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Scarlets beat Munster in final


The Scarlets finished their season on a high when they beat Munster 46-22 in the PRO12 Final at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin on Saturday.

The Welsh region won their first championship title in 2004 and had almost secured their second by half-time through tries from Liam Williams, Steff Evans, Gareth Davies and Tadhg Beirne.

Three-time champions Munster had won their previous seven PRO12 games but never looked in this game and were outplayed in every department.

Andrew Conway and Keith Earls got late consolations for Rassie Erasmus’ side, but DTH van der Merwe and James Davies also touched down in the second half for Scarlets to secure a first PRO12 title for a Welsh region since 2012.

Tyler Bleyendaal had kicked the first points of the afternoon but Scarlets soon took the lead when Liam Williams collected a superbly weighted Rhys Patchell chip to touch down in the corner.

Patchell added a penalty before Scarlets scored an excellent second try, Jonathan Davies exploded out of the 22 then exchanged passes with Steff Evans who crossed for his 13th of the season.

Minutes later Scott Williams burst through a tackle then offloaded to Gareth Davies to give the scrum-half a run-in under the posts to mark his 150th Scarlets appearance.

The Irish province were all at sea defensively and Beirne was next on the scoresheet as the lock bludgeoned his way over the line following a kick downfield.

Handling errors had prevented Munster getting any kind of momentum but Bleyendaal did claw a try back with the last play of the half to send the sides in 29-10 at the break.

Patchell struck a second penalty after the interval, and Scarlets’ defensive line-speed kept the pressure on the Munstermen, lead by the charge of the energetic Lewis Rawlins.

Patchell was substituted early for the second week running and still Munster could find no fluency, attacking narrowly and seeming to have no confidence with ball in hand.

The crowd expected a Munster fightback but Scarlets were not done yet, substitute van der Merwe beat three defenders to score a fifth before Conway and Earls added consolations for Munster.

But it was the Llanelli side who had the last laugh, James Davies raced away for a 50 metre score that put the icing on the victory to win a first Scarlets title since 2004.

The scorers:

For Munster:
Bleyendaal, Conway, Earls
Cons: Bleyendaal, Keatley
Pen: Bleyendaal

For Scarlets:
L Williams, S Evans, G Davies, Beirne, Van der Merwe, James Davies
Cons: Patchell 3, L Williams 2
Pens: Patchell 2

Thanks to

Erasmus Munster to strong for Ospreys to reach final


Munster proved too strong for Ospreys in their PRO12 semi-final as they won 23-3 at Thomond Park to book a final date against Scarlets.

Tries from Francis Saili, Simon Zebo and Andrew Conway saw the Irish province come out on top, with Saili named the man-of-the-match.

Ospreys’ only points came from Dan Biggar as they were well beaten in the end, with Rhys Webb’s injury absence not helping their cause.

In a low-scoring first period it was Munster who went in 8-3 to the good thanks to a try from Saili and Tyler Bleyendaal’s penalty late on.

Those points came following an eighth minute penalty from Biggar though as the Ospreys came out the sharper of the two semi-finalists.

Saili’s score on 26 minutes rallied the home support, crossing after Rory Scannell was brought down close to the left touchline, but Bleyendaal hit the post with his conversion attempt meaning it was only a slender two-point lead for Munster. One felt every point would be critical.

Bleyendaal wasn’t alone in being off-target though as Biggar was wayward with a touchline penalty attempt after a high tackle from Munster.

Munster’s fly-half found his range with a much simpler shot in the last kick of the half, however, with Ospreys pinged for a ruck offence.

The sloppiness and tense feel to the game continued after the break and there was no further score as the match moved over the hour mark. Munster did go close through a short carry from CJ Stander but the TMO and referee Luke Pearce did not see evidence of a grounding.

Two minutes later the game came to life when a Saili break and offload saw Conor Murray and Keith Earls combine to send over Zebo for the converted score. That made it 15-3 before Bleyendaal added a further three points off the tee on 67 minutes to put Munster 15 points in front.

Ospreys came agonisingly close to cutting seven points off that gap on 71 minutes when replacement hooker Scott Otten re-gathered his own chip and dived over. However, a knock-on from Tom Habberfield at the previous ruck saw that chalked off as Munster escaped unscathed.

They did more than that and would have time for one more score with Conway finishing off strongly wide out to add the icing to their cake.

The scorers:

For Munster:
Tries: Saili, Zebo, Conway
Con: Bleyendaal
Pens: Bleyendaal 2

For Ospreys:
Pen: Biggar

Scarlets shock Leinster in Dublin


Despite a red card for Steff Evans the Scarlets pulled off a major shock in Dublin, defeating Leinster 27-15 at the RDS.

The Scarlets became the first side in history to win a PRO12 semi-final away from home, as a magnificent performance saw them claim a deserved win.

Despite having to play over 40 minutes with just 14 men following the dismissal of Steff Evans, the Welsh side outscored their opponents by three tries to two to advance to the final, with James Davies the game’s standout player.

