1. Discount the Scarlets at your peril
Wayne Pivac's Scarlets' early-season form saw them win eight of their first nine matches and rocket into GUINNESS PRO12 contention, but two narrow losses against local rivals Ospreys and Cardiff Blues over the festive season gave up valuable points at a congested league summit.
After a stunning 22-21 comeback win against Edinburgh, Llanelli banished any doubts over their mettle in scalping Ulster in another one-point thriller at the Kingspan Stadium.
Resolute in defence and convincing with ball-in-hand, Scarlets are coming to the boil right on cue and are mastering the art of edging close contests as the season reaches a critical juncture.
2. Domestic form critical for "Ireland in transition"
Joe Schmidt's Ireland's post-World Cup injury nightmare continued to develop with Mike McCarthy, Sean O'Brien and Dave Kearney all ruled out of their clash with England at Twickenham, and the latter two likely to miss the remainder of the Six Nations.
Nevertheless, a bright light shone from Ulster's narrow loss to the Scarlets in the form of winger Craig Gilroy.
Ulster's brilliant counter-attack saw Gilroy glide from deep within his own half and barely break stride as he gathered his own kick to touch down in a sign he is returning to the form which saw him first gain international recognition in 2013, earning an Ireland recall the following day.
3. Cian Healy's return not a moment too soon for Schmidt
Amid Schmidt's injury crisis, Jack McGrath has looked solid in the Irish front-row, however, the kiwi needs all the leaders he can source and a returning Cian Healy can provide much needed ballast to Ireland's pack.
Healy was his usually powerful, industrious self against the Blues and with the loss of Sean O'Brien, Ireland have lost a crucial ball-carrier. Healy's return can go some way to filling that void.
4. Confidence goes a long way as Treviso keep the faith
Benetton Treviso claimed their first win in 20 GUINNESS PRO12 fixtures when they defeated Cardiff Blues at the Stadio Monigo in round 14.
And Marius Goosen's side showed how strong a shot to the arm that victory could become in defeating the Dragons for their second consecutive victory on Friday.
Fortune finally favoured the Italians when Angus O'Brien's drop-goal attempt was denied by the post, but Treviso were firm in defence, threatening in attack and good value for their win.
5. Glasgow Warriors are back at the races
Gregor Townsend's side, more than anyone, suffered in the aftermath of the World Cup, which combined with an unenviable European task against Racing, Northampton and Scarlets, left the reigning GUINNESS PRO12 champions unable to replicate last season's dominant form.
But for periods at Rugby Park, Glasgow looked to have found the attacking potency of old, with tighthead Sila Puafisi crossing twice in the first ten minutes and Josh Strauss thundering through tackles.
Their defensive frailties were exposed as Munster prop Dave Kilcoyne also grabbed a brace, but Townsend's success at Glasgow has been built on nurturing talented Scottish youngsters in combination with hardened overseas players and the likes of Ali Price, Glenn Bryce and James Malcolm all offered hope that the Warriors can continue to thrive in the absence of their internationals.
6. Vern Cotter take note
Strauss has rarely reproduced his Warriors form for Scotland, but the South-African born No.8 was superb as Glasgow triumphed over Munster.
While Gilroy's form has been rewarded with an Ireland call, Cotter could well imitate his fellow New-Zealander and draft in Strauss.
Bath's David Denton is the man possession but if Strauss continues to perform at this level he will be breathing down Denton's neck for a start.
7. Hope remains for Munster
Anthony Foley's side have lost narrowly twice in succession and slipped to seventh after Ospreys bested Edinburgh, but the men in red are level on points with both Alan Solomons' and Tandy's sides, with a game in hand over five of the six teams above them.
They were convincing in attack against the Warriors and if not for an irresistible ten-minute Glasgow blitz, Munster may well have emerged victorious against the reigning champions.
In this season's topsy-turvy GUINNESS PRO12 last year's beaten finalists have - in Kilcoyne, Ian Keatley and Rory Scannell - the raw materials to pose a considerable challenge to all comers.
8. Attack, attack, attack. Connacht are not going away
Pat Lam's Connacht revolution ceased long ago to be a flash-in-the pan, but the Galway outfit continue to solidify their title credentials.
Yes, their defence was porous at times in allowing Zebre to cross four times and claim a try-scoring bonus point, but in hat-trick hero winger Matt Healy, they now have the competition's leading try-scorer, while with 42 tries and 362 points for, their attack is the league's most prolific.
Lam's men refused to retreat into their shells and retained the wherewithal to persist in attack even after claiming their tenth bonus point of the season and were rewarded as a Niyi Adeolokun double sealed victory.
9. Leinster look ominous
Leo Cullen's side may have only just got over the line against a spirited Cardiff Blues side at a dour, windy BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, but Leinster, and Cullen in particular, are an outfit accustomed to success.
Leinster have the experience of the big games and look like a team who could really threaten in the play-offs, especially with no European distractions.
Defences win games and Leinster's league-leading unit has conceded just 13 tries in 14 games this season. Two points behind Connacht with a crucial game in hand against Glasgow, Leinster will be optimistic of reclaiming the title they last won in 2014.
10. Ospreys have impressive strength-in-depth
Edinburgh dominated possession and threatened throughout a competitive first half at the Liberty Stadium, but the Scots could not live with a second-half Ospreys onslaught as they lost their third game in succession.
Steve Tandy rightly praised the impact of his bench, the four-times champions were largely second best in the first period, but responded superbly to Dan Lydiate's sin-binning and substitute hooker Scott Otten added the finishing touches to a superb second half when he barged over.
Sam Davies' five penalties were ultimately the difference between the two sides as the former Wales Under-20 international proved himself an able deputy to Dan Biggar, while Tandy will consider himself extremely lucky to have a flanker of Sam Underhill's class available during an international period.
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