Rugby might be the ultimate team sport but that does not stop the best marksmen from targeting individual accolades.
For wingers, the only currency is tries and on Saturday at the Twickenham Stoop, Gallagher Premiership Rugby’s top two will go head-to-head when Cadan Murley and Mateo Carreras face off.
As it stands, it is Quins’ Murley who leads the way, having racked up 13 tries in 15 games, one clear of his Geordie-Puma rival, who has the better strike rate, having played two games fewer.
While the pair are clearly among the best finishers in the game, the way they go about it is very different.
Carreras is all about speed and footwork, exemplified by his sensational solo score against Northampton Saints back in October when he ran from his own 22 untouched thanks to some exceptional side-stepping.
Murley, meanwhile, uses his power game to make the difference, seemingly capable of finishing off opportunities even when the cover defence is in position.
That was never more obvious than in Quins’ last league action, the winger twice overpowering Max Malins – last season’s top try-scorer – despite no space with which to work.
A few years back, Murley cited Jonah Lomu as one of his rugby heroes, and despite the contrasting builds of the Harlequins man and the former All Black great, their direct approaches are more similar than you might expect.
Last season, Murley finished just one try behind Malins with 15 tries, and now has three more games to top that tally and potentially finish as the league’s top try-scorer for the first time.
However, Carreras is open about his ambition of denying him and claiming that title for himself.
Speaking on the Falcons club website this week, the Argentina international said: “I want to finish the season as the Premiership’s top try-scorer, and I’ve never hidden that.
“It’s not for personal glory or anything like that, but I just know that if I’m scoring tries on a regular basis then I’m helping the team to win.”
For Carreras, every game is personal. The individual match-up is what drives him when sets foot on the field.
“How I prepare for the game, I see it as a challenge between me and the other winger,” he explained to BT Sport last month.
“I want to make more metres with the ball, I want to beat more defenders, I want to win more balls in the air. My individual challenge is to play better than him. If I win that individual fight, if everyone wins those individual fights, we will win the game.”
When it comes to Murley, that challenge is considerable. Carreras has admitted in the past that his game is not about searching for contact, but he might not have much choice against a man who uses his physicality to impose his will.
Carreras added: “He’s a really good player – powerful, a good footballer and strong in the air – and I know it won’t be easy for whoever is up against him.”
For Quins, there is a lot riding on this weekend beyond Murley’s individual try-scoring quest. While they will need some help from others to make it to the semi-finals for the third season running, the battle for Europe is set to go down to the wire with every point crucial.
Falcons players, meanwhile, will be eager to make a big impression on incoming head coach Alex Codling, who coincidentally last worked in the English domestic game for Harlequins.
In his playing days, Codling won his lone England cap against Argentina back in 2002.
The teams have been drawn together in the pool stages of the World Cup later this year, with Carreras almost certain to be part of the Pumas squad for the showpiece in France.
He was part of the side that won for only the second time in their history at Twickenham against England last November and will likely be identified as one of the main danger men by Steve Borthwick and defence coach Kevin Sinfield come the World Cup.
Murley, meanwhile, is still waiting for that first England opportunity. A regular in squads under both Borthwick and his predecessor Eddie Jones, his 19 tries in 2022 equaled the calendar year record in Gallagher Premiership Rugby.
If he can back that up by finishing as the league’s top try-scorer the season before a World Cup, those calls for Test recognition and a place in England’s final 33-man squad will only grow.
This weekend could end up being decisive in that pursuit. Both men are at their most comfortable with ball in hand but the battle to top the try tally may yet be decided by how they cope in defence, which will also surely be a factor in whether Murley’s England ambitions come to fruition.
Harlequins and Newcastle have shipped 65 tries apiece this season, only Northampton have conceded more.
With sunshine expected and two teams who love to throw the ball around, points will come. However, if either Carreras or Murley can keep their opposite number at bay at the Stoop, the ramifications could stretch far beyond this season.
The two top Gallagher Prem try scorers go head-to-head this weekend as Quins host Falcons for a cracker in the capital. Catch all the action on PRTV Live this Saturday at 3pm for just £4.99.