In the build-up to the big Christmas derbies the RaboDirect PRO12 sides went up against the continent’s best in the final European weekend of the year.
The Ospreys led the way with an impressive success over four-time European champions Toulouse to reignite their Heineken Cup campaign.
It was a difficult weekend for the rest of the RaboDirect PRO12 sides although the Dragons picked up a convincing win at home to Mogliano in the Amlin Cup, running in eight tries against their Italian opposition.
Eli Walker again showed his predatory skills for the Ospreys while Nikola Matawalu was outstanding for Glasgow Warriors in their narrow defeat away to Castres.
TRY OF THE WEEKEND
Eli Walker has been one of the revelations of the RaboDirect PRO12 this season and showed he can be just as deadly in Europe.
With Toulouse being held at arm’s length by the boot of Dan Biggar, Walker showed good strength on the end of an Ospreys attack.
The ball went through the hands before reaching Walker on the left, and the youngster brushed off a weak effort from Yoann Huget to score the game’s only try.
BREAK OF THE WEEKEND
The Zebre were always going to be up against it, facing an in-form Harlequins side, but fly-half Luciano Orquera produced a moment of magic when he waltzed through a gap in the Quins defence.
Just for good measure he rounded England full-back Mike Brown and although Sam Smith got back to stop him scoring a scintillating individual try, Ruggero Trevisan was on hand to finish the move.
PLAY OF THE WEEKEND
Munster fell behind early against Saracens thanks to a David Strettle try but an immediate reaction, sparked by some quick-thinking from James Downey got them right back in it at Vicarage Road.
With Owen Farrell looking to spread the ball wide Downey stepped up to pluck the ball and sprint away. Aware that he wasn’t going to make it all the way to the line himself, the powerful centre then produced a deft offload for Doug Howlett to score.
PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND
After a bitterly-disappointing home defeat to Castres last weekend, Glasgow Warriors wanted a reaction at the Stade Pierre Antoine.
They got it through Fijian scrum-half Nikola Matawalu who was a real livewire in the south of France, making break after break into French territory.
In the end it wasn’t quite enough – the Castres pack eventually proving too powerful – but there was little doubt that Matawalu was the game’s outstanding player.
The Ospreys desperately needed a win to keep their quarter-final hopes alive, and against Top 14 champions Toulouse they got it, with several of their Welsh internationals impressing.
While it’s surely a case of when rather than if Eli Walker will grace the test stage, Dan Biggar, Ashley Beck and Justin Tipuric all showed why they are right in the frame for Wales and possibly even the Lions.
The Scarlets eventually came up short against Exeter, but two of their Welsh stars were also in good form, George North setting up Scott Williams for their second try at Sandy Park.
It was a disappointing afternoon for Leinster as they went down to Clermont Auvergne at home, but Fergus McFadden’s late try ensured a losing bonus point which could prove vital in the final shake-up.
And although he was playing against a RaboDirect PRO12 club, Scottish No.8 and former Glasgow Warrior Johnnie Beattie was hugely impressive for Montpellier as they beat Cardiff Blues in the south of France.