A fortnight since the dramatic conclusion of the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations there is still plenty of top-class rugby on display as the European competitions enter the final stages.
Over the weekend the quarter-finals of the European and Challenge Cups took place and, as you’d expect, plenty of NatWest 6 Nations stars came to the fore.
For anyone who missed the action, here’s the story of the weekend as told by the statistics.
GRAND SLAM HEROES
Following their NatWest 6 Nations Grand Slam win and some well-deserved celebrations, many of Ireland’s stars were back in action in the Champions Cup as Leinster and Munster both progressed to the semi-finals.
And Ireland’s heroes picked up where they left off, none more so than Leinster back row Dan Leavy, whose man-of-the-match display helped his side to a 30-19 victory over Saracens.
Leavy grabbed a second-half try, made 14 tackles, three clean breaks, beat four defenders and ran for 82 metres – impressive stuff indeed.
Ireland lock James Ryan was also dominant and had a direct role in two of the tries, whilst also making 17 carries and 17 tackles in a punishing defence that kept defending Champions Saracens to just one try.
The result means England have no representation left in the Champions Cup, but Saracens gave a strong performance and were led by industrious prop Mako Vunipola, who made 16 tackles and 20 carries, whilst lock George Kruis chipped in with a handsome 22 tackles.
Munster’s 20-19 victory over Toulon contained all the drama you’d want from a Champions Cup quarter-final and was lit up by Andrew Conway’s brilliant late try that set up the victory.
CJ Stander made the most carries of any player in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations and continued in that vein for his province, making 16 carries and 21 tackles, whilst Peter O’Mahony claimed 14 tackles as Munster kept the giant Toulon attackers at bay.
On Friday we got to see a magnificent spectacle at Parc y Scarlets as the home side, roared on by a 15,000-strong crowd, reached a first European semi-final since 2007 by downing La Rochelle 29-17.
The Scarlets squad had a huge influence on Wales’ impressive second-place finish in the 2018 NatWest 6 Nations and their players are dreaming of further success in the Champions Cup following their impressive display.
Rhys Patchell was back at fly-half for the region and grabbed a try, as did Wales centre Scott Williams, whilst full-back Leigh Halfpenny kicked his way to 19 points – a very useful man to have around in knockout rugby.
Hadleigh Parkes was superb, his break leading to Patchell’s try, whilst he also made 15 carries, 60 metres and beat four defenders.
Skipper Ken Owens also led from the front, he took home the man-of-the-match award and made 17 tackles, whilst an honourable mention has to go to flanker James Davies – who at one point was moved on to the wing where he made the break that led to Williams’ score.
Wales flanker Josh Navidi also shone in Cardiff Blues’ 20-6 win over Edinburgh in the Challenge Cup.
Navidi made 19 tackles whilst on the other side of the pitch Scotland’s Blair Kinghorn beat an eye-popping eight defenders whilst claiming 111 metres.
One of the great cathedrals of rugby – the Stade Marcel-Michelin – witnessed an all French quarter-final on Sunday as Racing 92 claimed an impressive 28-17 win away at Clermont Auvergne.
France scrum-half Maxime Machenaud kicked 13 points whilst his competitor for the No.9 shirt Morgan Parra notched four penalties.
Remy Grosso had a fine 2018 NatWest 6 Nations on the wing for France and impressed again for Clermont, beating five defenders, whilst on the opposite wing Teddy Thomas claimed 61 metres and beat six defenders.
There were some excellent tries scored in the all-French affair, none more so than the one scored by Leone Nakarawa after wing Marc Andreu’s searing break and Camille Chat’s offload.