Defending champions Leinster Rugby and Munster Rugby rounded off their Heineken Champions Cup Round 5 preparations with contrasting Guinness PRO14 victories at the weekend.
Leinster – who sit second in Pool 1 with 15 points – scored six tries as they marched to a 40-7 home success over fellow Irish province Ulster Rugby to keep them top of Conference B.
Hooker Sean Cronin scored two tries in the match that saw Leinster head coach Leo Cullen rest several key names, including fly-half Johnny Sexton, flanker Dan Leavy and prop Tadhg Furlong, with a crucial Heineken Champions Cup encounter against Pool 1 leaders Toulouse next weekend.
The French side are two points ahead of Leinster after four wins in as many matches, but they will be overtaken by the defending champions if they are beaten at the RDS Arena next Saturday.
Meanwhile, Munster finalised their European preparations with a battling 31-24 victory over Connacht Rugby in Galway, with fly-half Joey Carbery scoring 16 points for the visitors.
The Irish province lie top of the PRO14’s Conference A as well as Heineken Champions Cup Pool 2, but they could surrender first place in the latter at Kingsholm Stadium on Friday night if they are beaten by Gloucester Rugby, who are four points off the pace.
Pool 5 leaders Edinburgh put on a defensive masterclass ahead of their Round 5 trip to RC Toulon next Saturday as they cruised to a 38-0 home victory over South African side Southern Kings, leaving them second behind Leinster in Conference B.
Back-to-back wins over Newcastle Falcons in December gave the Scottish team a four-point cushion at the top of Pool 5 ahead of Montpellier, who travel to Edinburgh in a mouth-watering Round 6 clash at BT Murrayfield on January 18.
Elsewhere, Pool 4 leaders Racing 92 defeated RC Toulon 22-13 in the TOP 14, while Pool 3 front runners Saracens – who had lost just once in all competitions since a Champions Cup quarter-final defeat to Leinster Rugby in April – were beaten 24-18 by Sale Sharks in the Gallagher Premiership.
The English club will look to take a big step towards the Heineken Champions Cup knockout stages with a win in Lyon next Sunday, the day after Racing 92 travel to Belfast to face Ulster.