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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 20 November, 2014

Here’s our Irish XV of the Heineken Cup weekend

Two wins and two defeats from the latest round of matches but could we find room for super-sub JJ Hanrahan?

JJ Hanrahan celebrates his try with Johne Murphy.
JJ Hanrahan celebrates his try with Johne Murphy.
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

WE LIVED SO large during those glorious four-in-a-row Heineken Cup weekends but reality bit back on Saturday and both Leinster and Connacht finished with bloodied noses.

We’re sure there will be disagreements with our selection below so feel free to state the place for your favourite player in our comments section, below.

15. Jared Payne (Ulster)

The Kiwi continues to ooze class and was the fulcrum for most of Ulster’s best moves. Set up Marshall with a clever grubber and capped off his afternoon with the try that clinched the bonus point.

14. Andrew Trimble (Ulster)

A trusted figure in attack and an intelligent runner with a keen awareness of teammates’ supporting runs. Broke the Treviso line and unselfishly passed to Payne for the bouns point try. Not a great weekend for right wingers with Keith Earls decent, Dave Kearney quiet and Fionn Carr exposed.

13. Casey Laulala (Munster)

Laulala was required to roll up the sleeves and put in a defensive shift. He made 10 tackles and two turnovers as Rob Penney’s men held Perpignan out early on yet offered himself up for vital, pressure-relieving carries. France-bound next summer, just as he hits form.

12. Luke Marshall (Ulster)

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Marshall is tackled by Aleesandro Zanni. INPHO/Presseye/Elena Barbini

Scored the first of Ulster’s four tries and linked up well with Darren Cave, in atrocious conditions, all afternoon. Soft hands and big tackles when required.

11. Johne Murphy (Munster)

The winger has played a vital role in Munster’s winning run of late. Made the most ground for his team while keeping a lid on his opposite number. Very close to a first-half try as he hared after a Laulala grubber. Craig Gilroy scored a vital try for Ulster.

10. Paddy Jackson (Ulster)

The out-half has a frustrating knack of slotting over sublime, difficult kicks and missing the straightforward. The fact that Jackson slotted over six kicks when players could see no further than 30 metres ahead of themselves at the best of times, tells you how well Jackson did.

9. Ruan Pienaar (Ulster)

Played the conditions perfectly. Fed the ball to his forwards in a rugged first half and got creative after the break, once the win was assured. His quick thinking led to Diack’s try.

1. James Cronin (Munster)

An exemplary outing in his first Heineken Cup start. Got the better of Paulica Ion for most of the afternoon and was part of a solid Munster scrum that offered Keatley shots at the sticks. Did well in broken play too and made two fine breaks with ball in hand.

2. Damien Varley (Munster)

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Varley was 100% with his darts. INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Faultless throwing display from Varley and an industrious sift up front. Made four carries, won a vital turnover and managed a line break too. Sean Cronin had a notable outing for Leinster.

3. Mike Ross (Leinster)

The only Leinster player to make the team and deservedly so. Ross put in a couple of big hits to rouse the home crowd and got the better of his opposite number, Ethan Waller, all night.

4. Johann Muller (Ulster)

Ulster simply tick better with the South African on the scene. Call the shots at the lineout and disrupted the Italians on their setpiece. Urged Jackson to put some distance between the sides before the late drive into bonus territory.

5. Paul O’Connell (Munster)

When O’Connell dominates, a Munster win usually follows. It was tight on Saturday but the lock’s excellent performance was eventually rewarded. Seven carries for the cause and 10 hefty tackles, as well as being the go-to lineout jumper.

6. Robbie Diack (Ulster)

Powered over for the 62nd minute try that gave Ulster belief that the bonus point was on. Kept a close eye on Alessandro Zanni and harried Tobias Botes while hunting well in packs with Sean Doyle and Dan Tuohy.

7. Sean Dougall (Munster)

Followed up his great showing at Thomond Park with an even better showing at the weekend. Made the most carries and tackles [11] in the Munster team and was unlucky to have a TMO rule out a would-be try.

8. Eoin McKeon (Connacht)

The leading light on a grim return to reality for Connacht against Toulouse. Louis Picamoles got the man-of-the-match award but McKeon was the best home player by a mile. 16 tackles and 11 carries. Boundless energy in a lost cause.

Super Sub — JJ Hanrahan (Munster)

We could not leave the young Kerryman out. Came into the game right at its boiling point and kept his cool in the game-winning move. Was twice involved in the break up the right flank and brought out a sidestep for the ages to leave poor Joffrey Michel grasping at thin air. Superb try from a star in the making.

What weekend performance did we overlook?

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