What a weekend! The first round of Champions Cup fixtures took place across Europe this past weekend and we certainly weren’t disappointed! The defending champions Saracens got their title defence off to an impressive start, racking up over 50 points against Saints while Ulster, Exeter Chiefs, Leinster, Racing 92, Toulon and Bath all picked up crucial home victories.
Muster will have been relieved to leave the Stade Pierre Fabre with 2 points from a draw against Castres, while Clermont and possibly the surprise of the round, La Rochelle picked up vital away wins. The standard of rugby on display was very high so it was difficult to single just 3 players out, but after much debate here at The Offload, we’ve managed to whittle it down.
Fresh off a Lions tour, Liam Williams was being called the signing of the summer and rightly so, the utility back was fantastic against the All Blacks and has continued his great form at his new club. Saracens got their Champions Cup campaign off to an impressive start with a 57-13 win over Saints and Williams seemed to be involved in everything. The Welshman managed to bag two tries himself, played a part in Alex Lozowski’s try, and carried on 17 occasions making a total of 127 metres. Saracens were already tipped as favourites to lift the trophy but by signing Liam Williams, they have drastically increased their chances to win their third consecutive Champions Cup title.
He might be playing in the engine room but he could quite easily fit into the centres. The flying Fijian was a constant thorn in the Tigers side on Saturday afternoon, his long rangy strides along with his world-class offloading game made the big man a nightmare for the Leicester defence. A man of the match performance saw Nakarawa run for 43 metres over his 16 carries and managed to get 10 successful offloads away, two of which resulted in tries, the only other Racing 92 try was scored by the man himself.
Having recently returned from an injury that kept him out of the Lions Tests, you would forgive Robbie Henshaw for being a bit rusty but there was no sign of rustiness in a man of the match performance from the centre. The Leinsterman ran for 67 metres over his 17 powerful carries, scoring a try in the process. If those stats weren’t impressive enough, Henshaw was just as effective in defence, making 11 tackles and winning three turnovers. Just like O’ Driscoll was in his day, Henshaw is a general in the Leinster midfield and they certainly miss him when he’s away.