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ESPN's European rugby review: Player of the weekend, flop & more

European rugby was again played in South Africa this weekend, and there were mixed results for the two home teams. The Aviva Premiership was full of tries, while the Top 14 featured a couple of rare away wins amid some titanic battles.

But who caught the eye, who had a game to forget, and what will we all be talking about ahead of the next round of fixtures?

Player of the weekend

Prem (Martyn Thomas): Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs). The centre continued his excellent start to the season, proving the catalyst for his side's impressive win over Wasps. Slade was a constant thorn in Wasps' side at Sandy Park, stepping and feinting his way 72 metres with ball in hand, while providing two try assists. The England man didn't have a bad day in defence either, making all of his six tackles.

PRO14 (Cillian O Conchuir): Jarrod Evans (Cardiff Blues). A 78th-minute conversion to win a game is never easy. Add in the swirling wind of the Sportsground and Evans' kick was immense. Ten metres in from the right touchline, the fly-half split the posts, bending the ball from left to right to gain the win for Cardiff.

Top 14 (James Harrington): Baptiste Couilloud (Lyon). A tough decision this week, with Simon Hickey scoring 27 of Bordeaux's 47 points in their win over league leaders Montpellier. But Lyon's scrum-half was at least two classes apart at Stade Gerland against Castres. It's hard to believe he's only 20 years old. With Antoine Dupont at Toulouse, Baptiste Serin at Bordeaux and Couilloud at Lyon, France really do have an embarrassment of riches at nine.

Flop of the weekend

Prem: Bath. Todd Blackadder's side are in danger of throwing away the good work they did at the beginning of the season. Against Newcastle they gave themselves a mountain to climb, conceding 19 unanswered points in less than 20 minutes. Having got back into the game, they then threw away a 13-point lead, conceding two tries in less than 10 minutes. There is a long way to go, of course, but Bath are slipping of the pace.

PRO14: Ospreys. With Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb at halfback, Justin Tipuric in the back row and James Hook and Keelan Giles in the backline, it was a pitiful performance by the Ospreys in defeat at Treviso. Ian McKinley's kicks and Braam Steyn's try saw Ospreys fall to their third consecutive defeat. Leinster -- beaten by the Cheetahs -- came a close second.

Top 14: Castres. The 31-12 five-tries-to-nil final score suggests the 2013 champions suffered a drubbing at Lyon. But a closer look at the stats reveals, in fact, they held their own in many areas of the game. It's the 13 knock-ons that tell the biggest story of their downfall. The fact is Castres had their chances. There's an outside chance they may even have won -- they certainly should have made more of a game of it. But catastrophic handling errors cost them time after time.

Best coaching call

Prem: It's unclear what they put in the water in Philadelphia, but the travel for last weekend's game in the U.S. had minimal effect on Newcastle as they showed great stamina to beat Bath at the Recreation Ground. The Falcons raced into a 19-0 lead capped by a debut try for DTH van der Merwe. Director of rugby Dean Richards made six changes in a five-minute spell around the hour mark, and it was a replacement -- Joel Hodgson -- who kicked the deciding conversion.

PRO14: Michael Bradley's Zebre team were outstanding against Southern Kings, blowing their hosts away as they scored six tries during the first league meeting between the sides since the South African team's introduction. Zebre showed their attacking intent early on when they decided to kick for the corner and they were rewarded for their positive approach with Tommaso Castello's fourth-minute try.

Top 14: Fabien Galthie's hand may have been forced, in part, by injuries, but Toulon's matchday 23 for the victory at Stade Francais featured seven players straight out of the club's academy set up. In a tweet the night before the game, owner Mourad Boudjellal described the selection as "the new RCT." He has certainly pledged to create a "100 percent Made in France" team capable of challenging for the title in five years. Is this the start?

Biggest refereeing call

Prem: Ian Tempest (Harlequins vs. Leicester). A match that ended in frantic fashion but the Tigers should not have been awarded the decisive penalty. With less than 10 minutes left Marland Yarde was clearly obstructed by Telusa Veainu as he kicked through on the right wing, having been knocked off balance by Ellis Genge's challenge. A possible yellow card, Tempest didn't even deem it worthy of a penalty.

PRO14: John Lacey (Scarlets vs. Edinburgh). It wasn't the best of weekends for the Irish official, who failed to spot a crossing infringement as Gareth Davies snipped in for a try. With a missed forward pass leading to Aaron Shingler's score as well, Edinburgh should have been closer to Scarlets then the 28-8 scoreline suggests, and would have left Parc y Scarlets with a losing bonus point.

Top 14: Jonathan Dufort (Stade Francais v Toulon). Showed Toulon's Josua Tuisova a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on three minutes after the restart -- but, crucially, awarded Stade Francais only a penalty, despite the fact Sergio Parisse would surely have walked in for a try had Tuisova not deflected countryman Waisea Nayacalevu's pass out of his hands with the line begging. A penalty try at that point could have made all the difference.

Storyline to keep an eye on...

Prem: Is the Premiership too attritional? This weekend's action was marked by a raft of injuries. Harlequins' clash with Leicester was brutal at times while the unfortunate Saracens No. 8 Billy Vunipola required knee surgery that will keep him out of England's autumn internationals. On Sunday, Sam Simmonds was stretchered off during Exeter's win over Wasps, whose replacement prop, Marty Moore, lasted just 18 minutes. The Premiership is arguably the world's most competitive league, but that sometimes comes at a cost.

PRO14: Treviso and Zebre. Are the Italian sides improving? Both teams won on the same weekend, which is far from being a regular occurrence, with Treviso claiming back-to-back victories in the PRO14 after downing following up victory at Edinburgh with a win over Ospreys on Friday. Having lost their mandatory place in the European Champions Cup, it is not before time.

Top 14: The headlines on stories about the rebirth of Toulouse have focused on the triple threat of new boys Antoine Dupont, Zack Holmes and Cheslin Kolbe. But a fourth new arrival, All Black prop Charlie Faumuina, has been an unsung hero of the revival, doing all the hard work at the coal face. He's started four out of the opening five games -- but now looks set for a long stint on the sidelines after tearing a thigh muscle in Saturday's hard-fought win at Brive.