With the RDS crowd in fine voice, the home side made the better start, with only a forward pass denying Isa Nacewa a third-minute try.

However, it was the Scarlets who opened the scoring on eight minutes. An offload from Jonathan Davies sent John Barclay away down the wing, with the Scotland captain giving the simple pass to Steff Evans for the game’s opening score. Rhys Patchell converted, and the Welsh side led 7-0.

Despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession, it took until the 20th minute for Leinster to trouble the scorers, with Nacewa slotting a penalty from 35 metres.

The pressure was beginning to build for the home side, and it told just three minutes later. Jack Conan’s offload allowed Garry Ringrose to cross for the score, with Nacewa’s conversion giving his side the lead for the first time on the night.

The Scarlets’ response was immediate. A piston of a fend from Aaron Shingler saw the flanker race over, Patchell converting to restore their advantage.

It was to get even better for the visitors just minutes later. Scott Williams, James Davies and Steff Evans all combined to send Gareth Davies under the posts for a tremendous score, Patchell once again adding the extras.

However, a memorable first-half performance was marred by a red card to Steff Evans, as the winger was given his marching orders for a dangerous tackle on Ringrose two minutes before the interval.

With the score poised at 21-10 to the visitors as the sides retook the field, the first score of the second period held extra importance. The game took on a frenetic edge, as Leinster’s measured attack was repelled by the Scarlets’ rearguard action.

The breakthrough arrived on 63 minutes. An overthrown lineout from the Scarlets allowed Leinster to set up field position five metres from the tryline, before Jack Conan barrelled his way over the whitewash. Nacewa, though, surprisingly hit the post with the conversion, leaving Leo Cullen’s men still in need of a converted try.

However, with 10 minutes to go, the Scarlets were awarded a penalty within goalkicking range. With Patchell having been substituted earlier in the half, it fell to Liam Williams to extend the Scarlets’ lead to nine points.

Despite almost exclusively controlling possession, Leinster could not find the killer touch, as the Scarlets resilient defence and dogged work at the breakdown kept their hosts at bay. With time almost up, another penalty went the way of the Scarlets at the breakdown, and Liam Williams made no mistake from straight in front to secure their place in the PRO12’s showpiece event.

The scorers:

For Leinster:
Tries: Ringrose, Conan
Con: Nacewa
Pen: Nacewa

For Scarlets:
Tries: S Evans, A Shingler, G Davies
Cons: Patchell 3
Pens: L Williams 2
Red Card: S Evans

Thanks to

PRO12 Preview: Friday


Cardiff Blues v Zebre

Danny Wilson has made three changes for Cardiff Blues’ final home game of the PRO12 season. Aled Summerhill comes onto the wing, with Rhun Williams moving to full-back in the place of Matthew Morgan, while Tomos Williams gets the nod at scrum-half ahead of namesake Lloyd.

Up front, Rhys Gill starts at loose-head prop with Gethin Jenkins unavailable due to miner knee stiffness.

Meanwhile, the Italian coaching staff are able to bring back some key players from the last game played two weeks ago in Scotland against Glasgow Warriors.

Italian internationals Canna, Ceccarelli, Chistolini, Lovotti and Padovani are selected in the 23, while three other Azzurri are return from injury: D’Apice, Furno and Van Schalkwyk, with the South-African born number eight capped for the first time by Zebre for three months since the last game played before the Six Nations.

For the first time in his career with Zebre, centre Castello will be the captain of his side on his 24th overall cap with the white and black jersey.

Form: Cardiff Blues ended a three game winless run in the Guinness PRO12 with their 35-17 eclipsing of Ospreys on “Judgement Day”. The Blues have won just two of their last seven encounters in the Championship at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park. The Welshmen have not lost to an Italian opponent since a visit to Treviso in February 2016. Zebre have won two of their last three fixtures, but both of those matches were played at home in Parma. On the road Zebre’s only victory this season came on a visit to Edinburgh in October. The Blues have been defeated three times before by Zebre, twice in Parma in 2014 and 2015, and once in Cardiff in 2013.

The teams:

Cardiff Blues: 15 Rhun Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Ellis Jenkins (c), 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Macauley Cook, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Taufa’ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Rhys Gill
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 James Down, 20 Sion Bennett, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Steve Shingler, 23 Matthew Morgan

Zebre: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Kayle Van Zyl, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Castello (c), 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Derick Minnie, 7 Jacopo Sarto, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D’Apice, 17 Guillermo Roan, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Kurt Baker, 23 Matteo Pratichetti

Date: Friday, April 28
Venue: Cardiff Arms Park
Kick-off: 19:05 local (18:05 GMT)
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll (Ireland), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)

Edinburgh v Dragons

Acting Head Coach Duncan Hodge has named four changes to his starting line-up for Edinburgh’s final home game of the season. The only change to the backline is made at centre where Junior Rasolea is set to start in the number 12 jersey.

