Premiership Rugby Cup Individual Player Watch: Burger, Kibirige and Aaron Morris’ boot
There was no shortage of individual brilliance, eye-catching tries and standout performances from rising stars in round one of the inaugural Premiership Rugby Cup.
Worcester Warriors, Northampton Saints, Harlequins, Gloucester Rugby and Saracens all notched up impressive wins, while on Sunday, Exeter Chiefs snatched a dramatic draw against Newcastle Falcons.
Here’s our take on some of those players that stood out across the weekend’s action.
Player of the week – Zach Kibirige
There were three tries for Newcastle in their 22-22 draw with the Chiefs on Sunday – and three tries for birthday boy Zach Kibirige.
The winger celebrated turning 24 in perfect fashion, demonstrating ruthless finishing skills to grab his first two, profiting from good running by Adam Radwan for the first and latching onto a deft grubber for the second.
What did @FalconsRugby winger @ZachKibirige get for his birthday?! @MarkDurdenSmith & @davidflatman find out! Tune in to the @premrugby #PremRugbyCup highlights tonight at 7pm on @channel5_tv #RugbyOn5 pic.twitter.com/CO8vTxU8TF
— Channel 5 Sport (@Channel5Sport) 29 October 2018
But it was the third score that truly caught the eye, the Middlesbrough native collecting a Tom Arscott kick before himself chipping over the last man, catching and scoring.
Replacement of the week – James Short
While it was Kibirige who stole the headlines in the aforementioned draw, his hat-trick may well obscure the fact that the game ended level thanks, in no small part, to the work of substitute James Short.
The winger replaced Ollie Woodburn with just under half-an-hour to play and the Chiefs trailed by 12, with Rob Baxter’s side needing a lift.
And they found exactly that in the form of 29-year-old Short, who picking up the ball on Newcastle’s 10m line, slalomed in-between the Falcons’ line before stepping past last man Brett Connon and shooting over.
Max Bodily completed the comeback with his second score of the match five minutes later but the platform was set by the fine work of Short.
Skill of the week – Aaron Morris
In a tight and tense first half of action at the Rec, Bath Rugby looked to be heading into the break with a perilously slim 5-0 advantage, before Aaron Morris took Harlequins’ matters into his own hands.
Charlie Mulchrone’s tap-and-go enabled Francis Saili to break Bath’s and when the ball was offloaded to Morris, his inch-perfect grubber was crying out for a recipient.
39′ | TRY! Superb try from Quins in the final minute of the half as @charliejnwalker shows his pace to run onto a kicked through ball and dot the ball down on the slide. The conversion comes back off the post.
— Harlequins 🃏 (@Harlequins) 27 October 2018
And Charlie Walker made no mistake, showing lightning speed to dot down just before the ball went dead and providing Quins with some much-needed momentum.
Young player of the week – James Grayson
Northampton Saints’ James Grayson put in a performance truly befitting of a man ten years his senior as the 20-year-old’s 19 points paved the way for a comprehensive win over the Bristol Bears.
— Northampton Saints 😇 (@SaintsRugby) 27 October 2018
Grayson certainly ensured that his side started as they meant to go on when he crossed in the fifth minute.
And while he couldn’t convert from Saint’s first two tries, he added 14 further points with the boot and was rightfully awarded man-of-the-match.
Power play of the Week – Schalk Burger
The grizzled Saracens veteran is certainly no stranger to the powerplay, and the 35-year-old was up to his old antics again on Saturday, aided by the rest of his pack.
Yeah lightning footwork and flashy offloads are nice, but here’s one for the big men 💪
Saracens maul it over from the Leicester 22 👊
Grizzled vet Schalk Burger with the score. Beautifully done! pic.twitter.com/CaGo1njja8
— Rugby on BT Sport (@btsportrugby) 27 October 2018
Less than ten minutes into their Premiership Rugby Cup clash, Leicester Tigers were three-points to the good at Allianz Park.
Up stepped the Saracens forwards, however, and a routine maul from a line-out on Tigers’ 22 quickly made progress for the line.
And just as it looked like it was about to be brought down, Burger splintered off and crashed over, a dominant display of strength finished off in canny fashion by the 35-year-old.