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

It might have been a fallow week for the Six Nations, but there was plenty to get excited about on the domestic front, as teams continue to jostle for playoff places across the Aviva Premiership, PRO14 and Top 14.

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): Thomas Young (Wasps). Matt Toomua was excellent for Leicester, scoring 23 points as the Tigers beat Harlequins, but Young's 25 tackles gave him the edge this week. The Welsh back row was everywhere, making a nuisance of himself and disrupting Exeter ball as the champions were edged out 13-7 at the Ricoh Arena. Young was at the heart of a momumental defensive effort from the hosts that saw Dai Young's men make 158 tackles as they kept pace with the Chiefs and Saracens above them.

PRO14 (Cillian O Conchuir): Ellis Jenkins (Cardiff Blues). Put in a man-of-the-match performance against Munster, making one clean break, beating a defender and sending a looping pass for Macauley Cook to open the scoring for Cardiff. He also made 15 tackles in a superb defensive effort, which included a 10-minute stint, just after half-time when the Blues were down to 14 men, with Matthew Rees in the bin.

Top 14 (James Harrington): Chris Ashton (Toulon). The wing took his try tally to 17 in 14 outings as he scored a 30-minute first-half hat trick, aided and abetted by the remarkable Semi Radradra, who supplied the break and final pass for two of them. But even Ashton's rapacious scoring habit was overshadowed this week by Gael Fickou's triple in 14 minutes as Toulouse ran riot at Agen. What better way to celebrate your call-up for the national side for next weekend's match against Italy in Marseille?

Flop of the weekend

Prem: Bath. The one reliable thing about Todd Blackadder's side this season has been their inconsistency and they passed up a golden opportunity to climb into the top four and put distance between them and the chasing pack as they lost at Newcastle Friday night. Bath dominated possession and territory but paid for ill discipline and a slack defensive performance -- they missed a quarter of their attempted tackles -- as the Falcons scored four tries in just 51 minutes.

PRO14: There were a handful of candidates with Connacht, Ulster and Munster falling short. The results in all three games heavily impacted the battle for automatic Champions Cup qualification, with Connacht's defeat to Zebre and Cardiff's win over Munster seeing the Welsh region take control in the battle for the third spot [South African sides excluded] in Conference A. Despite 16 points from John Cooney, Ulster slipped to a 16-17 defeat to Edinburgh in Conference B that means the Scottish team now have their fate in their own hands.

Top 14: Clermont. Close call this, with Stade Francais shipping a boatload for the second Top 14 match in a row. But just-about-out-of-it defending champions Clermont shade it with a comically bad performance at Lyon on Saturday night. Patricio Fernandez and Noa Nakaitaci can toss a coin for which one of them should pick up the award. Both fluffed their defensive lines embarrassingly badly to gift Lyon the first two of their five tries inside the opening 30 minutes. Things failed to improve much in the following 50.

Best coaching call

Prem: Whatever Alan Gaffney and Alan Dickens said to Northampton's players at half-time of their win over London Irish on Saturday, Saints fans will hope they recorded it. The Exiles led 14-3 following an error-strewn performance from their hosts that was epitomised by the lapse in concentration from George North that allowed Alex Lewington to score his second try. Saints were a team transformed in the second 40, though, and it took just nine minutes for them to score three unanswered tries that ultimately sealed victory.

PRO14: Having a player with Duncan Weir's ability to spring from the bench in a tight game against Ulster proved the difference as the fly-half landed a last-gasp drop goal. It could prove absolutely vital in the chase for Champions Cup qualification as Edinburgh leapfrogged their opponents in the table.

Top 14: Castres' Christophe Urios did an Eddie Jones as his side copied the England model against Wales in a close encounter of the downpour-affected kind at Bordeaux. They got themselves into a lead courtesy of a 27th-minute try from Julien Dumora, then kicked long and repeatedly, inviting their hosts to try to breach their defensive line from deep. As game plans go, it was far from pretty. But it worked. Castres recorded a dull-a-minute 7-6 away win at a stage of the season when points in the bag are worth their weight in Top 14 playoff and Champions Cup places.

Biggest refereeing/TMO call

Prem: JP Doyle (Wasps vs. Exeter). There is still a long way to go in the Premiership season, but victory for Wasps over Exeter looks a crucial one. On the balance of play Dai Young's side deserved it too, but that doesn't change the fact that their only try -- the one ultimately sealed the win -- should not have stood. Home No. 8 Guy Thompson clearly knocked on as Wasps pushed the Chiefs off their own ball, before Willie Le Roux played Marcus Watson in at the corner. That it happened in front of Doyle, and was confirmed by subsequent replays will only add to Exeter chagrin.

PRO14: John Mason/Nigel Owens (Ulster vs. Edinburgh). The TMO played a key role in keeping Ulster ahead -- before their downfall at the death -- with Owens going to Mason after Viliame Mata thought he had scored Edinburgh's first try in the 29th minute at the Kingspan Stadium. However, the TMO ruled that a double tackle from Rob Herring and Nick Timoney had forced a knocked on from the back row as he looked to ground the ball.

Top 14: Tual Trainini (Bordeaux vs. Castres). With 11 minutes left in a rain-sodden match that is best described as 'one for the purists', of which there were more than 20,000 at Stade Chaban-Delmas, an unstoppable Bordeaux maul fairly barged over the Castres line. It was a rare foray into the visitors' 22, and a try seemed a foregone conclusion. Following a long consultation with the TMO, however, the referee ruled a fortuitously (or not) positioned boot prevented the ball being grounded. It was as close as the hosts would get to scoring.

Storyline to keep an eye on...

Prem: Harlequins. Something seems amiss at the Stoop, and John Kingston's men look no nearer to solving what that might have gone wrong following a third defeat in their last four Premiership matches. England prop Joe Marler spoke eloquently last week of the need for new voices in the camp, and while that should not be interpreted as a call for Kingston's head it is clear the director of rugby and his young coaching staff could do with some help.

PRO14: The PRO14 now takes a backseat to the Six Nations and it will be interesting to see whether anyone has played themselves into contention for the remainder of the competition. Scrum-halves John Cooney and Luke McGrath stood out for the Irish provinces, Jordan Larmour failed to shine for Leinster, while Justin Tipuric played 80 minutes in the Ospreys' win over the Kings. He will hope he caught Warren Gatland's eye ahead of Wales' trip to Ireland.

Top 14: The fallout from last weekend's events in Edinburgh has poisoned the image of the Top 14 in France, amid controversy over clubs' selection of players dropped from the national side for their behaviour following the Scotland game. Of the players sanctioned by Jacques Brunel, only Anthony Belleau was not selected by his club this week. Teddy Thomas, Jonathan Danty and Sekou Macalou all started, while Louis Picamoles, Remi Lamerat, Felix Lambey were selected on the bench. The players' inclusion in their respective matchday squads while they are subject to an internal FFR investigation prompted anger from the French media, who accused the clubs of not respecting the national coach's decision.