With the season reaching its climax, it was a big weekend of action across Europe with a host of stars from the NatWest 6 Nations impressing for their respective clubs.
In the Guinness PRO14, the final round of regular season action saw the play-off places decided, while in England and France there is still one more round to be played.
We have run the rule over all the action picking out some of the standout performers from the weekend. BEST AT THE DOUBLE AS MULDOON BOWS OUT Ulster needed a bonus-point win to have any shot of making the play-offs, and faced a daunting trip to Munster.
They almost managed it, although Edinburgh’s win later in the day would have denied them in any case, with hooker, and Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning captain Rory Best scoring two tries.
That was the first time he has scored two tries in a single game in his entire career, and it helped Ulster to a 24-24 draw, although they could not find the fourth try for the bonus-point win.
In the other inter-provincial encounter, Connacht beat Leinster 47-10 to finish their campaign on a high. It also gave them the chance to salute retiring skipper John Muldoon, the league’s record appearance maker.
He went out to huge applause, and most notably a late conversion to Connacht’s final try of the afternoon.
Away from Ireland, Donncha O’Callaghan also called time on his career while in action for Worcester Warriors, while Tadhg Beirne continued his fine form with the Scarlets with two tries against the Dragons ahead of his move to Munster this summer. TEDDY CONTINUES TRY STREAK Racing 92 booked their place in the play-offs this weekend and produced a fine display to see off Bordeaux-Bègles 39-15, with winger Teddy Thomas yet again on the scoresheet.
The winger, who scored three tries in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations, has been in blistering form recently ahead of Racing’s Champions Cup final clash with Leinster.
There was some concern over scrum-half Maxime Machenaud, who limped off with an injury after coming off the bench.
It was a good day for Racing, whose coaches Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers, will travel with France on their summer tour of New Zealand, as will Oyonnax coach Adrien Buononato.
Elsewhere Mathieu Bastareaud was one of seven try-scorers for Toulon against Castres, while No.8 Louis Picamoles continues to stake a claim for a place on France’s summer tour with a try for Montpellier, who wrapped up top spot with a round to spare. BILLY’S BACK There was a lot of excitement around the return of England No.8 Billy Vunipola, who made his comeback from injury as a replacement with Saracens.
The powerful forward, who missed the entirety of the NatWest 6 Nations, played the last 20 minutes of the bench as Saracens ran out 51-14 winners over London Irish.
Owen Farrell was another key contributor with 16 points from the kicking tee as Sarries clinched a home semi-final.
Elsewhere Ben Te’o’s try secured Worcester Warriors’ place in the top flight for another season, while Jonny May and Elliot Daly also scored tries.
The former proved in vain, as Leicester lost to Newcastle and saw their top-four hopes ended, while the latter was enough to guarantee Wasps’ place in the play-offs. JUDGMENT DAY IN WALES International duo Alun Wyn Jones and Dan Biggar scored a try apiece as Ospreys warmed up for their European play-off against Ulster with a derby victory.
The Welsh region saw off the Cardiff Blues 26-23 with Biggar contributing 21 points including a drop goal three minutes from time to complete a full house on the day.
Gareth Anscombe managed 18 points in a fine display for the Blues against his fly-half rival.
Earlier in the day the Scarlets saw off the Dragons 33-8, with Wales winger Steff Evans one of the players to get on the scoresheet.
That was enough to book a home quarter-final against the Toyota Cheetahs in the Guinness PRO14. EDINBURGH TOP DOGS IN SCOTLAND The final encounter of the 1872 Cup went the way of Edinburgh as they saw off Glasgow Warriors 24-19 in the Scottish capital.
In an entertaining encounter, Edinburgh’s strong first-half display proved the difference, with hooker Stuart McInally showing his value with a dynamic performance in the loose.
Elsewhere Scotland second row Richie Gray played his part as Toulouse clinched a play-off spot with a 19-14 win over La Rochelle.
And former Scotland No.8 Ally Hogg scored a crucial try for Newcastle Falcons as they won at Leicester Tigers to book their place in the Premiership play-offs. ZEBRE GET THEIR REVENGE Half-back duo Marcello Violi and Carlo Canna were the architects of Zebre’s Italian derby success as they got the better of Benetton Rugby.
Violi was first choice for Conor O’Shea in the No.9 jersey during the NatWest 6 Nations, and showed his ability from the kicking tee by racking up 12 points in the 22-17 success.
Half-back partner Canna, who backed up Tommaso Allan during the Championship, also chipped in with a try shortly after half-time for the visitors.
That was enough to see off Benetton, who had won the first two meetings between the two sides this season.