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

Despite the Christmas festivities the best in the northern hemisphere were out battling through the elements as the Aviva Premiership, Top 14 and PRO14 seasons continued with some massive matchups.

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): Josh Adams (Worcester). In a tight relegation battle, Worcester needed someone to step up and win the game for them -- and Adams did just that. His first try was a poacher's finish as he raced onto Ryan Mills' bright kick through. The young Welsh wing's head could have gone down having hesitated as Alex Lewington scored for London Irish but just three minutes later, he picked a line through the Exiles defence and held off three tacklers to score an excellent second try that ultimately proved enough. Warren Gatland take note.

PRO14 (Cillian O Conchuir): Jordan Larmour (Leinster). Is it time for Larmour to get a chance at international rugby? Most likely Joe Schmidt won't trust the fullback enough to give him a Six Nations debut. But as he received the ball outside his own 22, jinked inside Sam Arnold and Rory Scannell, you could see something special was in motion. He left Conor Murray for dead, and side-stepped Ian Keatley before scoring despite the attention of Simon Zebo.

Top 14 (James Harrington): Timoci Nagusa (Montpellier). It has been quite a fortnight for the Fijian winger. First, it was reported he was surplus to requirements at Montpellier. Later, it was suggested he could be a short-term answer to Clermont's backline injury crisis -- but Vern Cotter then announced in no uncertain terms that 'Big Jim' was going nowhere. What better way to repay such publicly-aired faith than by scoring a hat trick when you're handed a rare start? Cue the inspirational, soaring music.

Flop of the weekend

Prem: London Irish. It is a long way back now for the Exiles, who lie stranded in 12th place, 10 points behind second-bottom Worcester at the halfway stage with just eight on the board so far. On Friday night Nick Kennedy's side dominated possession and territory but rarely looked like troubling their hosts. But it is their toothless defence that will be Kennedy's biggest concern, Irish have now conceded 23 tries from first phase possession. That stat must improve, fast.

PRO14: After a lot of plaudits for his performances in recent weeks, Ian Keatley and Munster showed the same old failings against Leinster. The aimless kicking which Jordan Larmour exploited proved their undoing and against the better teams, they don't have someone who can unlock defences in the blink of an eye. With the departure of Simon Zebo, their creative juices will dry up even further.

Top 14: Oyonnax. Notably second-half Oyonnax. A win at Toulon was always going to be a long shot, but the visitors had put in a fine shift to go into half time 19-18 ahead. Sadly, that was as good as it got. They shipped four tries and 23 points in the second half, notching just two penalties in reply. Oyonnax are now four points adrift of Brive at the foot of the table, and desperately need points from their home matches against Racing 92 and Clermont and visit to Toulouse to negotiate before the end of January.

Best coaching call

Prem: Wasps boss Dai Young is fortunate to have two top-class No. 9s at his disposal and he took advantage of the riches at his disposal Saturday to introduce Dan Robson for Joe Simpson when the game was in the balance. Thomas Young had just scored a try that gave the hosts the lead against Gloucester and they didn't look back. Robson capped off a fine display off the bench with one of the three late tries that gave Wasps a commanding 49-24 victory that lifted them above the Cherry and Whites.

PRO14: It is never easy when you lose a player and following a rush of blood to the head by Steff Evans, Scarlets had to play the majority of the game with 14 players. Fear not. Wayne Pivac saw his charges fall behind 9-5 with two Sam Davies penalties. But the introduction of Josh McLeod provided some sparks and an audacious cross-kick from Scott Williams saw McLeod gather to score, with the conversion winning the game at the death.

Top 14: Franck Azema's decision to bring on Morgan Parra for Clermont's starting scrum-half Charly Trussardi almost gets the nod here, as the 28-year-old scored 11 points in 24 minutes including the 77th-minute penalty that gave the visitors a 21-19 lead at Pau. But Azema's opposite number, Simon Mannix, takes the award for his decision to bring on Tom Taylor 14 minutes from time. The New Zealander took over kicking duties from compatriot Colin Slade and landed two crucial penalties -- the second an after-the-hooter winner.

Biggest refereeing call

Prem: Matt Carley (Leicester vs. Saracens). Tigers boss Matt O'Connor was not happy with Carley's decision to show Jonny May a red card for two deliberate knock-ons, and the officiating of that infringement is definitely a grey area. It can be argued that May had a genuine attempt of catching the ball, particularly the second one, but having decided he didn't the referee had no option but to show him red. What might cause O'Connor just as much angst was Carley's call not to sin-bin Mako Vunipola when awarding a penalty try in the 58th minute.

PRO14: Ian Davies (Scarlets vs. Ospreys). The red card for Scarlet's Steff Evans changed the game. Until then Scarlets looked as though they had a stranglehold on the contest but a Sam Davies cross-kick put Evans on a collision course with Ben John. Evans took John out in midair, with the Ospreys wing needing to undergo a a head injury assessment. With player safety paramount, referee Davies issued a red card due to Evans' "unrealistic position to catch the ball" and John landing awkwardly.

Top 14: Ludovic Cayre (Castres vs. Stade Francais). He'd been picky and pedantic all match, but Mr. Cayre may have missed Castres' Julien Caminati connecting with a punch during a bout of handbags late in the game. Rather than seeing the incident to the end, he decided he'd seen enough of the unnecessary action on the big screen seconds earlier, and ruled that sending Caminati's teammate Christophe Samson and Stade's Jonathan Danty to the sinbin was enough of a punishment. One for the citing officer.

Storyline to keep an eye on...

Prem: While Premiership champions Exeter lead Saracens by 10 points at the halfway stage, there is as many points between the north Londoners in second and ninth-placed Harlequins. Expect the battle for playoff and European places to hot up in January. As Gloucester have shown already this season, stringing a few results together can catapult a team up the table.

PRO14: The Ospreys. Just two wins all season and an abysmal 15 tries in 11 games sees them bottom of Conference A. With the likes of Dan Biggar and Rhys Webb leaving, the outlook appears bleak. Missing out on next season's Champions Cup wouldn't help in recruitment and it doesn't seem likely that things will improve. Second currently behind Clermont, and two points ahead of Saracens in their Champions Cup pool, it remains their last chance of saving their season.

Top 14: Toulon's veteran winger Vincent Clerc moved to within one score of a decade-old domestic rugby record when he touched down late in the first half of his side's 49-25 win over Oyonnax. The 36-year-old, who is expected to retire at the end of the season, now has 99 Top 14 tries to his name, four more than nearest currently active rival Aurelien Rougerie -- and one fewer than the relatively unknown Laurent Arbo, who scored the last of his century of tries in Montpellier colours back in 2007.