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Champions Cup: Five standout players as Harlequins and Northampton Saints book semi-final spots

This weekend was yet another brilliant weekend of Champions Cup action, and the English sides were again at the fore! 

All three sides had bruising encounters last time out, with Exeter and Harlequins having to mount late comebacks, and Northampton also had to do it tough against Munster. These round-of 16 clashes left fans wanting more, and this weekend’s action certainly lived up to expectation.

Harlequins faced a difficult task, venturing down to Bordeaux-a ground where Saracens had twice been torn apart this season. This might have been a daunting task, but they brought their exciting flamboyant attack to down the French side 42-41 in arguably the best game in Champions Cup history. A brace from Will Porter, alongside other scores from Will Evans, Alex Dombrandt, Tyrone Green and a penalty try saw Quins book their spot in the semi-finals.

This was followed up with another belting game at Franklin’s Gardens, as Northampton laid down yet another marker of their title credentials as they hammered South African outfit the Bulls 59-22. Braces from James Ramm and Alex Mitchell, coupled with tries from Ollie Sleightholme, Courtney Lawes, Alex Coles, Fraser Dingwall and Juarno Augustus helped Saints cruise into the next round.

Sunday also saw Exeter in action against Champions Cup favourites Toulouse, however they were unable to beat the French giants; falling to a 64-26 defeat. Things began brightly for the Chiefs, with Ethan Roots’ try giving them an 11-7 lead, but a second-half rout saw the French champions coast into the semi-finals. Zach Wimbush did notch a try in the second-half, but it was nothing more than a consolation.

There were plenty of fantastic displays on show this weekend, but which players caught the eye the most? Here are five players that stood out this weekend:

Five standout players as Harlequins and Northampton Saints book semi-final spots

Ollie Sleightholme 

Credit: IMAGO

He’s becoming quite a player isn’t he. The Saints winger was sensational against the Bulls on Saturday, and rubberstamped why he is in the shop window for an England call-up this summer. He was a real handful for the Bulls defence, beating 5 defenders. He also chewed up meters in attack, making 51 off 6 carries. His try was also very well executed, barrelling defenders out the way to cross the line.

Jack Willis 

Credit: IMAGO

Remember him? Willis was a real standout for his side in their 64-26 demolition job of Exeter. He was one of Toulouse’s main attacking weapons on Sunday, making 63 meters off 9 carries and also beating 10 defenders. He also but in a great shift in defence, making 12 tackles and 2 turnovers. His display against Exeter will undoubtedly reignite the debate over the overseas selection rule, but can you blame everyone?

James Ramm 

Credit: IMAGO

Another brilliant display from the Northampton Saints fullback. He once again led the charge in attack, making 125 meters off just 11 carries. The back also beat the most defenders out of anyone, with 7, and grabbed two tries for his efforts. Ramm was also solid in defence, making 4 tackles and winning 2 turnovers. Phil Dowson faces a huge selection headache over his back three, but the way Ramm is playing at the moment he will likely be at the forefront of his mind.

Will Porter 

Credit: IMAGO

There was a lot of pressure on Will Porter ahead of the game with him replacing club legend Danny Care, however he certainly delivered in Bordeaux. His two tries were vital in establishing Quins’ early lead, and he proved to be a constant threat all afternoon. His distribution was also on par with Care, which allowed the deadly axis of Dombrandt, Smith and Esterhuizen to flourish

Fin Baxter 

Credit: IMAGO

He seems to be getting better week by week, doesn’t he. Fin Baxter put in yet another tremendous shift against Bordeaux. He was given a difficult challenge in the scrum against the behemoth Ben Tameifuna, but he more than held his own. Baxter is quickly making a name for himself as a top-quality defender too, and he was at it again on Saturday as he made 11 tackles.