George Turner makes his first start of the season at hooker, with Allan Dell joining him in the front row. Ben Toolis – who was pulled from the matchday squad in Treviso due to illness – returns to the second row. Back-row John Hardie returns from injury to take a place on the bench.

Meanwhile, Dragons boss Kingsley Jones has made one change in the back three as Pat Howard is named on the wing, with Adam Hughes covering the right wing position and Carl Meyer given the nod as full-back.

There is also one change in the centre partnership as Jack Dixon is selected to join Sam Beard, with Angus O’Brien and Charlie Davies remaining as the half-backs.

The front row is all change with props Thomas Davies and Brok Harris selected, alongside hooker Thomas Rhys Thomas. The second row sees Matthew Screech and Welsh international Cory Hill named, with the back row seeing two positional changes made as skipper Lewis Evans moves to blind-flanker alongside open-side flanker Nic Cudd with Ollie Griffiths covering the number eight position.

The bench is made up of Rhys Buckley, Phil Price, Craig Mitchell, Rynard Landman, Harrison Keddie, Geraint Rhys Jones and Tom Prydie as well as promising Dragons Academy prospect Owain Leonard, who is set for his Dragons debut off the bench as cover at scrum-half.

Form: Edinburgh have lost their last eight matches in the Guinness PRO12, their poorest ever run in the Championship. The Scotsmen have played eight previous PRO12 games at Myreside, winning just two – against Caerphilly in 2001 and Ospreys in 2015. Newport Gwent Dragons have lost their last ten matches in all competitions since beating Enisei at Rodney Parade in the European Challenge Cup in January. The Welshmen have not won away from home since beating Gloucester in last season’s European Challenge Cup quarter-final at Kingsholm. Dragons won 27-19 when the two sides met at Rodney Parade in round 9 and have not achieved a PRO12 season’s double over the Scotsmen since 2011/12. Dragons most recent victory in Scotland was beating Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun in November 2013. This will be their first visit to Myreside.

The teams:

Edinburgh: 15 Glenn Bryce, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Junior Rasolea, 11 Rory Scholes, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Nathan Fowles, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Viliame Mata, 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Grant Gilchrist (c), 3 Simon Berghan, 2 George Turner, 1 Allan Dell
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Murray McCallum, 18 Kevin Bryce, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 John Hardie, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Blair Kinghorn

Dragons: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Sam Beard, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Pat Howard, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Charlie Davies, 8 Ollie Griffiths, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Lewis Evans (c), 5 Cory Hill, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Thomas Rhys Thomas, 1 Thomas Davies
Replacements: 16 Rhys Buckley, 17 Phil Price, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Rynard Landman, 20 Harrison Keddie, 21 Owain Leonard, 22 Geraint Rhys Jones, 23 Tom Prydie

Date: Friday, April 28
Venue: Myreside
Kick-off: 19:35 local (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies (Wales), Cammy Rudkin (Scotland)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)

Leinster v Glasgow

There are a number of changes from the Leinster team that faced Clermont last Sunday in the Champions Cup Semi-Final with a number of significant milestones celebrated at the Ballsbridge venue as Leinster look to secure a top of the PRO12 table end of season finish.

Zane Kirchner will start his last regular season game in the RDS before he departs to the Newport Gwent Dragons during the summer, with Adam Byrne coming in on the right wing and Fergus McFadden continuing on the left.

In the centre Carlow man Tom Daly starts his first ever game at the RDS. In his eight games to date, seven off the bench and one start away to Zebre in November, he has scored two tries. He will have Old Belvedere’s Rory O’Loughlin outside him in the number 13 jersey tomorrow evening.

UCD’s Nick McCarthy starts his first ever game for Leinster at scrum-half with his former St. Michael’s classmate Ross Byrne outside him at ten.

In the pack Peter Dooley starts at loose head prop with James Tracy at hooker, while Mike Ross, who announced his retirement earlier this week, starts his last regular season game at the RDS at tight head.

Ross Molony will captain the side for the first time in a competitive game. He has previously captained the side in a pre-season friendly against Bath but this will be the first time leading the team out in the PRO12. Beside him, fresh from leading Clontarf to a second AIL Final in as many years last weekend, Mick Kearney slots into the second lock position.

In the back row Dominic Ryan comes in at blind side flanker, with Josh van der Flier selected at open side and Jack Conan continuing at number eight for his 50th cap in Leinster colours.

Meanwhile, Tommy Seymour will make his 100th Glasgow Warriors appearance, starting at full-back. It will be Seymour’s first game since being announced in the British and Irish Lions squad for this summer’s tour to New Zealand.

Seymour scored four tries in a man of the match performance in the reverse fixture at Scotstoun earlier this season, inspiring Glasgow to a 33-25 bonus-point victory.

Leonardo Sato and Lee Jones will join Seymour in the back three, occupying the wing berths. Nick Grigg and Sam Johnson continue their pairing in the middle of the park, both having scored tries against Zebre at Scotstoun in Glasgow’s last game.

