A second consecutive weekend of European action provided another opportunity for players from all six Guinness Six Nations teams to stake a claim for a starting spot.
In the last round before the knockout stages of the competition, we got a taste of some of the match-ups to come as the best club sides across the continent went head-to-head.
The drama got underway on Friday night with a thrilling Anglo-French battle at the Twickenham Stoop, where Harlequins made it four wins from four with a 36-33 victory over Castres.
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Alex Dombrandt, named in Eddie Jones’ 36-man England squad earlier this week, stole the headlines by completing his hat-trick with a last-gasp winner against the Top 14 outfit.
The hosts had trailed 23-22 at half-time and found themselves 33-29 down with the clock in the red, having brought on England fly-half Marcus Smith for Tommaso Allan in the 66th minute.
But relentless late pressure from Quins eventually paid off when Dombrandt produced a quick tap-and-go to squirm over the whitewash in the 85th minute to secure the win.
The tries kept on coming on Saturday as Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton inspired Leinster to a thumping 64-7 win over Bath Rugby at The Rec to book their place in the last 16.
Andy Farrell would have been delighted with what he saw from Sexton, who ran the show on his first start for the club since October in a Leinster side packed with Ireland internationals.
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Josh van der Flier, Jordan Lamour, Andrew Porter, Hugo Keenan and Dan Sheehan were all on the scoresheet for the visitors while Jimmy O’Brien scored four tries for the province.
They will be joined in the knockout stages of the Heineken Champions Cup by fellow Irish side Ulster, who defeated Clermont 34-31 to make it four wins from four in Pool A.
Michael Lowry celebrated his inclusion in Ireland’s squad for the Championship with a try and an assured performance under the high ball, with Robert Baloucoune also dotting down.
Clermont did give Ulster a scare after introducing France internationals Damian Penaud and Camille Lopez, scoring three quickfire tries having trailed by 22 with 10 minutes to go.
But Ulster managed to hold on to secure second place in Pool A, which is topped by Racing 92 after they rewarded a 28-0 win against Northampton Saints due to positive Covid cases.
Elsewhere, Bristol Bears – who had already qualified for the last 16 – ran in eight tries as they ended Scarlets’ European journey with an impressive 52-21 victory.
Semi Radradra scored a brace in addition to a penalty try and scores from Ioan Lloyd, Harry Thacker, Piers O’Conor, Ratu Naulago and Callum Sheedy at Parc y Scarlets.
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Ryan Elias and Johnny McNicholl, who were both called up by Wayne Pivac for Wales this week, scored in response but Scarlets were unable to cope with Bristol’s breathless attack.
Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors were beaten 38-30 at home by La Rochelle as Pierre Bourgarit scored one of four tries for last year’s runners-up.
That defeat for Warriors proved costly as Montpellier defeated Exeter Chiefs 37-26 on Sunday to knock the Scottish team out of Europe’s top tier competition.
England international Sam Simmonds scored a hat-trick for Chiefs but tries from French internationals Paul Willemse and Anthony Bouthier saw Montpellier claim the final last-16 spot.
Chiefs will face Irish province Munster in the knockout round after they defeated Wasps earlier on Sunday, with a Simon Zebo brace and a try from Conor Murray contributing to a 45-7 win.
Sunday also saw Sale Sharks beat Ospreys 49-10 to rubber stamp their progression from Pool A, while Stade Francais also squeaked through in Pool B with a 37-31 win over Connacht.
In the EPCR Challenge Cup, Gloucester Rugby romped to a 10-try victory over Perpignan as Wales winger Louis Rees-Zammit and Scotland’s Chris Harris both scored.
Italy scrum-half Stephen Varney and England centre Mark Atkinson also crossed the whitewash in the Cherry & Whites’ 68-19 win at Kingsholm to secure their place in the next round.
In Scotland, Edinburgh were also in clinical form as they also racked up 10 tries in a 66-3 win over Brive as Darcy Graham, Hamish Watson and Jamie Ritchie all contributed scores.
Lyon also beat Benetton 25-10 on Friday night to secure their qualification from Pool B, with Gloucester while Worcester Warriors overcame Zebre 36-26 in Parma on Saturday.
The final game of the weekend in the second-tier competition was an all-Premiership encounter as Saracens defeated London Irish 45-24, with the help of a try from England’s Elliot Daly.