Brad Barritt topped the OPTA tackling rankings in Round 16 after a rugged performance as Saracens ended their two-game losing run with a 29-18 victory over Sale Sharks at Allianz Park.
The Saracens captain made 23 tackles in an immovable performance in the centres, while Exeter Chiefs’ Thomas Waldrom also featured prominently with 21 tackles against Newcastle Falcons in a classic at Sandy Park.
But it was in attack that there were some real standouts in Devon, Vereniki Goneva and James Short playing their part in an expansive game between Falcons and Chiefs.
Exeter may have run out 36-14 winners – their bonus point moving them about Saracens in the Aviva Premiership Rugby standings – but Goneva stole the show in the latest OPTA Rugby rankings.
The Fijian winger made a staggering 178 metres – and also made more clean breaks than anyone in round 16 – including a well-finished early try, but he was pushed all the way by outstanding Chiefs winger James Short, who made just five metres fewer.
Short crossed twice, but it was his first effort that really caught the eye as he left the Falcons defence in tatters, running almost the entire length of the pitch for Exeter’s first of the afternoon.
It doesn’t happen too often, but Bath Rugby winger Semesa Rokoduguni finished down in fourth – Exeter full-back Phil Dollman finished third – despite an interception try and 128 metres.
The Bath flyer does stay top of the overall standings with 1417 metres – averaging more than 94 a game – with Goneva in second and Short third.
In another indication of just how open Chiefs’ win at Sandy Park was, Falcons wing Sinoti Sinoti beat nine defenders – more than anyone else in Round 16 – while back row Callum Chick beat seven and Goneva five.
Overall though, it is Rokoduguni who leads the way. He has beaten 17 more defenders than anyone else in the league and sits on 69 in 15 appearances.
Gavin Henson stole the headlines for his 12-point showing in Bristol Rugby’s vital 12-11 victory over Bath Rugby at Ashton Gate, but it was Jordan Crane who topped the OPTA carrying rankings.
The skipper’s 18 carries were vital as Bristol battled hard against Todd Blackadder’s side, while Goneva and Dollman also finished tied with the No.8.
Newcastle’s Mark Wilson is out in front for total tackles this season, five clear of fellow Falcon Calum Green on 180, while Rob Vickers, Chris Harris and Callum Chick all featured prominently in this week’s rankings.
Wasps bounced back from defeat to Sale Sharks with a 35-22 victory over Gloucester Rugby in a free-flowing game at the Ricoh.
Willie le Roux scored his first Wasps try, while Jimmy Gopperth starred with a hat-trick from outside centre, but scrum-half Joe Simpson had a huge hand in that and his three offloads leaves him tied with Bath No.8 Paul Grant and fellow No.9 Francois Hougaard atop the OPTA rankings.
Vereniki Goneva (Newcastle Falcons) 178
James Short (Exeter Chiefs) 173
Phil Dollman (Exeter Chiefs) 133
Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby) 128
Telusa Veainu (Leicester Tigers) 123
Brad Barritt (Saracens) 23
Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs) 21
Sam Lewis (Worcester Warriors) 19
Dom Barrow (Leicester Tigers) 19
Elliott Stooke (Bath Rugby) 19
Vereniki Goneva (Newcastle Falcons) 4
Chris Ashton (Saracens) 3
Willie Le Roux (Wasps) 3
Harry Davies (Bath Rugby) 3
Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby) 3
Carries: : Club Carries
Jordan Crane (Bristol Rugby) 18
Vereniki Goneva (Newcastle Falcons) 18
Phil Dollman (Exeter Chiefs) 18
Thomas Waldrom (Exeter Chiefs) 17
Teimana Harrison (Northampton Saints) 17
Ben Morgan (Gloucester Rugby) 17
Alex Tait (Newcastle Falcons) 17
Sinoti Sinoti (Newcastle Falcons) 9
Tom Marshall (Gloucester Rugby) 8
Christian Wade (Wasps) 8
Callum Chick (Newcastle Falcons) 7
Vereniki Goneva (Newcastle Falcons) 5
Maxime Mermoz (Leicester Tigers) 5
Greg Bateman (Leicester Tigers) 5