Peter Horne, who had a 100 percent kicking record against Zebre, retains his spot at 10 and is again joined by co-captain Henry Pyrgos at scrum-half.

Alex Allan is another to reach a personal milestone at the RDS, making his 50th appearance for the club. He is joined in the front row by Fraser Brown and Sila Puafisi.

Brian Alainu’uese celebrates his recent new contract with another start and he is joined by co-captain Jonny Gray in the second row. Tim Swinson starts on the blind flank on his return to the side with Chris Fusaro and Adam Ashe completing the back-row.

Scotland internationals Gordon Reid, Zander Fagerson, Ali Price, Finn Russell and Alex Dunbar all return from a week of rest and will look to bring an impact to the game off the bench.

Form: Leinster have won their last nine Guinness PRO12 matches since their 17-29 reversal to Munster in Limerick on 26 December. The Leinstermen have not been defeated at the RDS Arena in the Championship since Dragons won there in February 2015. Glasgow Warriors only defeat in the last four rounds of the Guinness PRO12 was 7-10 to Munster in Cork on 8 April. Glasgow have lost their last four away games in all competitions since beating Leicester Tigers 43-0 at Welford Road in the European Champions Cup in January. The Warriors have won just one of their last seven fixtures against Irish provinces in all tournaments: 35-24 at home to Connacht in March. Glasgow’s only defeat in their last five matches against Leinster since the 2014 final was at the RDS Arena in October 2015. Warriors solitary victory in fourteen previous visits to RDS Arena was 23-19 in the PRO12 in September 2011.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Nick McCarthy, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Ross Molony (c), 3 Mike Ross, 2 James Tracy, 1 Peter Dooley
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Dan Leavy, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Noel Reid

Glasgow: 15 Tommy Seymour, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Peter Horne, 9 Henry Pyrgos (cc), 8 Adam Ashe, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Tim Swinson, 5 Jonny Gray (cc), 4 Brian Alainu’uese, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Alex Allan
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Rob Harley, 20 Matt Fagerson, 21 Ali Price, 22 Finn Russell, 23 Alex Dunbar

Date: Friday, April 28
Venue: RDS Arena
Kick-off: 19:35 local (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Rhys Thomas (Wales), Simone Boaretto (Italy)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)

Thanks to 

PRO12 Wrap


Munster had a close to comfort win over Glasgow over the weekend in the Pro12.

Here is all the results from the weekend

Munster 10-7 Glasgow
Irish Independent Park

James Cronin’s early try put Munster into the driving seat until a late Stuart Hogg try threatened to turn the tie around. It wasn’t enough though, with Munster seeing out the 10-7 win.

Strong recent form made this a tough one to call, though Glasgow’s poor away form had seen them fail to win away in the PRO12 since the turn of the year.

It was Munster who took the early lead as try number one arrived inside the first five minutes. Cronin went through for it as Warriors failed to get out of the danger area, and the conversion followed with Tyler Bleyendaal safely kicking through.

It was a long time before the next would arrive though. Neither side could get a firm control of the game and it took until midway through the second half before the scoreboard was troubled again.

The Munster backline was being severely tested and was relieved as Rory Scannell’s penalty made it a 10-point lead. But the home defence held up well until Hogg went through. Finn Russell added the extra two but the three point gap was never troubled, as Munster saw out the 10-7 win.

The Scorers:

For Munster:
Con: Bleyendaal
Pen: Scannell

For Glasgow:
Con: Russell

Munster: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Francis Saili, 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Ronan O’Mahony, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Jack O’Donoghue, 7 Conor Oliver, 6 Jean Deysel, 5 Billy Holland (c), 4 Dave O’Callaghan, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Niall Scannell, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 John Ryan, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 Peter O’Mahony, 21 Angus Lloyd, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Simon Zebo

Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Adam Ashe, 7 Ryan Wilson, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray (c), 4 Brian Alainu’uese, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Alex Allan, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Scott Cummings, 20 Chris Fusaro, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Peter Horne, 23 Rory Hughes

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Adam Jones (Wales), Paul Haycock (Ireland)
TMO: Neil Hennessy (Wales)

Scarlets 51-5 Treviso
Parc y Scarlets

Steff Evans (2), DTH van der Merwe (2) and Ken Owens put Scarlets 30-0 ahead at the break. Tom Price extended the lead, with Ornel Gega going over for the visitors.

Van der Merwe extended the lead with another from Davies taking the hosts onto the brink of 50 points, as Scarlets saw out a comprehensive win.

Despite victory over Ospreys in Round 18, Scarlets came into this one with the upper hand having only lost once in their last seven PRO12 encounters.

And they were dominant in the opening with a huge lead by the break. Daniel Jones kicked them ahead inside the opening minutes before try number one arrived from van der Merwe. The hosts were really running away with it and a second soon followed through Evans, with the clock not even ticking past the 10 minute mark.

