There were plenty of Guinness Six Nations stars in domestic action over the weekend with the business end of the club season fast approaching.
England fly-half Marcus Smith inspired Harlequins to a 41-14 win away at London Irish to tighten the Gallagher Premiership’s defending champions’ grip on third place.
Scotland captain Stuart Hogg was in superb form as the full-back helped Exeter Chiefs mount an almighty comeback from 22-7 down against Bath to win 42-22 at Sandy Park and remain in the fourth semi-final spot.
Hogg’s Scotland teammate Josh Bayliss impressed and also crossed the whitewash in a losing cause for Stuart Hooper’s men, as did returning winger Joe Cokanasiga, who scored twice.
Elsewhere at the top of the table, two tries for England international Ben Earl helped second-place Saracens, featuring Maro Itoje, come away from Sale Sharks with an 18-12 win.
England flanker Lewis Ludlam and Scotland centre Rory Hutchinson both crossed the whitewash in Northampton Saints’ 39-22 win over Bristol Bears.
Eddie Jones will also have watched on with interest as back row Courtney Lawes and full-back George Furbank played their parts in a victory that kept alive Saints’ semi-final hopes.
IRELAND NO.8 CULHANE WINS UNDER-20S PLAYER OF THE CHAMPIONSHIP
Wales fly-half Callum Sheedy scored a try and kicked a conversion for Pat Lam’s men but a Saints side featuring his country’s first choice No.10 Dan Biggar proved too much on Sunday.
England international Dan Robson’s drop goal helped Wasps put a dent in Gloucester’s top four hopes with a win at Kingsholm and fellow Red Rose caps Adam Radwan and Jamie Blamire were on the scoresheet as Newcastle Falcons beat Worcester Warriors 45-10.
In the URC, Leinster justified their position at the top of the table with a 34-19 win away at Munster, Ireland winger James Lowe scoring two tries.
Eight points from the boot of Wales’ fly-half/full-back Gareth Anscombe was not enough to prevent the Ospreys from going down 29-13 away to the Stormers.
However, fellow New Zealand-born Wales international Johnny McNicholl was more successful as his try double helped Scarlets beat Cardiff Rugby 35-20.
Meanwhile, Connacht edged out Benetton 21-17 in Italy with the Bulls beating Ulster 34-16 and the Lions getting the better of Edinburgh 15-9.
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Glasgow Warriors stayed level on points with Ulster in second after a convincing 40-12 win at home to Zebre on Friday night with former Scotland Under-18s hooker Johnny Matthews scoring a hat-trick.
In the night’s other action under the lights, the Sharks beat the Dragons 51-3.
Across the channel, Player of the Championship Antoine Dupont could not prevent his Toulouse side going down 19-13 away to Castres, with the home side leapfrogging them into fourth place.
France winger Damian Penaud was back among the tries as Clermont Auvergne overpowered Brive 41-10 while Pau were also big winners with a 42-19 success over Biarritz on Saturday.
Penaud’s fellow international winger Gabin Villiere also dotted down over the weekend as Toulon came back from Lyon with a 43-10 victory to further ease their struggles towards the bottom of the table.
Montpellier retained their position at the summit of the Top 14 as they beat Perpignan 23-13 despite France full-back Melvyn Jaminet kicking eight points for the home side.
Second-place Bordeaux Bègles welcomed third-place La Rochelle in what turned out to be a thriller which went down to the wire with the visitors nicking it courtesy of a late penalty, France centre Jonathan Danty earlier crossing for one of their two tries.
Scotland’s Finn Russell pulled the strings from stand-off in Sunday’s only Top 14 clash as Racing 92 beat neighbours Stade Francais 53-20 to close the gap to Toulouse in fifth to just one point.