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

With the autumn internationals taking precedence over the coming weeks, it was left to mostly players on the periphery to showcase their talents across the Anglo-Welsh Cup, Top 14 and PRO14 action.

But who caught the eye and who had a weekend to forget?

Player of the weekend

Anglo-Welsh (Martyn Thomas): Freddie Burns (Bath). The one-time England fly-half has been forced to bide his time for an opportunity in the Bath No. 10 shirt given the fine form of Rhys Priestland this season, but when it finally came his way Burns grasped it with both hands. A fine kicking display from both hand and tee was crucial to his side's win at London Irish. Burns finished with 16 points and set up Levi Davis' decisive try with a fine crossfield kick.

PRO14 (Cillian O Conchuir): JJ Hanrahan (Munster). Finally given the reigns at fly-half, he did not disappoint with a flawless seven from seven conversion rate in his man of the match performance. He sent Rory Scannell over after a neat side-step of Ashton Hewitt, but the best of his four try assists was running over Adam Warren and sending Sam Arnold in for the first of his brace.

Top 14 (James Harrington): Matthieu Jalibert (Bordeaux). Remember the name. Jalibert, 18, is yet another proving the fly-half force is strong in France. He made his first Top 14 start at Toulouse Saturday, and was impressive with ball in hand and off the tee, slotting seven of nine kicks at goal and marshalling operations with calm precision. The first of those two kicks he missed hammered the upright. The second, a 40-plus metre shot nearly two minutes after the hooter, cruelly shaved the wrong side of the posts. It was a harsh end to a starting debut.

Flop of the weekend

Anglo-Welsh: Worcester. There were positives for the hosts at Sixways, but ultimately they let a real chance for a morale boosting victory slip meekly by. Ben Curry was in inspired form for Sale as the visitors built a commanding half-time lead, however, this was a game that the Warriors could and possibly should have won. Worcester certainly won't get many better chances for that illusive first domestic win of the season.

PRO14: Zebre at Cardiff. It had been a brilliant start to the season season for Zebre but their capitulation in Cardiff could be a sign of things to come during the international break. With Carlo Canna and a host of Italian internationals set for the autumn series the wheels may well have fallen off the wagon by the time the Six Nations rolls around. It's now five defeats on the trot for Zebre who weren't given a sniff by Cardiff in a five-try defeat.

Top14: Toulon's pack. Mourad Boudjellal minced no gamer metaphors when he said Toulon were a team with a Playstation 4 backline and an Atari pack after they succumbed to defeat at Agen. On paper, they should have smeared the hosts' pack all over Stade Armandie. In reality, Agen realised that part of the game was theirs for the taking. First they held their own, then they gained the upper hand and finally did some smearing of their own. In the 77th minute, one particularly brutal shove led to the penalty that won the game for Agen. And there was nothing those PS4 backs could do about it.

Coaching call of the weekend

Anglo-Welsh: Trailing by 16 points early in the second half at Allianz Park, Harlequins needed some inspiration. That found it in the form of Matthew Luamanu. The back row could do little to stop Tom Whitely stretching the Saracens shortly after coming on, but from there he provided the catalyst that helped the visitors not only close the 21-point gap but overhaul Saracens to secure a last-gasp 30-29 victory. Luamanu finished with 32 metres from 14 carries.

PRO14: Ulster trailed the Kings at the break 20-11 as the South African side edged towards an historic first PRO14 win. But Les Kiss, desperate to avoid a third straight defeat in all competitions, had two replacements to thank for preventing the upset as first Clive Ross and then Robbie Diack saw them leave Port Elizabeth with a bonus-point win. Having internationals such as Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble to call on should stand Ulster in good stead this November.

Top 14: The first-half hooter's gone. You're 14-3 behind -- and you win a penalty. It's within range for your very reliable kicker. What do you do? Accepted wisdom is you take the points and head to the changing rooms to regroup. That's exactly what bottom-of-the-table Brive didn't do against Stade Francais. On orders from the bench, they went for touch instead. And they duly scored a try -- and converted it -- to go in 14-10 down. More importantly, they changed the direction of the game winning the match 20-19, to move off the bottom of the table.

Refereeing/TMO call of the weekend

PRO14: Quinton Immelman. (Kings vs Ulster) The decision to send Yaw Penxe to the sin-bin appeared crucial at a time when the Cheetahs were leading Ulster. But as Ulster attacked, with Craig Gilroy and Andrew Trimble alone outside him, Penxe's deliberate knock on prevented a certain Ulster try. Immelman had no hesitation to issue a yellow card but it should have been a penalty try. A clear try-scoring opportunity was prevented yet in that 10-minute period, the Kings didn't concede a point.

Top 14: Pascal Gauzere (Toulouse vs Bordeaux). With seven minutes left in a crazy match, Bordeaux's Matthieu Jalibert punched a hole in the Toulouse line, drew the last defender and slipped a pass to Geoffrey Cros to give the visitors a 42-31 lead with the conversion to come. Or so it seemed. But the referee had spotted what he thought looked like crossing seconds earlier, and referred to the TMO. It was a tight decision, but that touchdown turned into a Toulouse penalty ... from which they kicked to touch deep in the visitors' 22 - and scored what turned out to be the match-winning seven pointer from the resulting catch-and-drive lineout.

Storyline to keep an eye on

Anglo-Welsh: The hashtag for this season's Anglo-Welsh Cup is New Heroes, and organisers will hope that the competition unearths some over the next few months. If the first week is anything to go by they may well get their wish too. They may have been a distinct lack of international talent on display but the tournament has become a useful way for Premiership clubs to blood promising youngsters over the last couple of years and that shows no sign of stopping.

PRO14: While there is only one round of games in this international window, it will offer a brief insight into how the tournament will adjust to the Six Nations. Will crowds flock to the games when key internationals are not playing? It is a continued problem that any league faces when the international game takes centre stage. While big teams have a loyal fanbase, the worry would be for the smaller teams, that without international talent, the standard will drop.

Top 14: The future -- or otherwise -- of fly-half Jonathan Wisniewski at Toulon. A Sunday afternoon tweet from club boss Mourad Boudjellal that read "Jonathan se queda" sent rugby fans into meltdown. It's true Clermont have tried to sign the 32-year-old as injury cover for Camille Lopez. It's also true Wisniewski, who has not played for Toulon since breaking his arm in pre-season, has fallen behind Belleau, Trinh-Duc, Carbonel and arguably (until Agen, at least) McAlister in the fly-half pecking order. But what did Boudjellal's mysterious dip into Spanish mean? Was it a straightforward translation job - "Jonathan he's staying"? Or was it a weird Neymar reference? Are Toulon fans reading too much into two words?