Treviso were completely under the cosh and fell to another try as Van der Merwe increased the punishment on the visitors. Jones converted for the first time to take the lead upto 20 midway through the first half and it got far worse, as a 30 point lead ended any hopes of a miraculous comeback.

Owens marked his 200th appearance with try number four, sealing the bonus point before the half hour was even up. Evans added a fifth as the woes continued for the hapless visitors, with a 30-0 lead at the break too much to peg back.

The lead was extended after half-time as Price grabbed a sixth try, though Treviso hit back as Gega went over to finally get the Italian side on the board. But yellows to Minto and Federico Zani made matters even worse.

Van der Merwe grabbed a hat-trick and extended the lead late on, with the conversion making it 44-5. And it increased as Davies made it even worse, with Scarlets grabbing yet another try and sealing a 51-5 win.

The Scorers:

For Scarlets
Davies, Evans 2, van der Merwe 3, Owens, Price
Cons: Jones 2, Thomas 2
Pen: Jones
Yellow Card: J Davies

For Treviso:
Yellow Card: Zani, Minto, Gori

Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 DTH van der Merwe, 13 Hadleigh Parkes, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay, 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Emyr Phillips, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Tom Price, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Liam Williams

Treviso: 15 David Odiete, 14 Angelo Esposito, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Luca Sperandio, 10 Ian McKinley, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Marco Lazzaroni, 6 Francesco Minto, 5 Dean Budd (c), 4 Filippo Gerosa, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Federico Zani
Replacements: 16 Ornel Gega, 17 Alberto Porolli, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Teofilo Paulo, 21 Abraham Steyn, 22 Edoardo Gori, 23 Luke McLean

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Jonathan Hardy (Wales)
TMO: Olly Hodges (Ireland)

Zebre 29- 14 Dragons
Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi

Zebre made it consecutive wins at the Stade Sergio Lanfranchi as Newport’s poor run of form continued with a 29-14 defeat.

An early try from Cory Hill put Dragons into the ascendancy, but Frederico Ruzza levelled the try scoring soon after. Derick Minnie increased Zebre’s lead before the break and Dragons went in 15-7 behind.

Adam Hughes got Dragons back into the ie after the break but Zebre maintained the lead through Edoardo Padovani and Johan Meyer.
Last week’s shock victory over Connacht saw Zebre make it two wins for the campaign, and that provided the chance for them to record successive victories for the first time since 2015. And with Dragons in poor form, that was a very real possibility.]

Carlo Canna kicked the hosts into the lead four minutes in, but it was Dragons who struck first blood where tries are concerned. Hill went over with Angus O’Brien adding the extras after a pretty evenly matched opening, but it was just what Newport needed after some poor results of late.

But what should have resulted in belief turned to despair soon after as Zebre snatched back the lead. Ruzza crossed over and although the conversion was missed by Canna, the scoreboard again made hard reading for Dragons. O’Brien squandered the chance to take back the lead as he fluffed his lines from a penalty on 20, and the hosts stretched that lead with try number two. Minnie drove over with Canna converting as Dragons failed to take control of the game, and a 15-7 scoreline was probably fair at the break.

Dragons improved after the break though and Hughes went through on his 100th start to put his side right back into the game. But Zebre were far the better side and increased the advantage soon after.

Padovani crossed the line to put the hosts back into a healthy lead, the conversion making it 22-14. And that was extended as Meyer went through almost immediately, the conversion taking the gap to 15. A yellow to Serafin Bordoli gave Dragons hope in the late stages, but it counted for little as Zebre grabbed consecutive wins.

The scorers:

For Zebre:
Tries: Ruzza, Minnie, Padovani, Meyer
Cons: Canna 3
Pen: Canna
Yellow Card: Bordoli

For Dragons:

Tries: Hill, Hughes
Cons: O’Brien 2

Zebre: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Kayle Van Zyl, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Lloyd Greeff, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Federico Ruzza, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Johan Meyer, 5 George Biagi (c), 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Tommaso D’Apice, 1 Andrea Lovotti
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Bruno Postiglioni, 18 Pietro Ceccarelli, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Maxime Mbandà, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Tommaso Castello, 23 Serafin Bordoli

Dragons: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Sam Beard, 11 Pat Howard, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Charlie Davies, 8 Lewis Evans (c), 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Nick Crosswell, 5 Rynard Landman, 4 Cory Hill, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Rhys Buckley, 1 Phil Price
Replacements: 16 Darran Harris, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Nic Cudd, 20 Harrison Keddie, 21 Dorian Jones, 22 Adam Warren, 23 Tom Prydie

Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland), Matteo Liperini (Italy)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

“Hero’s…urr Europe in a Nutshell”


This week sees the Six nations return for the final matches and the focus will be on England to see if they can equal New Zealand record of consecutive wins against trier one nations.

Here is all the news from around Europe  and results over the weekend…..

