After a November of exceptional international rugby the stars of the Six Nations sides returned to their clubs at the weekend to boost domestic campaigns.
In the Pro14 Glasgow Warriors and Leinster maintained their positions at the top of the conferences but there were plenty of eye-catching results elsewhere as Benetton won away, Ospreys beat Zebre 43-0 and Keith Earls’ hat-trick inspired Munster to a win over Edinburgh.
Over in the English Premiership, utility man Alex Lozowski kicked 19 points as Saracens made it nine wins from nine – here, we take a look at some of the other top statistics from the weekend.
EARLS A PEARL
Ireland wing Earls may not have got on the scoresheet for his country in November, starting against Argentina and New Zealand, but is a key part of Joe Schmidt’s side and was back among the points at the weekend.
Munster powered past Edinburgh 44-14 in an assault led by Earls, the 31-year-old scoring a hat-trick in eight minutes and 20 seconds.
The Ireland international’s rapid-fire blitz is the fastest scored by a Munster player in the professional era, easily beating Simon Zebo’s 22-minute feat against Zebre in 2014.
Earls made two clean breaks, beating four defenders, and was joined in the raid by fellow Ireland backs Chris Farrell and Andrew Conway, who both scored doubles.
Farrell has been injured since a star turn in Ireland’s Six Nations win over Wales earlier this year and Schmidt will have been delighted to see the powerful centre make 12 carries that resulted in two of the scores.
More good news for Schmidt – scrum-half Conor Murray made his first start since Ireland’s summer tour of Australia and created two tries while the versatile Tadhg Beirne stole the ball four times against the Scottish side.
WILSON POWERS ON
One of the main takeaways from England’s autumn is that even if Eddie Jones is missing some of his frontline players, the country has no shortage of squad depth.
The likes of Mark Wilson, Joe Cokanasiga and Ben Moon all impressed in November, with Newcastle Falcons back-rower Wilson continuing his excellent form in club colours.
The Falcons have had a slow start to the season in the English Premiership but secured a vital 16-14 win away at Northampton Saints, with Wilson grabbing the crucial try in the 86th minute.
That the back row would score so late typifies his industriousness and comes immediately after an autumn where he started all four matches – Wilson also the top carrier in his side with 16.
Elsewhere in England, Paul Gustard’s Harlequins gave Jones plenty of food for thought in their 28-26 win over previously unbeaten Exeter.
Full-back Mike Brown claimed the most metres of any player (88) and provided two assists for Nathan Earle, one of which was a perfectly-weighted grubber that sliced open the Exeter defence.
England scrum-half Danny Care repeated that trick for Joe Marchant’s late score and was at his sniping best, beating three defenders to run 41 metres.
MORGAN SHINES FOR OSPREYS
Another country with burgeoning squad depth is Wales, and nowhere is that more evident than in the back three where Luke Morgan made his debut against Scotland in November to add competition for the likes of Leigh Halfpenny, George North and Liam Williams.
Morgan couldn’t have been any happier on Friday, with a hat-trick, two clean breaks, three defenders beaten and 78 metres claimed – Wales centre Scott Williams also beating four defenders against Zebre.
Over in France, Toulouse are up to second in the Top14 following their 49-20 victory over Stade Francais, with wing Yoann Huget helping himself to two tries.
Just inside him at centre 19-year-old Romain Ntamack is yet to earn a senior cap for France but is already a star for their Under-20s – he claimed a try in a wonderful all-round display that yielded 97 metres from three clean breaks.