Rugby star Kenny Logan was among those who received praise from the judges in the latest edition of Strictly Come Dancing.

Kenny – who has had a mixed response throughout the series – scored a hit with his American Smooth routine, with Arlene Phillips citing a huge improvement in dancing. “It’s overwhelming, the step you’ve taken,” she told him – while Craig Revel Horwood and Bruno Tonioli were also impressed.

Only Len Goodman remained unconvinced, criticising the two lifts Kenny performed during the routine. “It’s not Strictly Come Weightlifting,” he told the sportsman.

There was plenty of praise for the other six remaining couples on the show, who performed a selection of dances they had yet to try during the series.

Gethin Jones and Camilla Dallerup kicked off proceedings with a quickstep that scored mixed reviews. Len said he needed to bring “more gaiety and fun” to the floor despite dancing well, although Arlene praised him for his “improvement”.

John and Nicole, meanwhile, left the panel disappointed with their samba. “This should be your dance,” Bruno Tonioli told the former footballer, “but instead of being a riot it was a murmur.”

There was better news, however, for Letitia Dean, whose Viennese Waltz was described as “fantastic”, by Bruno – but the judges weren’t nearly so keen on Kelly and Brendan’s samba, performed to the Bee Gees classic Stayin’ Alive.

“My high expectations have fallen as hard as a lead balloon,” Arlene told the pair, while Bruno said the routine did not do justice to Kelly’s talents. “It’s like hiring Judi Dench and getting her to read the Yellow Pages,” he complained.

It was left to the last two couples, Matt and Flavia and Alesha and Matt, to score the highest marks of the night. Matt’s salsa received a rapturous reception, while Alesha received the highest score in the competition so far – a near perfect 39 out of 40.

“This is a two horse competition at the moment,” Arlene told the couple following their cha cha cha, “and you are one of the horses.”

The results will be revealed on Sunday evening’s show.