So we have our quarter-finalists in the European Champions Cup and Challenge Cup, but there was plenty of high drama to enjoy before the dust settled. Who were the match-winners in round six of the pool matches, and who had a weekend to forget?
Poacher turned gamekeeper
Jonathan Joseph earned plenty of praise for his attacking play against Toulouse in last weekend’s European Champions Cup, but he made a decisive impact in defence this week, as he helped Bath hang onto a 20-15 lead over Glasgow Warriors with a superb try-saving tackle on Sean Maitland in the 69th minute.
Joseph’s team-mate Francois Louw also saved the day for Bath when he won a vital turnover close to the line just a few phases later, as Fraser Brown tried to drive over for what could have been a winning try.
There was heroic defending from Finn Russell and Maitland earlier in the match to prevent Anthony Watson scoring, but ultimately their efforts were in vain as Bath secured the win and the quarter-final spot.
Time to change
Referee David Rose took a deep breath and did something brave this weekend, as he admitted to suffering from depression. Rose used Facebook and Twitter to go public about his illness and the difficulties it has caused him over the past 40 years. Mental health issues affect so many people yet they remain a largely taboo subject. Well done to David for speaking out. You can read his statement here.
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne rounded off a great week in which he was named in Scotland’s Six Nations squad, by putting in a Man of the Match performance in Edinburgh’s 38-20 win over Bordeaux-Begles in the European Challenge Cup.
He scored two tries, kicked four penalties and three conversions and helped set up a try for WP Nel with a sublime reverse flick out of contact to enable Tim Visser to continue the move.
Hidalgo-Clyne powered through three tacklers on the line to score his second try and was so confident he had touched it down, he stood coolly waiting to take the conversion while the officials deliberated over the TV replays.
Three for two
No fewer than nine players scored two tries during the weekend’s Champions Cup and Challenge Cup clashes, but only two went on to get a hat-trick. Centre Darren Cave claimed his treble for Ulster in the first 42 minutes of the match against Leicester Tigers, while flanker Ofisa Treviranus took 72 minutes to grab his trio of tries for London Irish in Rovigo.
Extraordinarily, seven different Harlequins players scored one try each in their 47-19 win at Castres and that was almost matched by Exeter Chiefs, who had six different try-scorers as they beat Bayonne 45-3.
Doctor knows best
Bath’s medical team are among the Saints this week for forcing Kyle Eastmond to come off just six minutes into the do-or-die clash with Glasgow Warriors, after he suffered an injury to his left arm. The centre was determined to play on but the experts knew it was in his interests to come off and insisted that he did. Eastmond ended the afternoon with his arm in a sling and will need a scan to see what damage has been done, but at least he was not allowed to make it worse by playing for another hour.
Wasps qualified for the Champions Cup quarter-finals despite winning just three of their six pool games, and it was No 8 Nathan Hughes who scored the try which earned them a 20-20 draw against Leinster and just enough points to move into the knockout stages.
Wasps were trying to break through the Leinster defence to come back from 20-13 down as the final ten minutes approached. Hughes picked up at a ruck on the line and, deciding the direct route was best, simply dived over the prone players to touch down unopposed. Andy Goode converted and Wasps had their draw.
There are no Welsh sides in the Champions Cup quarter-finals but both regions who are in the Challenge Cup have reached the knockout stages. Newport-Gwent Dragons secured their home quarter-final with a 30-19 win over Stade Francais and they will entertain Cardiff Blues in the next round.
The Dragons owe a lot to Tom Prydie as he converted their pack’s dominance and Stade’s mistakes into 17 precious points by kicking five penalties and a conversion.
Six of the best
They had already secured a home quarter-final in the Challenge Cup before the final round of matches but Gloucester still went for the jugular in Brive on Thursday evening and won 31-20 to finish their Pool Five campaign with 29 points out of a possible 30. They are the only team in the two European competitions to have won all six pool matches and they scored an average of 35 points per game. Yes, the French clubs did not give their best in Europe’s second tier competition, but Gloucester’s achievement is still one to be proud of.
Ashley Johnson came out of the blocks at a great rate of knots when Wasps kicked off against Leinster, but his sprint from halfway ended with him clattering into the legs of Dave Kearney, who had leapt high to catch the kick. The wing came crashing to the floor and had to go off with a shoulder injury, while Johnson was sent to the sin-bin.
To be fair, the Wasps No 6 looked mortified as soon as Kearney hit the deck and sent him an apologetic Tweet after the game, saying: “Really sorry for that tackle mate. Didn’t mean to injure you. Hope it’s not too bad.”
Kearney came back with a friendly reply: “No serious damage done.”
Leinster lock Kane Douglas spent the first ten minutes of the second half in the sin-bin after hitting Ashley Johnson hard and high as he cleared out a ruck just before the break. Was it retribution for Johnson’s tackled on Kearney? Only Douglas knows – but his absence may have contributed to a change of momentum in the game, as Wasps came back from 20-6 down at half-time to draw 20-20.
Ian Madigan and Andy Goode should have shared a swift half together after Saturday’s Wasps v Leinster clash as both missed a kick which could have won the game for their team.
Madigan was off-target with five minutes to go after Elliott Daly foolishly came in at the side of a ruck on the 10-metre line. Leinster were leading 20-13 so another three points would have taken the game away from Wasps.
Goode had the chance to go for glory with a drop-goal at the death, after his team-mates had set him up in the centre of the pitch outside the 22. He put it wide, which meant Leinster topped Pool Two, but thankfully for Goode, Wasps still qualified for the quarter-finals.
Bad day for Burrell
Two former European Cup winners slumped to disappointing defeats in their last pool matches and while Northampton Saints still made it through to the quarter-finals despite being trounced 32-8 at home by Racing Metro, Toulouse are out of the competition following their 27-26 loss at Montpellier.
Northampton missed a total of 33 tackles as Man of the Match Jamie Roberts and his Racing team-mates cut them to shreds and Luther Burrell had a real day to forget, missing six tackles and conceding three turnovers.
Salon of shame
Take a seat in the salon Gordon Reid! Was is my imagination, or did the Glasgow prop look slightly shame-faced as he trotted out of the tunnel at Bath with a Mohican hair cut? Either way, his new “style” caught the eye of former England prop Dave Flatman, who was on the BT Sport commentary team. “If you are going to arrive in the front row with a Mohawk you have got to deliver,” quipped Flatman. “White boots or a Mohawk, you have to be looking at Man of the Match.” Sadly for the Warrior, Reid didn’t make the grade.