OPTA rankings: Lowe’s flying high for Leinster

Charlie Talbot-Smith
22 May 2018

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There were three compelling clashes in the Guinness PRO14 this past weekend as Leinster and Scarlets secured their spots in the final and Ulster booked their passage to Europe’s top table.

And there were a number of outstanding individual displays across the trio of fixtures that caught the eye.

We have crunched the numbers to tell you who topped the charts across the three games.

CJ CARRIES THE LOAD

CJ Stander is nearly always at the top of the carry charts, whether in the green of Ireland or the red of Munster.

And this weekend was no different, even though it came in an ultimately losing effort against Leinster in their semi-final at the RDS.

Departing hero Simon Zebo was not far behind for Johan van Graan’s side but they could not break down a resolute display from the European champions.

Hooker Rhys Marshall also impressed with ball in hand, as did Matt Fagerson and Jonny Gray in defeat to the Scarlets as defences dominated the weekend.

Carries
CJ Stander – Munster – 19
Simon Zebo – Munster – 18
Sam Davies – Ospreys – 16
Matt Fagerson – Glasgow Warriors – 15
Rhys Marshall – Munster – 14
Jonny Gray – Glasgow Warriors – 14

JAMES IS STILL GOING

James Ryan’s unbeaten streak in the professional game is showing no signs of stopping.

The lock has been a key cog for Ireland’s Grand Slam and Leinster’s run to within one victory of a domestic and European double.

And defensively he turned in an unbelievable showing on Saturday at the RDS as he and Jack Conan combined for 42 tackles to stop the Munster red wave in its tracks.

Elsewhere, hooker Rob Herring stepped up in Rory Best’s absence as Ulster stormed to victory in the European Champions Cup play-off.

Tackles, Tackles missed
James Ryan – Leinster – 23, 2
Rob Herring – Ulster – 20, 1
Jack Conan – Leinster – 19, 1
Tom O’Toole – Ulster – 16, 0
Tadhg Beirne – Scarlets – 13, 2
James Davies – Scarlets – 13, 2

WINGING IT

While Zebo tried everything he could in his final display in the Munster red, Leinster proved too strong.

Keith Earls also neared the century mark for metres made but it was another Irishman, Jacob Stockdale who made the decisive intervention on Sunday.

Stockdale’s calling card this season has been his interception work and he pulled off another to seal victory for Ulster over the Ospreys in Belfast to account for over half of his 95m with ball in hand.

Meanwhile, Wales and Scarlets flyer Steff Evans is finishing the season in fine form and again was too elusive for the Glasgow defence.

Top Metre makers
Simon Zebo – Munster – 115
Keith Earls – Munster – 96
Jacob Stockdale – Ulster – 95
James Lowe – Leinster – 82
Steff Evans – Scarlets – 72

THE LOWE DOWN

But the most impressive individual display of the weekend probably has to go to James Lowe.

The Kiwi winger made light of his disappointment after missing out on the matchday 23 for the European final and turned in an performance of real class on Saturday.

He made two telling contributions including a ridiculous offload for Jack Conan’s early try against Munster and was a constant thorn in their side.

In total he made 82m from 12 carries, beat five defenders with three clean breaks and produced two offloads.

Throw in six tackles as well and Lowe’s all-round work proved vital in such a narrow 16-15 victory that keeps their double hopes alive.

Defenders beaten
James Lowe – Leinster – 5
Johnny McNicholl – Scarlets – 5
Simon Zebo – Munster – 5
Sam Johnson – Glasgow Warriors – 4
John Cooney – Ulster – 4

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Prices start at just €50 at www.ticketmaster.ie with tickets available to suit every experience.
To book hospitality visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/hospitality
For Travel packages visit: https://www.pro14rugby.org/travel-packages
For Fanzone & Dublin 7s visithttp://www.dublin7sfestival.ie

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