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Five standout players following blockbuster European semi-finals

The dust has settled on both the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup semi-finals, but what a weekend of rugby it was! 

The semi-final action kicked off at the Stoop, as the Sharks became the first South African side to reach a European final after edging a 32-31 thriller against Clermont Auvergne.

The first of three Gallagher Premiership sides were up next, as Gloucester took on Benetton. The Cherry and Whites haven’t had the greatest of domestic seasons this year, but  it’s a different story in the cup competitions as they made it through to yet another final with a comfortable 40-23 win over the Italians.

The focus quickly shifted to historic Croke Park, as Northampton Saints looked to overcome the odds against Leinster. Phil Dowson’s side barely through a punch for the 60 minutes, but a late resurgence saw them push the Irish juggernauts close; but it ultimately proved too little too late as they fell to a 20-17 defeat.

Rounding off the semi-finals, Harlequins travelled to the South of France to face Toulouse. The French side got off to an incredibly fast start, and despite a spirited comeback, the ‘swing the bat’ approach wasn’t enough to deny Toulouse an eight Champions Cup final appearance with a 38-26 loss. 

Across all four matches, there were some notably big performances, but which players stood out above the rest? Here are our five standout players from this weekend’s semi-finals.

Five standout players following blockbuster European semi-finals

Juarno Augustus 

Juarno Augustus-Credit: IMAGO

The powerful number eight has been one of Northampton’s key men this season, but he was probably the catalyst for their late comeback against Leinster. He really took the bull by the horns in the second-half and led from the front. He made a whopping 14 carries at Croke Park, making 52 meters and beating five defenders in the process. Augustus also made himself busy in defence, registering 14 tackles. A monumental effort in-front of ex-Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, could he put a good word in to his old mate Rassie Erasmus?

Marcus Smith

Marcus Smith-Credit: IMAGO

Was this the true marker of Marcus Smith’s international quality? Smith was phenomenal against Toulouse, and arguably outplayed French counterpart Romain Ntamack. His floated pass out to Cadan Murley was brilliant, and he also grabbed a lovely try himself as he wiggled his way through three defenders. Smith also steered his team around the park well alongside Danny Care.

Lewis Ludlow 

Lewis Ludlow-Credit: IMAGO

Gloucester’s captain seems to somehow go under the radar, but his defensive efforts were so important to Gloucester’s win over Benetton. The flanker made the most tackles, with 18, and most turnovers, 2, in the match. These huge efforts stopped Benetton’s growing momentum, which ultimately led to Gloucester’s victory. He might not have got Man of the Match, but he was arguably the best player on the pitch.

Courtney Lawes 

Courtney Lawes-Credit: IMAGO

The Northampton Saints icon stepped yet again for his team. Lawes has always been a real defensive workhorse, but he really put a shift in against Leinster with 21 tackles, the most of any player on the pitch. He also made two pivotal turnovers that denied Leinster golden chances to score, which allowed his side to build momentum. His work in the lineout was also great.

Tyrone Green

Tyrone Green-Credit: IMAGO

Sensational yet again from Green. He has really hit a purple patch of late, but he was again Harlequins main attacking weapon against Toulouse. He has an uncanny ability to eat up meters. In France he made a whopping 128 meters from just 13 carries, the most of any player on the pitch. Green also finished off a wonderful try he started too, which highlighted his importance to the Quins attack.