defeat number eight for Connacht but Henshaw was lively again and took on a lot of attacking responsibility. Hard to believe he is still only 19 as his strength was too much for a number of Munster players. Looked assured in tough conditions. Jared Payne was, once again, solid for Ulster.

14. Andrew Trimble

Talk of Trimble losing his Ulster spot to Craig Gilroy were premature even before Tommy Bowe’s injury. Trimble has been in excellent form since he was dropped from the Ireland squad and he capped off a fine showing with a super try to seal Leinster’s defeat.

13. Casey Laulala

Put in some crucial challenges in a testing second-half in Galway. Chased Ian Keatley’s grubbers and Peter Stringer’s box kicks with gusto and gained hard yards with numerous midfield carries. Was harshly adjudged to have passed forward as he sparked a dangerous break up the left flank.

12. Luke Marshall

Another busy evening for Marshall as he threw himself at any Leinster player that moved. Linked up well with Darren Cave in the midfield and kicked smartly on a couple of occasions to expose Noel Reid and Fergus McFadden.

11. Craig Gilroy

The Ulster kick-chase was been a central tenet of their success this season and Gilroy, drafted in for Bowe, bought into the gameplan. Proved his defensive steel and kept Andrew Conway very quiet on his flank and showed his strength when, at pace, he rode first tackles and provided clean offloads.

10. Ian Keatley

Keatley’s Heineken Cup contributions in recent weeks may have been minor but he proved his worth against his former team in Galway. Kicked intelligently, was successful with his penalty and conversion efforts. His tackle on Fetu’u Vainikolo in the first half was crucial in what was, ultimately, a four-point win.

9. Ruan Pienaar

Stepped up for the wayward Paddy Jackson and landed some vital kicks from the tee. His tactical kicking was a thing of beauty and his run, pass pause and assist for Nick Williams’ try shows the true class the Springbok brings to Ulster’s cause. Peter Stringer’s diving header tackle to stymie George Naoupu must get a mention so here it is.

1. Tom Court

The discarded Ireland prop showed Leinster and Ireland newcomer Michael Bent what he thought of him. Shunted the Kiwi at all angles during the scrums and did the same to Jamie Hagan. Was also productive in the loose and a menace during the rolling mauls.

2. Mike Sherry

The Munster defensive lineout has been excellent of late and Sherry supplied plenty of accurate arrows to set up good attacking platforms. Made countless tackles at the breakdown and was part of a very good Munster front row that gave Connacht problems they struggled to solve.

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3. John Afoa

The sight of Afoa heaving into Cian Healy and sending him left and six inches off the Ravenhill turf summed up Ulster’s hefty influence. The scrum was on top thanks to Court, Afoa and Rory Best’s efforts and the Kiwi showed up in open play for a number of vital carries.

4. Iain Henderson

Has made his name this season as an able deputy for the injured Stephen Ferris but Ulster’s second row crisis has meant his redeployment. Secured lineout ball and caused Leo Cullen and Jamie Heaslip problems on Leinster throws. Was happy to do the dirty work to secure quick ball for Pienaar and Jackson to distribute.

Ulster’s Neil McComb is tackled by Sean O’Brien of Leinster. (©INPHO/Presseye/Darren Kidd)

5. Neil McComb

McComb has been in and out of the Ulster team this season but has never let his teammates down. Tackled well in tandem with Court and Robbie Diack and was immense at the breakdown as he scrambled for crucial ball and slowed down the likes of Sean O’Brien and Kevin McLaughlin. Immense heart shown.

6. Paddy Butler

To win away inter-pro games you need to pile in when you feel you are on top and tackle like a demon when the tide turns. Butler did both in spades and put in big tackles on Michael Swift and Denis Buckley as Connacht got into the Munster 22 but never got beyond the tryline.

7. Johnny O’Connor

Supreme and gutsy showing in a losing effort. Was hungry for carries and brilliant and tackling Munster runners, such as Laulala and James Downey, low and hard. Was replaced for 10 minutes by Ethienne Reynecke after the Jason Harris-Wright sin-bin and witnessed a 13 point swing he was powerless to stop.

8. Nick Williams

Replaced Roger Wilson at the back of the pack and proved why he has become such a cult hero at Ulster as he made a number of thundering ball carries and fended off Leinster tacklers with baseball mitt hands. Showed great support to Pienaar before evading the last defender for an excellent second-half try.

As it happened: Connacht v Munster, RaboDirect Pro12

As it happened: Ulster v Leinster, RaboDirect Pro12

About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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