The RaboDirect PRO12 took a break this weekend as the best of the Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales took to the European scene.
It was the Irish sides who led the way with RaboDirect PRO12 leaders Ulster laying down a marker with a bonus-point success away to Northampton while Connacht also impressed with their first-ever Heineken Cup win over French opposition, downing Biarritz 22-14.
Munster and the Dragons also emerged victorious against Saracens and Mogliano respectively while there were some good performances in defeat from Cardiff Blues youngster Rhys Patchell and Leinster skipper Jamie Heaslip.
TRY OF THE WEEKEND
Ulster were denied the services of Jared Payne for much of last season because of injury but the kiwi full-back showed all his class away to Northampton.
Sending Darren Cave away for a searing break, Payne was on hand a second time a couple of phases later and left England full-back Ben Foden for dead to finish a great team effort.
He was outstanding for the rest of the night as Ulster continued their stunning start to the season.
BREAK OF THE WEEKEND
When Munster took on Saracens it was always going to be a game where defences held sway, but Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray showed his sniping ability.
In virtually the first attack of the game, the 23-year-old raced nearly half the length of the pitch outstripping the Sarries defence.
However with the line seemingly at his mercy, Murray offloaded to Simon Zebo who was not able to hang on to the ball as Munster eventually emerged winners in a tryless game.
PLAY OF THE WEEKEND
Few people gave Treviso much of a chance away to Leicester on Sunday but the Italian side caused a few nervy moments for the Tigers with their comeback in a 33-25 defeat.
Their standout moment came five minutes into the second half when scrum-half Edoardo Gori produced a scintillating run to leave the Leicester defence in tatters.
From there Treviso relied on their powerful pack to send prop Lorenzo Cittadini over for a well-deserved score.
PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND
Dan Parks might have retired from international duty earlier this year but he proved there is still plenty of life in the old dog yet with a commanding display against Biarritz.
After an early Fetu’u Vainikolo try which had come from a Dave McSharry interception, it was the Parks show at the Sportsground as he pulled the strings.
The 34-year-old finished up with 17 points including two drop goals to help his team to a second win in this year’s competition.
Ulster have been the team to beat so far this season and in Northampton they were once more in fine form with wingers Andrew Trimble and Tommy Bowe both racking up tries.
Playing with 14 men after Lloyd Williams’ red card, Cardiff Blues were always going to find life tough. However young fly-half Rhys Patchell showed maturity beyond his years to keep his side in touch against Montpellier and signal a bright future.
Leinster’s two-year unbeaten European run came to an end in Clermont Auvergne but Jamie Heaslip continued his impressive campaign with a flawless defensive display. Leading from the front Heaslip made 11 tackles, and has still not missed one in this year’s competition.
Edinburgh’s difficult start to their European campaign continued in Paris but it didn’t stop scrum-half Richie Rees making an impact against Racing Metro. After Edinburgh had taken an early lead, the Welshman produced a stunning break to get his side on the attack once more, only to be stopped short by Juan Martin Hernandez.