With the Guinness PRO14 finalists confirmed after Leinster and Munster cemented their spots in the grand finale on Saturday, 27 March, the battle for a top-three finish in the two conferences for European qualification took centre stage in the weekend’s fixtures.
Edinburgh have always been lagging in the race, but their recent improvement in form and the victory against Connacht - compliments of a late converted try - at the Sportsground ensured that they have a mathematical chance of catching the third placed Scarlets in Conference B.
The Scarlets have a 10-point advantage over the Scottish outfit, who have two games in hand, but their defeat against Munster combined with the fact that they have only one league game remaining has opened the door for Edinburgh to sneak in.
Edinburgh can draw level with Scarlets on the table if they win both their games with a bonus point, while it is also still possible for the Cardiff Blues to pip their Welsh rivals. The Blues are three points behind the Scarlets in fourth place, but unlike Edinburgh they don’t have a game in hand.
While Edinburgh’s Nathan Chamberlain converted his own last-minute try to grab the narrow win over Connacht, the Blues had to come from behind to beat Benetton to keep alive their hopes.
They were 11 points behind the fired-up Italian team shortly before halftime and facing an uphill struggle, however, they managed to find their form to win by 15 points.
The Blues picked up a valuable bonus point in the process, which maintained the pressure on the Scarlets and Edinburgh.
The Dragons, meanwhile, saw their remote hopes of grabbing third place in Conference A being extinguished after going down 26-22 against a near full strength Ulster team at the Principality Stadium.
While that result may have helped the third placed Ospreys in the Conference A race, the team didn’t help themselves as they suffered a defeat at the hands of the Glasgow Warriors - their nearest rivals for Champions Cup qualification.
Ospreys still have the inside track, but the Warriors now trail by seven points with a game in hand, meaning it is possible to sneak into qualification territory in the final week.
At the top of the table, Leinster joined their final opponents, Munster, by warming up with a comfortable win as they returned from Italy with a full house of points against Zebre.
Guinness PRO14 results:
Zebre 31-48 Leinster (Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi, Parma)
Munster 28-10 Scarlets (Thomond Park, Limerick)
Glasgow Warriors 30-25 Ospreys (Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow)
Dragons 22-26 Ulster (Rodney Parade, Newport)
Connacht 14-15 Edinburgh (The Sportsground, Galway)
Benetton 14-29 Cardiff Blues (Stadio Monigo, Treviso)