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

Then there were four. Following another thrilling weekend of knockout rugby we now know the four teams that will contest the finals of the Champions and Challenge Cups in Bilbao next month.

Dazzling displays were many, but who really caught the eye, who disappointed and what are the big talking points as we reach the semifinal stage?

Player of the weekend

Champions Cup (Martyn Thomas): Johnny Sexton (Leinster). While the Scarlets tinkered with their No. 10, Sexton showed the value of having a seasoned playmaker pulling the strings. The Ireland fly-half put on an attacking masterpiece as his intelligent kicking out of hand and play calling kept the Scarlets back three guessing. Sexton was also a threat with ball in hand, making 61 metres, while he capped a fine display with a try before heading for a deserved early shower. Maxime Machenaud, Yannick Nyanga and Teddy Thomas -- who should have scored a hat trick of tries -- all impressed for Racing.

Challenge Cup (James Harrington): Ellis Jenkins (Cardiff). When Sam Warburton and Shaun Edwards heap praise on one player, it's wise to take notice. Blues flanker Jenkins threw himself into the dirty work against Pau with abandon at the Arms Park. He made a complete nuisance of himself at breakdown after breakdown after breakdown to prevent their Top 14 rivals building anything approaching momentum, despite having plenty of possession and enjoying near-total dominance at the scrum. A nod, too, to Jason Woodward, who gave Eddie Jones a strong nudge with an imperious performance at fullback as Gloucester beat Newcastle.

Flop of the weekend

Champions Cup: Munster. Neither the Scarlets nor Munster covered themselves in glory as both were well beaten in their respective semifinals. However, the manner with which the Irish province succumbed in the Bordeaux heat was more disappointing. Former Munster lock Donnacha Ryan admitted afterwards that Racing had looked to pile up the points early at the Stade Chaban-Delmas, but they cannot have expected their task to be completed so easily. Aside from shipping three tries in the first 22 minutes, Munster lacked any kind of coherent shape in attack until it was too late with basic errors hurting them time and again.

Challenge Cup: Newcastle. Two sides -- Newcastle and Pau -- came into the semifinals with perfect Challenge Cup win records. Neither booked their passage to Bilbao -- and the Falcons, in particular, will be disappointed with the scale of their defeat,especially as they had the better of the opening exchanges at Kingsholm on Friday. They had plenty of chances, but failed to convert, and ended up on the wrong end of what became a comprehensive four-tries-to-two beating.

Biggest coaching call

Champions Cup: The aforementioned decision by Racing's Laurents Labit and Travers to tear into Munster paid almost immediate dividends as Thomas scored his first try after less than five minutes. Peter O'Mahony insisted afterwards that his side had prepared well in Limerick, but whether unsettled by the Bordeaux heat or overawed by the occasion, the Irish province looked out of sorts from the first whistle. Before Racing had scored their second try there was a bizarre passage of play in which Ian Keatley and Rory Scannell both missed drop goals. It hinted at a lack of composure that dogged Munster in the opening hour and ultimately cost them the match.

Challenge Cup: Malik Hamadache was the 308-pound rock around which Pau's dominant scrum was built -- and was namechecked by Blues skipper Gethin Jenkins as "the biggest guy I have ever played against". So it was something of a surprise when Simon Mannix pulled the tighthead from the fray midway through the second half. It's entirely possible that the mobile Pyrenees mountain was running out of steam, but voluntarily cutting off a guaranteed source of penalties midway through the second half seemed a little strange given the tightness of the match.

Biggest refereeing call

Champions Cup: The one-sided nature of the two semifinals meant that contentious refereeing decisions were at a premium. Instead, praise should be reserved for JP Doyle who put an A-Level in French to good use at the Stade Chaban-Delmas as he took the novel approach of talking to French players in their mother tongue. There was the rare slip, but that can only be expected from someone who only earned his qualification last year and it is definitely a large stride in the right direction. More officials should be encouraged to follow in the Dublin-born referee's footsteps.

Challenge Cup: John Lacey and Pascal Gauzere refereed their respective matches without much in the way of undue palaver, although it would have been nice to hear the former try at least a little French during the Blues-Pau encounter, albeit there were plenty of anglophones in the Top 14 side's line-up. So Mr Gauzere's ability to run off a nasty-looking ankle knock -- sustained when he was accidently caught up in a big tackle -- deserves an honourable mention. As does the fact that he seemed, at least until his microphone was turned up, to be refereeing via the medium of interpretive dance.

Storyline to keep an eye on...

Champions Cup: Romantics may well have pined for an all-Irish showpiece in Bilbao next month but Racing's destruction of Munster has set up a titanic battle in the Basque port city. Storylines abound: Leinster looking to continue their European legacy, while Racing desperately try to create one; two of the most iconic fly-halves of the past 15 years going head-to-head, albeit with a reduced role for Dan Carter; not to mention a perceived clash of styles as Leinster's homegrown international stars go up against Racing's imported ones. The cost of attending the final might be high but if you can find a bed in Bilbao around May 12 then the rugby on the San Mames pitch should prove value for money.

Challenge Cup: What happens next for Pau. It has been a bad couple of weeks for the French side, who came into the weekend on the back of a shock loss to Agen that saw them drop out of the Top 14 playoff zone. Defeat at Cardiff on Saturday did more than just knock them out of this year's Challenge Cup. It also handed the tournament's ticket to next season's Champions Cup to Gloucester. The rules of Champions Cup qualification are complex -- but they leave Pau, currently seventh in the Top 14, facing two season-defining matches. The first is at Montpellier. If they lose and Castres win at Toulon, it's all over. Assuming they are still in with a chance heading into the final weekend, they face a Toulon side that is either a) in with a shot of a second-placed finish, or b) fighting to ensure home advantage in the post-season playoff qualifiers.