Ireland wing Andrew Trimble has been ruled out of the rest of the Six Nations after he injured his hand in Ulster’s win over Treviso in Belfast on Friday.

The 70-Test veteran broke a bone in his hand in his side’s 19-7 triumph and will miss the upcoming matches against Wales and England.

Trimble came off the bench in Ireland’s 19-9 win over France in their Round Three clash in Dublin.

He will be joined on the sidelines by second-row Ultan Dillane, who will undergo surgery this week for an ongoing shoulder issue. Dillane will be ruled out of action for eight to ten weeks.

Newcastle director of rugby Dean Richards rued missed opportunities after his side’s loss to Saracens on Sunday.

The Saracens claimed 35-27 win over Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park after scoring five tries to Newcastle’s three.

Richards believes his side could have used their opportunities better in the fixture.

“We are disappointed but it’s probably a measure of where we are at this moment in time,” Richards told reporters.

Stade Français ended their three-match winless run when they claimed an emphatic 32-9 victory over Bordeaux-Bègles at Stade Jean Bouin on Sunday.

The home side were full value for this win as they outscored UBB by three tries to none with all their five-pointers notched in the first half and Jules Plisson also deserves special praise as he finished with a 17-point haul courtesy of a conversion and five penalties.

La Rochelle moved into the driving seat in the Top 14 standings when they claimed a 27-21 win over Toulouse at Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday.

The visitors were made to work hard for this result especially during the game’s latter stages when Toulouse launched a late fightback.

Both sides crossed for two tries apiece but it was the goalkicking of La Rochelle’s Australian fly-halves Zack Holmes and Brock James which proved the difference between the sides and the duo contributed 17 points between them with Holmes kicking four penalties and James adding a conversion and a penalty.

Worcester Warriors eased their Premiership relegation concerns when they beat fellow basement dwellers Bristol 41-24 at Sixways on Sunday.

Gary Gold’s men started quickly and went 10-0 in front in the opening six minutes thanks to a penalty try and Ryan Mills’ three-pointer. Gavin Henson reduced the arrears from the tee before Francois Hougaard and Jason Woodward traded scores.

However, 14 unanswered points via Will Spencer and Bryce Heem gave the Warriors a 31-10 lead at the interval. Heem extended that further before Bristol mounted a fight-back of sorts as Max Crumpton and Tom Varndell crossed the whitewash, but Wynand Olivier sealed the five points to plunge their opponents closer to the Championship.

Saracens kept the pressure on Exeter and Wasps at top of the Premiership table when they claimed a 35-27 win over Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park on Sunday.

Alex Lozowski provided the inspiration, scoring 13 of the Londoners’ first half points. Michael Rhodes also touched down as they went into the interval 18-6 in front – Sonatane Takulua kicking two penalties for Newcastle – before Chris Ashton extended Sarries’ lead in the second period.

Lyon returned to the victory trail when they claimed a hard-fough 16-3 win over Montpellier at the Matmut Stadium on Sunday.

In a tightly contested encounter, the home side had to dig deep to secure the win but they eventually took control of proceedings and outscored Montpellier by one try to none.

Leinster saw off the challenge of the Scarlets at the RDS in Dublin on Saturday in a 45-9 win that takes them back to the PRO12 summit.

Luke McGrath scored twice in the opening period as the Irish province took a lead into the interval, but three Dan Jones’ penalties kept the visitors in contention.

Round Three of the 2017 Rugby Europe Championship produced victories for Germany, Georgia and Romania.

And it was Germany’s win over Belgium which caught the eye as they continue to push for qualification ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

This and next year’s Rugby Europe Championships act as qualifiers for the tournament, with Georgia having already secured their place after finishing in third place in their group at the last Rugby World Cup.

Saturday’s win took Germany up to third, two points behind second-placed Romania, who they defeated earlier this year.

Germany started well thanks to tries from Jacobus Otto and Jarrid Els, with captain Sean Armstrong’s score before half-time suggesting a comfortable win was on the cards.

Belgium to their credit fought back in the second half, with tries from Alan Williams and James Pearce, with the boot of fly-half Williams setting up a tense finish at 27-21.

Jamie Murphy’s try however put the result beyond doubt, as Belgium hit back late on through Elvin Muric but fell to a 34-29 defeat in Offenbach.

Meanwhile leaders Georgia came through their match with Spain in Medina del Campo with a 20-10 win, outscoring their hosts by two tries to one.

The two full-backs, Spain’s Brad Linklater and Georgia’s Merab Kvirikashvili, traded early penalties before Spain went in ahead at the break thanks to a try from Kalokalo Gavidi, leading 10-3.

Georgia went level ten minutes into the second half through a Giorgi Tkhilaishvili try, converted by Kvirikashvili, and they took the lead for the first time in the 62nd minute thanks to a try from Zviad Matiashvili, with a late Kvirikashvili penalty making it 20-10.

And finally Romania comfortably saw off Russia in a 30-10 win by scoring four tries, with two scores coming in the last 11 minutes.

