With the strongest quarter-final line-up in the history of the tournament on show, it wasn't perhaps surprising that the first four games in the knockout stage of the Amlin Challenge Cup produced a veritable points fest.
Over the weekend, a total of 253 points were scored, including a spectacular 28 tries, as Perpignan, Stade Francais Paris, Leinster Rugby and reigning champions, Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque, advanced to the semi-finals.
Ten years after they were defeated in the all-French Heineken Cup final in Dublin, Perpignan have a return to the Irish capital in mind for this season's Amlin Challenge Cup final following their 30-19 victory over Toulouse. The winners had to survive for the last quarter of an hour of the game with 14 men after back row, Dan Leo, was shown a red card by referee Alain Rolland, but they were able to book a place in the last four against Stade Francais on Friday, 26 April (kick-off: 9.00pm local time).
On the basis of the semi-final draw at the conclusion of the pool stage, Perpignan will have home advantage for the match against the 2011 beaten finalists. Stade, for their part, got the better of Bath Rugby - who were the top-ranked club going into the quarter-finals - at the Recreation Ground by 36-20 thanks in the main to two tries each by wing Waisea Vuidarvuwalu and full-back Hugo Bonneval.
The tries continued in abundance at Adams Park where Leinster made a successful tournament debut with a hugely entertaining, high-tempo 48-28 win over London Wasps. Even though their electrifying wings, Christian Wade and Tom Varndell, each crossed twice for the home side, 28 points from Leinster's in-form fly half, Ian Madigan, swung the game.
Madigan's points' haul is the second-highest by a Leinster player in a European game just behind the 29 scored by David Holwell in the Heineken Cup against Bourgoin during the 2004/05 season.
Leinster, who are in contention to become the fourth club to achieve the Heineken Cup/Amlin Challenge Cup double after Bath, Northampton Saints and London Wasps, now meet Biarritz on their home RDS turf in the second of the Amlin semi-finals on Saturday, 27 April (kick-off: 2.30).
Biarritz, the 2012 winners, recorded an impressive five-try 41-31 victory at Gloucester Rugby where the experience of Dimitri Yachvili, whose points total for both ERC tournaments has risen to 730, Imanol Harinordoquy and Damien Traille made the difference.
With the Dublin 2013 finals weekend fast approaching, it is now certain that France will have at least one club in the Amlin Challenge Cup final at the RDS on Friday, 17 May (8.00). Or could it be a repeat of 2003 when Lansdowne Road hosted the first all-French Heineken Cup final.
As part of the build-up to next month's Cardiff 2014 Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup finals weekend, ERC has joined forces with the WRU, Cardiff Blues and adidas to develop an annual grassroots community rugby programme targeting young players.
The Ulster Rugby full back, Jared Payne (No 15), has been suspended for two (2) weeks following an independent Disciplinary Hearing in Dublin arising from the Heineken Cup quarter-final match against Saracens at Ravenhill Stadium on Saturday, 5 April.