While the Six Nations took centre stage in Europe and Dan Carter and his Racing-Metro mates were edging the Highlanders in Hong Kong, New Zealanders were strutting their stuff in England's Aviva Premiership.
Table-topping Saracens needed a second half try to former Taranaki No 8 Samuela Vunisa to edge Exeter's Thomas Waldrom 14-11.
Sale, with second five Sam Tuitupou, lock Bryn Evans and flanker TJ Ioane in the mix, won an important 10-3 victory at Leicester against Mike FitzGerald's Tigers.
A try to flanker Nili Latu was not quite enough as Newcastle lost 9-8 to Wasps, for whom Jimmy Gopperth slotted three penalty goals. Nathan Hughes was at No 8 for the Londoners, while Tongan international and former Highlander and Steeler Siale Piutau came off the bench for his club, joining his younger brother Charles.
Northampton defeated Harlequins 27-23, with Ken Pisi and James Wilson winning bragging rights over Nick Evans, Ben Botica and Mat Luamanu. Evans' four goals were to no avail.
Bryce Heem scored a try but copped a yellow card for Worcester in their 20-13 loss to London Irish, who fielded Asaeli Tikoirotuma (11) and Halani Aulika (3).
Halfback Willi Heinz and prop John Afoa helped Gloucester to a 15-11 victory at Bath in a West Country battle.
In the only Guinness PRO12 fixture, a try to flanker Sean Reidy - his third in as many matches - saw Ulster to a 17-15 win over the Dragons, which took the Northern Ireland province to the competition lead. Nick Williams entered the fray off the bench for Ulster, while Boris Stankovich wore the No 17 jersey for the Welsh regional side.
The French Top 14 is on hold until after the second round of Six Nations this weekend.