It has been another enthralling weekend of Heineken Champions Cup action, with plenty of Guinness Six Nations stars to the fore during some cracking contests.
Two of the best clashes involved Irish sides, Munster and Ulster, who were on opposite ends of high-scoring encounters.
Munster fought back from 28-9 down at Clermont Auvergne to win 39-31, with Ireland star CJ Stander scoring the visitors’ second try.
Fly-half JJ Hanrahan scored 24 points in an exemplary display from the tee as a Munster side containing Ireland stars Keith Earls, Conor Murray, Chris Farrell and Peter O’Mahony secured one of their best-ever victories in European competitions.
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) December 19, 2020
France flyer Damian Penaud dotted down for the hosts but they had no answer to the Irish side’s second half surge.
Ulster, however, were beaten 38-34 after a rollercoaster clash at Gloucester.
Two recent international debutants scored in the first half, with Wales’ Louis Rees-Zammit going over for the hosts and Ireland’s Billy Burns replying for Ulster.
John Cooney then crossed as Ulster scored 24 unanswered points but there was a sting in the tail as George Barton scored with the clock in the red to seal a memorable win for the Cherry & Whites.
Three Ireland internationals – Cian Healy, Dave Kearney and Jamison Gibson-Park – got their names on the scoresheet for Leinster as they recorded a bonus-point 35-19 win over Northampton Saints in Dublin.
Ross Byrne’s boot added 15 points as Leo Cullen’s men continued their unbeaten start to the tournament and the season as a whole.
Another side to enjoy a bonus-point home win were Wasps, who ran in five tries in a 33-14 triumph against Montpellier.
Two of them were scored by 20-year-old No.8 Alfie Barbeary, while teenager Charlie Atkinson also crossed against a visiting side who played the vast majority of the game with 14 men following an early red card for Henry Immelman.
What a performance from the boys!! 𝗕𝗢𝗡𝗨𝗦 𝗣𝗢𝗜𝗡𝗧 𝗪𝗜𝗡! #COYW
🐝 33 – 14 🇫🇷 pic.twitter.com/4E5AXnD4d3
— Wasps Rugby (@WaspsRugby) December 18, 2020
Alex Lozowski, capped five times by England, touched down for the French side at the Ricoh Arena.
France starlet Matthieu Jalibert scored and kicked five conversions as Bordeaux-Begles swept aside Dragons 47-8, with Wales centre Nick Tompkins replying for the visitors.
Racing 92 also enjoyed a convincing win, with seven different players scoring in their 49-7 win at Harlequins.
France internationals Teddy Thomas, Maxime Machenaud, Teddy Baubigny and Francois Trinh-Duc were among those to cross the whitewash – as was Donovan Taofifenua, who received his maiden international call-up ahead of the Autumn Nations Cup final against England but is awaiting his Les Bleus debut.
Jaco van der Walt will hope to make his Guinness Six Nations bow for Scotland in 2021 and he kept his cool from the tee to guide Edinburgh to a narrow 16-15 win at Sale.
The fly-half slotted three penalties and converted Scotland centre Mark Bennett’s try as Richard Cockerill’s men came from 12-0 down to win.
Another stand-off looking to make his mark in the 2021 Championship is Callum Sheedy, who made his Wales debut in the Autumn Nations Cup.
The 25-year-old converted two of Bristol Bears’ four tries and added a penalty as Pat Lam made a successful return to Connacht on Sunday evening, leading his Bears side to a bonus-point 27-18 win.
Four matches were cancelled due to Covid-19 outbreaks. La Rochelle, Scarlets, Lyon and Toulouse were awarded 28-0 victories against Bath, Toulon, Glasgow Warriors and Exeter Chiefs respectively.
In the Challenge Cup, Wales wing George North scored a dramatic late try as Ospreys won 39-28 at Worcester Warriors.
England centre Ollie Lawrence scored one of the hosts’ four tries but Ospreys hit back, with Wales hooker Sam Parry going over for the first of their four scores before North settled the outcome.
Bonus points for both sides… but we head back to Ospreylia with the win.
— Ospreys (@ospreys) December 19, 2020
Italy scrum-half Marcello Violi crossed in Zebre’s 18-16 win at Brive, while there were wins for English Premiership trio Newcastle Falcons, Leicester Tigers and London Irish.
The Challenge Cup did not escape Covid-19 repercussions, with Agen and Cardiff Blues awarded 28-0 wins from their cancelled games against Benetton and Stade Francais respectively.