While Wales suffered a heartbreaking last-gasp loss to Australia, the return of Scotland and Ireland internationals made for another compelling weekend in the RaboDirect PRO12.
Ulster maintained their perfect start to the season with a tight 19-12 victory over second-place Scarlets, who were without a host of Wales internationals, with 14 Paddy Jackson points and an Andrew Trimble try enough to see them over the line.
All in all it was a perfect weekend for the Irish clubs, with European champions Leinster making it four wins from five with a resounding 37-7 win against Zebre while Munster overcame Glasgow 31-3 – meaning all three provinces now sit in the play-off zone.
Tries from Richard Fussell and Morgan Allen were the difference as Ospreys returned to winning ways with a 33-12 victory over Welsh rivals Cardiff Blues. Dan Parks missed a late drop goal as Connacht fell to a 24-23 defeat to Edinburgh at Sportsground while Treviso eased to a comfortable 32-13 victory at home to Newport Gwent Dragons.
Fergus McFadden was the architect for the European champions, the wing gathering his own chip ahead and, evading a tackle from Leonardo Sarto, making 45 metres with a scintillating dash before being grounded bv Daniel Halangahu in the 22.
Good work from the forwards delivered quick ball for Jonathan Sexton, who dodged past Kevin McLaughlin and spread the ball wide for Andrew Conway to go over in the right corner.
BREAK OF THE WEEKEND
Munster flanker CJ Stander made it a home debut to remember as he helped Munster Rugby get back to winning ways with a comfortable 31-3 victory over Glasgow Warriors at Thomond Park.
After opening the scoring after eight minutes, his second try on the stroke of half-time was one to behold – the South African flanker picking up a loose Warriors pass in his own 22 and racing clear to touch down in the corner.
PLAY OF THE WEEKEND
In any match they say you should start as you mean to go on and this was certainly the case for Ospreys in their Welsh derby clash with Cardiff Blues.
Attacking from the off, George Stowers charged down an attempted Lloyd Williams clearance deep in the Blues’ 22 after just five minutes.
The Samoan collected the loose ball and the reigning RaboDirect PRO12 champions moved the ball from right to left and, though stand-in skipper Kahn Fotuali’i was eventually bundled into touch just short of the line, it set the tone for a convincing 33-12 victory for Steve Tandy’s side.
PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND
Leinster’s Fergus McFadden highlighted his RBS 6 Nations credentials on Saturday, crossing twice and kicking five points to help the European champions maintain their RaboDirect PRO12 play-off charge.
The wing, who appeared as a replacement in Ireland’s autumn internationals against South Africa and Argentina, was the architect Leinster’s first try with a sublime chip ahead which eventually resulted in Andrew Conway going over in the corner.
The 26-year-old then took over kicking duties when Sexton left the field, kicking a penalty before rounding off a bonus-point victory with two tries in the last 15 minutes – one of which he converted himself.
It was a heartbreaking end to the autumn internationals for Wales as Kurtley Beale’s last-gasp try condemned them to a 14-12 defeat to the Wallabies, and leaving them a third seed for Monday’s World Cup draw.
Wales’ woes were compounded by an injury to full-back Leigh Halfpenny, who left the field on a stretcher after failing to thwart Beale’s charge towards the line. Halfpenny was released from hospital on Sunday after scans though it is unclear when he will be ready to return to Cardiff Blues action.
His club team-mate Alex Cuthbert also impressed and was unfortunate not to have put the game to bed in the second half after a scintillating 70-metre dash was thwarted by a try-saving Berrick Barnes tackle.
Back on club duty, Jonathan Sexton kept himself in pole position for the No.10 Lions jersey, picking up where he left off for Ireland as he kicked 12 points for Leinster against Zebre.