Guinness PRO14 viewers were treated to yet another instalment of derby day action as Round 12 served up yet more thrills and spills.
Plenty of players caught the eye as we beckoned in the New Year including a record breaking flanker, a rampaging Welsh fly-half and two speed demons from Connacht and Ulster.
We’ve picked out some of the standout performers from an action-packed round of fixtures.
LEINSTER’S TACKLING HEROES
Leinster started 2018 in the right way as they overcame Connacht but they were made to work hard against their Irish rivals.
Keeping out a late Connacht charge took a monumental defensive effort from Leo Cullen’s side with Josh van der Flier breaking the record for the highest number of tackles made in a Championship game (34).
He wasn’t the only one in the Leinster back line producing tackles – with Ross Molony and Max Deegan also making a combined 53 tackles between them.
Benetton’s Robert Barbieri was the closest to the three Leinstermen, making 24 tackles to help the Italians down rivals Zebre.
Most tackles made in Round 12
Josh van der Flier (Leinster) – 34
Ross Molony (Leinster) – 27
Max Deegan (Leinster) – 26
Robert Barbieri (Benetton) – 24
Josh Macleod (Scarlets) – 20
Cardiff Blues pushed defending champions Scarlets all the way on New Year’s Eve but were edged out 14-11.
Despite the defeat, Matthew Morgan was in fine form for the Blues as the 25-year-old made an impressive 167 metres in the narrow loss.
And it was the Irish sides who dominated the rest of the standings with Leinster’s Rob Kearney and James Lowe both making more than 100 metres in the victory over Connacht.
Lowe also made three clean breaks and showed terrific handling to set up Deegan for the first try of the afternoon.
Metres made in Round 12
Matthew Morgan (Cardiff Blues) – 167
Rob Kearney (Leinster) – 112
James Lowe (Leinster) – 111
Robert Lyttle (Ulster) – 97
Luke McGrath (Leinster) – 84
PIUTAU SPARKS COMEBACK
At 17-0 down, the writing appeared to be on the wall for Ulster as Munster thundered into a commanding lead.
But four second half tries inspired Ulster at the Kingspan and Charles Piutau played his part in the stirring revival, beating eight defenders during the 80 minutes – taking his tally for the season to 43.
Only Ireland’s Bundee Aki could match Piutau’s explosive performance as the Connacht centre also beat eight defenders in the narrow defeat at the RDS Arena.
Meanwhile Aki topped the carries tally with 21, one more than Ulster’s Piutau.
Most defenders beaten in Round 12
Charles Piutau (Ulster) – 8
Bundee Aki (Connacht) – 8
Rob Kearney (Leinster) – 7
Blair Kinghord (Edinburgh) – 6
Thomas Farrell (Connacht) – 6
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