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

Adverse weather in north London ensured we were treated to five days of continental competition in round three as pools began to take shape in both the Champions and Challenge Cups.

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

Champions Cup (Martyn Thomas): Alivereti Raka (Clermont). The Fiji-born wing gave a performance worth waiting for at Allianz Park Monday evening as he took the rearranged fixture by the scruff of the neck to leave defending champions Saracens reeling. Raka made metres almost at will in north London -- 161 in all from 13 carries -- as he scored the second fastest hat trick in European Cup history. And he showed his brilliance in the second half as he left most of the hosts' defence in his wake to set up Flip van der Merwe for one of the tries of the season. Simply outstanding.

Challenge Cup (James Harrington): Jack Carty (Connacht). Four penalties, three conversions and a try says it all. The fly-half notched 23 of the PRO14 side's 38 points as they picked up a bonus-point win over Top 14 side Brive in a fiercely contested encounter at Stade Amedee Domenech to open up a three-point lead over Pool 5 rivals Worcester. The former Ireland Under-20 international's try, eight minutes into the second half, proved the crucial score, with the visitors hanging on to their lead despite fierce pressure from the hosts.

Flop of the weekend

Champions Cup: Teddy Thomas (Racing 92). With his side's crucial clash at Castres scoreless in the opening stages, Thomas appeared to be sauntering over for the game's first try having powered through the hosts' defence. However, he forgot to do one thing: dot the ball down. His nonchalant attempt to get as close to the posts as possible only allowed Afusipa Taumoepeau to get back and knock the ball out of his hands. His folly cost Racing at least five points -- they ended up losing the game by just three.

Challenge Cup: Cardiff Blues. The Welsh side headed to Sale well clear of the Pool 2 chasing pack and with every chance of putting one sizeable boot in the knockout phase before Christmas. But they proceeded to fluff their lines badly at the AJ Bell. They were outplayed physically and tactically -- and, frankly, barely deserved the zero points they managed to score.

Best coaching call

Champions Cup: Francois Trinh-Duc has his critics in France but the Toulon fly-half hadn't put a foot wrong against Bath, and with his side chasing victory in the closing stages coach Fabien Galthie might have been expected to stick with an experienced head. But Galthie isn't most coaches, and his introduction of the young playmaker Anthony Belleau with less than eight minutes to go at Stade Felix Mayol ultimately paid dividends. With the resolute Bath defence standing firm on their own line, and with time running out, Belleau lifted his head and put in a perfectly weighted grubber, which he ran onto from five metres out to score. Game won.

Challenge Cup: Johan Ackermann's decision to bring on 21-year-old winger Ollie Thorley with five minutes of the first half remaining may have been prompted by an injury to Tom Hudson, but it was the second-best decision he made all weekend. He scored the first of his two tries two minutes after he came on, and his second three minutes after the restart. Remarkably, Thorley wasn't part of Gloucester's plans for the weekend, and had to be picked up by the team bus on the way to the airport after David Halaifonua withdrew for family reasons.

Biggest refereeing call

Champions Cup: Romain Poite (Exeter vs. Leinster). Following his side's 18-8 defeat at Sandy Park -- their first in almost a year at home -- Chiefs boss Rob Baxter refused to blame Poite, but his decision not to award a penalty try for Sean Cronin's high tackle on Jack Nowell ensured they finished the game empty handed. His reasoning was that the hooker was in a position to make a legal tackle. If he was then Nowell's momentum would probably have seen him over the line. Leinster will point to their own earlier disallowed tries, but two, or even three, wrongs don't make a right.

Challenge Cup: JP Doyle (Toulouse vs Lyon). On the whole, Doyle had an impressive evening at Stade Ernest Wallon. He refereed the two sides competently, calmly, and in more-than decent French. But his decision to give Lyon wing Timilai Rokoduru his marching orders for a high tackle when the game was 32 minutes old was probably a little harsh.

Storyline to keep an eye on...

Champions Cup: For the first time in European Cup history every Premiership side were beaten on the same weekend, and in the cases of the Northampton and Saracens they were blown away -- on their own turf. Both of the English powerhouses are limping into the Christmas period. It is nine defeats in 10 in all competitions now for Saints, who were so bad for an hour against Ospreys that many fans decided to leave early, one remonstrated with captain Dylan Hartley. Saracens, meanwhile, look a side devoid of any confidence. Yes they are missing key players but they need a big result at Clermont this weekend.

Challenge Cup: The rise and rise of Bordeaux's Matthieu Jalibert. The Top 14 side may have been well beaten at Newcastle's Kingston Park -- but the 19-year-old fly-half cemented his burgeoning reputation as one of French rugby's brightest young things. But for injury to the departing Simon Hickey, we would probably have had to wait one more season to start singing Jalibert's praises -- but the rugby gods clearly had other ideas.