Scores from Ionel Badiu and Madalin Lemnaru got the visitors off to the perfect start in Sochi, leading 14-3 at half-time.

Penalties from Valentin Calafeteanu then stretched the score to 20-3, before Valentin Poparlan and Jody Rose put the seal on a big win.


Pro 12 Round 13 Wrap


Round 13 of this year Guinness Pro 12 played out this weekend and here is a wrap of all the matches….

O’Brien shines from tee as Dragons get back to winning ways

Guinness PRO12, Rodney Parade, Newport, Wales 27/11/2016 Newport Gwent Dragons vs Edinburgh Newport Gwent Dragons' Angus O'Brien converts a try Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Camerasport

Angus O’Brien delivered a kicking masterclass from the tee as Newport Gwent Dragons put a stop to their three-game losing streak with a dominant display over Benetton Treviso under Friday Night Lights.

The Dragons came into their tie at Rodney Parade on the back of successive defeats in the Guinness PRO12, but turned their fortunes around for only their fourth league victory of the season.

After giving Kingsley Jones’ side an early lead from a penalty, O’Brien went on to add 11 further points for the Dragons, with tries for the Welsh outfit coming from Sarel Pretorius and skipper Lewis Evans.

A score from Tito Tebaldi and three points from Tommaso Allan looked to have given the Italians hope early on in the first half, but a sudden increase in tempo from the Dragons put the game to bed.

O’Brien broke the deadlock for the Dragons, kicking them into the lead from the tee after the Italians were penalised in front of the posts.

But Treviso immediately responded when Tebaldi reacted quickest to a Dragons mistake, hacking on and gathering to cross in the corner.

They further extended their lead on 24 minutes when Allan successfully kicked for three points after the Dragons were called up for slowing possession at a ruck, having given away a handful of penalties in the lead up.

It didn’t take long, however, for the hosts to regain their advantage, upping the tempo for Pretorius to dot down under the posts after spotting the gap before O’Brien nailed the conversion.

Pretorius was then sin-binned seven minutes later for slamming the ball down following a scrum in the Dragons’ 22, before the visitors wasted a glorious opportunity to pull some points back, knocking on after attacking from the scrum.

O’Brien ensured Jones’ men would go into the break with a five-point advantage, slotting home a penalty from 40 metres on the stroke of half-time.

The hosts saw their lead further extended ten minutes into the second period, that man again O’Brien – the Dragons’ top point scorer – coolly burying a drop goal after struggling to find a way through the Treviso defence.

He then stretched his side’s lead to 11 points four minutes later, opting for the posts after the opposition were penalised.

It was the turn of Evans to cross the whitewash next for the Dragons, finding himself on the end of the maul to score, and the hosts put the game out of Treviso’s reach when Dorian Jones added the extras.

Sexton returns in style as Leinster ease past Zebre

Guinness PRO12, RDS, Dublin 6/1/2017 Leinster vs Zebre Leinster's Johnny Sexton is tackled by Pietro Ceccarelli of Zebre Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Johnny Sexton marked his long-awaited return to Guinness PRO12 action with a perfect record from the tee as Leinster sailed past Zebre under Friday Night Lights.

With seven different try scorers, including three for Rory O’Loughlin, Leo Cullen’s men sealed the bonus point with just half an hour played, with Sexton – pulling on the Leinster jersey for the first time since the autumn internationals two months ago – contributing 12 points to their tally.

Two first-half penalties from Edoardo Padovani had given the Italians hope in the early stages, but the Irish province proved too strong as they maintained their top three position.

Leinster were the first to get on the scoresheet when Sean O’Brien dotted down after fine work from the centres saw the ball spread wide, Sexton successfully kicking the conversion from the tee.

Zebre pulled a penalty back on 16 minutes through Padovani, but the hosts immediately responded as Hayden Triggs crossed the whitewash before Sexton added the extras.

Padovani added another three points to Zebre’s tally to narrow the advantage to eight, but Luke McGrath was quick to restore the hosts’ lead with a try, running under the posts following slick play with Zane Kirchner.

Cian Healy’s big carry made it 28-6 on the 30-minute mark to secure the bonus point, with Sexton converting both to make it four from four.

And on the stroke of half-time, McGrath broke free from the scrum before putting O’Loughlin through for a converted try to ensure Leinster went into the break 29 points ahead.

The hosts had the first opportunity for points of the second period, when Dan Leavy looked set to cross in the corner after a stunning James Tracy pass, only to be tackled into touch.

But they didn’t have long to wait for that first try of the second 40, Garry Ringrose ploughing over the line for his side’s sixth try of the evening, Sexton continuing his perfect record from the tee.

O’Loughlin got his second of the game on the 70-minute mark when he crossed from close range, before securing his hat-trick just minutes later after latching on to a sublime Ringrose off-load to score once more, Ross Byrne successfully converting both.

