Guinness PRO12 top performers: Piutau, James and O’Halloran out in front

Guinness PRO12 Rugby Editor

10 Jan 2017

©INPHO/Billy Stickland

For a team that has not lost in the Guinness PRO12 since October and sits second in the table with a game in hand, it is a huge surprise that no Munster player tops the OPTA stats through 13 rounds.

In fact, only Billy Holland – whose 138 tackles puts him third behind Newport Gwent Dragons’ Lewis Evans and Sean Reidy of Ulster – and Ronan O’Mahony, who is joint third in the clean break rankings – even make the top three.

With a month of European Rugby Champions Cup, Challenge Cup and the beginning of the RBS 6 Nations, it is Rassie Erasmus’ side, Steve Tandy’s Ospreys, Leinster and the Ospreys who complete the top four.

But the likes of Tiernan O’Halloran, Charles Piutau, Ben Toolis and Tom James have all enjoyed distinguished seasons through 13 rounds of the Guinness PRO12.

Rory O’Loughlin made a stunning 154 metres in Leinster’s 70-6 as he racked up a hat-trick for his fifth try in two Guinness PRO12 games, which takes him to tied third with Charles Piutau on 13 clean breaks.

Fellow Leinsterman Dan Leavy capped a memorable start to the season with a first Ireland Test cap against Canada in the autumn and the 22-year-old continues to show why with his expertise at the breakdown.

No one in the Guinness PRO12 has more steals at the breakdown than Leavy, with Newport Gwent Dragons Ollie Griffiths, Scarlet James Davies and Benetton Treviso’s Marco Barbini close behind.

Table-toppers Ospreys have Fijian centre Josh Matavesi leading the way for offloads in the league this year with 18, though Leinster pair Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw somehow managed five apiece in Round 13, as did in-form Glasgow fly-half Finn Russell.

©INPHO/Craig Watson

©INPHO/Craig Watson

Tom James and Tommy Seymour – whose eight Guinness PRO12 tries puts him top of the pile so far in 2016/17 – have 18 breaks apiece, with Matthew Morgan, Steffan Evans, Cian Kelleher, Ronan O’Mahony and Dan Evans tied for second on 14.

Warrior Seymour tied with Leinster’s young centre star Garry Ringrose for five defenders beaten this weekend and though both feature strongly in the overall stakes with 28 and 22 respectively, there is one man who is out in front.

Ulster’s Piutau has beaten 40 defenders – five more than Scarlet Evans, who is in second place – with Edinburgh Rugby’s back-row tyro Magnus Bradbury third with 34.

Pat Lam’s Connacht side may not be hitting the heights of last season, but O’Halloran enjoyed another fine afternoon going forward, making 123 metres with ball in hand to take him well clear in the overall charts.

O’Halloran is the only man to break the 1000-metre mark for the season, with Cardiff’s Morgan second with 932 metres.

While Edinburgh backrow Bradbury has been setting the league alight going forward, lock Ben Toolis has earned the crown for the season’s lineout supremo.

The Aussie-born Scotland lock has 74 lineout takes – 29 more than Dries van Schalkwyk in second spot – while his 14 steals are by far the best in the Guinness PRO12.

Scarlets pair Davies and Ken Owens top the OPTA tackle rankings for Round 13 after Scarlets scraped to victory against Ulster with 20 and 17 tackles apiece, while George Biagi and Kristian Dacey made a battling 16 tackles each in defeat to Leinster and Glasgow Warriors respectively.

©INPHO/Camersport/Kevin Barnes

©INPHO/Camersport/Kevin Barnes

Top performers after Guinness PRO12 Round 13:

Tackles made:
Sean Reidy (Ulster) 155
Lewis Evans (Newport Gwent Dragons) 146
Billy Holland (Munster) 138

Carries:
Tiernan O’Halloran (Connacht) 146
Charles Piutau (Ulster) 137
Ed Jackson (Newport Gwent Dragons) 132

Metres made:
Tiernan O’Halloran (Connacht) 1058
Matthew Morgan (Cardiff Blues) 932
Dan Evans (Ospreys) 882

Lineouts won:
Ben Toolis (Edinburgh) 74
Dries van Schalkwyk (Zebre) 45
Grant Gilchrist (42)

Defenders beaten:
Charlies Piutau (Ulster) 40
Steffan Evans (Scarlets) 35
Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh) 34

Offloads:
Josh Matavesi (Ospreys) 18
Rey Lee-Lo (Cardiff Blues) 17
Charles Piutau (Ulster) 15

Clean breaks:
Tom James (Cardiff Blues) 18
Tommy Seymour (Glasgow Warriors) 18
Matthew Morgan (Cardiff Blues) 14
Steffan Evans (Llanelli) 14
Cian Kelleher (Connacht) 14
Ronan O’Mahony (Munster) 14

Turnovers won:
Dan Leavy (Leinster) 14
Ollie Griffiths (Newport Gwent Dragons) 13
James Davies (Scarlets) 12
Marco Barbini (Benetton Treviso) 12

LO Steals:
Ben Toolis (Edinburgh) 14
Nick Crosswell (Newport Gwent Dragons) 8
Rynard Landman (Newport Gwent Dragons) 5

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