On a weekend in which Saracens and Ulster sealed dramatic late wins, there were some excellent individual displays in both the Premiership and PRO14 leagues.
From a superb attacking display from Saracens’ Liam Williams to another inspiring performance by John Cooney, we’ve picked out the top performers from the latest round of fixtures.
LIAM WILLIAMS (Saracens)
The Wales international came off the bench to score a stunning 26 minute hat-trick in Saracens 44-23 win over Bristol.
The 27-year-old was introduced for Alex Lewington on 52 minutes to complete his successful return from a groin injury – and made an impression immediately.
All three of Williams’ tries came from close range, with the London side moving back to the top of the table alongside last season’s finalists Exeter.
JOHN COONEY (Ulster)
The 28-year-old produced a man-of-the-match performance for the second week in a row in Ulster’s thrilling 30-29 win over Edinburgh.
Trailing by two points deep into injury time, Cooney nailed the vital kick to rack up 20 points from a try, three conversions and three penalties.
Incredibly, the former Leinster man made over 110 passes for the second straight game – this time 123 – more than any other scrum-half in the world over the course of the weekend.
GEORGE FORD (Leicester)
The England international gave Geordan Murphy the perfect start to life as interim head coach as Leicester overcame Newcastle 49-33 in a thrilling contest at Welford Road.
Central to their victory was fly-half Ford who starred with 29 points, including an early try, three conversions and six penalties.
Apart from his contribution from the kicking tee, the 25-year-old looked to stretch the defensive line at every opportunity, making 81 metres and beating nine defenders.
DANNY CIPRIANI (Gloucester)
The 30-year-old shone in front of England boss Eddie Jones, creating the leveling try for winger Matt Banahan and generally being at the centre of his team’s attacking exploits in their 31-31 draw with Bath.
The fly-half orchestrated the game superbly in his second appearance for the cherry and whites, with the sharpness of his play leading to a string of penalties that Billy Twelvetrees converted.
Cipriani kicked positively all afternoon and showed his magic touch to put Banahan over in the corner with a no-look pass.
PAUL BOYLE (Connacht)
The 21-year-old’s brace sealed Connacht’s first win of the PRO14 season against Zebre at the Sportsgrounds.
The Wexford man was excellent in pre-season and transferred that form into the domestic season – crossing for two tries in the opening half in just his second start for Andy Friend’s side.
Boyle struck for the dominant Westeners after nine minutes, before doubling his account on 21 minutes to leave Connacht in command against the struggling Italians.
Ahead of their Asia Rugby Western Clubs Champions League encounter with the exciting Sri Lankans, McFarlane had urged his players to rise to the challenges ahead in 2018/19 as Quins look to counter the rise of Jebel Ali Dragons, Dubai Exiles and Bahrain.
Two seasons ago, Quins were the undisputed kings of UAE and indeed Gulf rugby as a whole – winning the five major trophies on offer in 2016/17.
They claimed back to back Champions League titles last summer before adding the inaugural UAE Premiership Cup, but were dethroned in the major tournaments.
Dragons won the West Asia Premiership – the region’s main club honour – while Exiles won the Dubai Sevens and beat them in the season-ending UAE Premiership final. Bahrain took the West Asia Cup off them.
And ahead of the new campaign, Quins have been shorn of a host of star names, leaving many to wonder just what lies in store for them in 2018/19.
McFarlane asked his side to step up to the challenge and he was delighted by his team’s response as Quins set up a showdown with Bahrain next week for the Champions League title.
“It’s a great way to kick off the season in what was our first contact run out,” said McFarlane of the Kandy triumph.
“The players showed excellent core skills in testing conditions and executed the game plan carefully. The attitude and application was brilliant and that’s all I’ll ever ask of the boys.”
But he will certainly not be getting carried away by the margin of victory or performance. Quins will be looking to make it three straight Champions League titles – but will have to do so in Bahrain, who have been formidable, especially at home, under coach Louie Tonkin.
“We know we have a challenging year ahead and certainly won’t get ahead of ourselves with this result as we know we have a lot of work and building to do,” added McFarlane.
“It’s an exciting start but next week will be a huge step up against a very good and well coached Bahrain side. I’m looking forward to Monday now and seeing the players compete for a place on the plane.”
Key figures Patrick Jenkinson, Willie Umu and Brian Geraghty left the UAE last summer while Quins lost Ben Bolger to enforced retirement due to repeated concussions.
This summer has seen long-time club captain Phil Abraham hang up his boots as well as UAE stalwart Phil Brady.
Pieter Kilian, Alfred Ries, Tom Brown, Gerrit Visser, Jona Marshall and Joe Teasdale are also among the departures – leaving Quins fighting an uphill battle. But for now they can be content with a spirited start to the new campaign.
Australia ended a run of four consecutive test match losses to edge South Africa 23-18 in their Rugby Championship clash in Brisbane on Saturday.
The Wallabies capitalised on a poor second half by the Springboks, who led 18-17 at half-time but failed to score a point after the break.
Both teams scored two tries apiece, but Matt Toomua’s two second-half penalties proved the difference.
Here, we take a look at the key stats from the match.
36: Metres made by Will Genia. The Melbourne Rebels star used his pace and nimble footwork to break down the granite-like Springboks defence, looking to put his team-mates in more formidable attacking positions at every opportunity.
7: Defenders beaten for Springboks captain Siya Kolisi. The flanker beat more defenders than any other player, with Kurtley Beale and Genia (four each) following behind.
15: Points scored by Toomua in an overall consistent display. The Leicester Tigers centre scored a try and kicked two conversions and two penalties for the winners. His try in particular was a gem, using his superb vision to slide on to a loose ball. Literally a gift from the Boks.
16: Tackles made by Franco Mostert. The industrious lock may have missed two tackles, but he put his body on the line at every chance to disrupt the Wallabies momentum. Pieter-Steph du Toit (14) and Damian de Allende (11) were next on the list in the tackle charts.
5: It was a day to forget for the normally reliable Springboks flanker du Toit who missed a game-high five tackles. After the Stormers man, there were seven players who missed two tackles each.
4: Turnovers conceded by Willie le Roux and Faf du Klerk. Although it might seem a high error count for the Springboks duo, both players made a telling impact in attack.
84: Percentage success rate in the tackle for both the Wallabies (87/103) and the Springboks (91/108).
10: Turnovers conceded by the Wallabies in contrast to 9 from the Springboks.
18: Penalties conceded by the Springboks in comparison to 14 by the Wallabies.
728: Days since Wallabies last beat the Springboks. Since their win in September 2016, both sides had played each other three times, with South Africa winning once and the other two games finishing in a draw.