World Rugby's Team of the Weekend: Jonny Sexton Fires Racing Metro Past Toulouse
Racing Metro and Castres Olympique booked their places in this season's Top 14 playoff semi-finals, with the former moving past Toulouse while Castres got the better of Clermont in their own backyard.
Elsewhere in Europe, the Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect Pro12 regular campaigns were brought to a close, with some of the last-ditch surges into the playoff places making for nail-biting entertainment.
And as we move south of the equator, the Super Rugby campaign rumbled on in Round 13 of our 2014 season, with the Chiefs, Highlanders and Hurricanes just some of those outfits who were out to impress.
So join us as we run through the most dazzling individuals to feature in that onslaught of rugby action, with only the best of the best worming their way into our line-up.
1. Callum Black, Ulster
Ulster's 19-17 win at Thomond Park this weekend came as a result of many cogs meshing together fluidly as one, and Callum Black stood out as one particularly strong component in the machine against Munster.
From nine carries, the loosehead made a sensational 100 metres progress up the pitch, not missing one of his 11 attempted tackles and helping the Ulster scrum register a flawless display.
2. Dave Ward, Harlequins
Stuart Lancaster won't have been able to ignore the extremely steady progress of Harlequins's Dave Ward, who continues to impress on a weekly basis and this week kept up his fine line-out percentages, making 12 tackles against Bath.
3. Ben Tameifuna, Chiefs
"Big" Ben Tameifuna is something of a flash-in-the-pan marvel. But when he chooses to turn it on, there's few who can stop his warpath.
Such was the case for the Blues this week as the Chiefs tighthead crossed over twice from short range in New Plymouth, but uncharacteristically left a little something to be desired at the scrum.
4. Martin Muller, Lions
The Lions were unfortunate not to get more than a couple of bonus points from their trip to Dunedin over the weekend, with Martin Muller sitting as one of those visiting figures who impressed in particular.
Muller was successful in all 14 of his line-out receptions and made some good ground up with 23 metres off of 12 carries on the way to a 23-22 loss.
5. Victor Matfield, Bulls
Again the veteran manages to make our line-up after getting himself about the pitch well during a 28-12 win over the Stormers in Pretoria—making 12 tackles and sitting as a stern figure in the line-out.
6. Chris Robshaw, Harlequins
Nominated Man of the Match as Harlequins claimed their place in the Premiership playoffs ahead of Bath, with captain Robshaw leading the assault with 20 tackles.
As always, the back-row talisman was more than happy to do the dog work for his side. Which was especially useful as Carl Fearns attempted to do the same for the visiting outfit, Robshaw ultimately prevailing.
7. Phil Dowson, Northampton Saints
Phil Dowson obviously wasn't happy about the Saints' backs raking in all the attention for their massive overhauling of the London Wasps and decided to pitch in with a brace of tries himself at Franklin's Gardens.
The Saints captain made a busy figure of himself around the fringes and was relentless in heaping misery on the visitors from start to end, his tries coming 67 minutes apart.
8. Conor Joyce, Ulster
He may have only been introduced as a first-half substitute, but Conor Joyce took little time in filling the boots of Nick Williams and then some in a heated fixture against Munster.
From just three carries, the 20-year-old gobbled up the turf and made a sensational 100-metre haul with ball in hand, also pitching in with a solid defensive contribution of 12 tackles.
9. Ben Spencer, Saracens
Saracens' credentials as Premiership table toppers can't be very well debated when they're showing the ability to rest as many players as they did this weekend and yet still come out with the goods.
Ben Spencer took his opportunity with both hands, ducking under to grab two tries in the 31-27 loss to Leicester Tigers—his decision making rising to the fore in a performance that far outshone his years.
10. Jonny Sexton, Racing Metro
Toulouse conceded just four tries at home this Top 14 season, so Racing Metro took it upon themselves to find alternative means by which they could reach the playoff semi-finals.
Jonny Sexton's pinpoint kicking saw the Irishman notch seven penalties as the Paris club rode their way to a huge 21-16 triumph, ultimately proving that one signing in particular is beginning to pay back dividends.
12. James O'Connor, London Irish
With his time as an Exile now at its end, James O'Connor signed off on his London Irish career with a bang, helping the club claim a well-fought 22-20 win over Sale Sharks.
The Australian was at his playmaking best as he constructed two of the Reading hosts' three tries, averaging a little more than six metres per carry in what was a very generous outing.
13. Tim Nanai-Williams, Chiefs
Although a sin-binning 16 minutes from time would serve as reason not to put his name forth, Tim Nanai-Williams nonetheless did enough to book our No. 13 jersey this week.
Defensively the centre still leaves something to be desired, but his 20th-minute support for winger Dwayne Sweeney was rewarded with an easy run-in, and he also managed to assist another try on the way to clocking up 85 metres with ball in hand, probing the opposition defence incessantly.
11. Jonny May, Gloucester
He might have been playing at centre this weekend, but Jonny May showcased his finishing skills in surplus at Worcester, touching down twice either side of halftime in his side's 28-27 loss to the relegated party.
Altogether, May carried for 114 metres off just three carries, failing to miss a tackle in what was a storming individual effort, albeit against some lacklustre defence.
14. Ken Pisi, Northampton Saints
London Wasps put up little resistance as they slumped to a 74-13 drubbing at the hands of Northampton Saints to round off their season, with no less than eight of the hosts' roster crossing the line.
And of all those scoring candidates, it was Pisi who clocked up the most yardage, carrying for 118 metres, forcing five turnovers and beating two defenders from a handful of line breaks. It was an extremely unselfish outing that saw the maestro finally rewarded for his efforts with a try of his own 13 minutes from time.
15. Ben Smith, Highlanders
Beating seven defenders from just eight carries, Ben Smith could do little wrong when he got hands on the ball this weekend, testing the Lions defence with each input he had on matters.
All statistics come courtesy of ESPN Scrum.