The Italians finished the game with 14 men when Guillermo Roan was shown a yellow card, and their fate was sealed when Ringrose added his second try – and his side’s ninth –  of the game with the clock ticking down, crossing over following a scrum five metres from the line, Byrne once again adding the two points.

And Jamie Heaslip wrapped up his side’s stunning performance with a last-gasp try, converted by Byrne, to seal a 70-6 victory for Leinster for their second win on the bounce.

Second-half comeback gives Scarlets victory over Ulster

Guinness PRO12, Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli, Wales 6/1/2017 Scarlets vs Ulster Ulster's Andrew Trimble is tackled by Will Boyde of Scarlets Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Camersport/Kevin Barnes

Scarlets returned to winning ways with a hard-fought victory over Ulster at Parc Y Scarlets with an excellent second-half comeback to consolidate their top four position.

The hosts were trailing 13-6 at the break due to Jacob Stockdale’s try for Ulster with Paddy Jackson adding the conversion and two penalties.

But Ulster were unable to add to their tally in the second half as a penalty try and a third penalty from Dan Jones gave the Scarlets all four points.

Jones, on his first Guinness PRO12 start of the season, nearly gave his side the perfect start after three minutes as he charged down a kick by his opposite number Paddy Jackson.

The Scarlet’s No. 10 hacked the ball towards the tryline but was just beaten to the ball by Jackson who managed to atone for his error and force a knock-on.

Jones did give his side the lead with 11 minutes played though as he scored his first penalty and another successful kick four minutes later made it 6-0 to the home side.

Jackson responded with a penalty of his own on 17 minutes with a 45 metre penalty and the visitors had the lead for the first time soon after.

Stuart McCloskey cut a great line from an Ulster rolling maul to puncture the Scarlets defence and when he offloaded to Jacob Stockdale, the winger was free to run in under the posts for his third try of the season.

Jackson added the extras to give the visitors a 10-6 lead.

The Ulster fly-half extended their advantage with another well-struck penalty at the end of the first-half to put his side 13-6 up at the break.

In the second half, Jones reduced the deficit with a penalty in the 53rd minute as Ulster were penalised for not releasing the tackler.

Aled Davies was then held up over the try line but Sean Reidy was shown a yellow card for a high tackle in his attempt to stop the replacement and Scarlets were awarded a penalty try.

A successful conversion from Jones put Scarlets 16-13 ahead and it was a narrow lead that they would not relinquish.

Scarlets second row Jake Ball was also sent from the field for ten minutes for a high tackle on 63 minutes but Ulster were forced to settle for a losing bonus point.

Ospreys reach summit with bonus point win over Connacht

Guinness PRO12, Liberty Stadium, Swansea, Wales 7/1/2017 Ospreys vs Connacht Ospreys' Ashley Beck is tackled by Tom McCartney of Connacht Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/CameraSport/Ian Cook

Ospreys moved to the top of the Guinness PRO12 table with a bonus point 29-7 victory over Connacht at the Liberty Stadium.

Dan Baker and Olly Cracknell both got tries early in the first half with Nicky Smith adding a third after the break for the home side.

Sean O’Brien got a consolation score for Connacht but Ashley Beck grabbed the bonus point try in the final moments of the game despite a yellow card for Sam Davies.

Ospreys raced out of the blocks and opened the scoring in the 12th minute when No 8 Baker charged over after Hanno Dirksen, on his 100th appearance for the club, was stopped just short.

Davies converted and barely two minutes later flanker Cracknell doubled the home side’s lead at the Liberty Stadium as he powered through the Connacht defence.

The Ospreys fly-half was once again on target with the conversion as the home side dominated the early exchanges against the Guinness PRO12 champions.

With half an hour played, the Ospreys nearly had their third try as Welsh international Justin Tipuric squeezed over in the corner but the TMO confirmed Matt Healy had taken the flanker into touch.

Davies extended the lead with a 30m penalty four minutes into the second half with a successful penalty to move past 500 points scored for the South Wales club.

The young fly-half joins team-mate Dan Biggar, Gavin Henson and James Hook in an exclusive group to have achieved the feat for the Ospreys.

A Tom Habberfield break saw Ospreys on their way to their third try as a penalty for the hosts was sent into the corner with prop Nicky Smith eventually driving over from close range.

And it was Davies again from the tee with his third successful conversion of the afternoon.

Connacht replacement Danie Poolman came close to the Ospreys try line with ten minutes to play as he attempted to latch onto John Cooney’s kick but Dafydd Howells’ tackle denied him the score.

Davies was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Cooney in the build up and Connacht’s pressure soon paid off as O’Brien pounced on a loose ball to touch down in the corner.

It was the first try the Ospreys had conceded in the Guinness PRO12 since Edinburgh on December 2 and it was converted from the touchline by Cooney.

But there was still time for Beck to snatch what could be a vital bonus point as he dived over with the last play of the game with the missed conversion inconsequential to the result.

Excellent Warriors score four in comfortable Blues victory

Guinness PRO12, Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow, Scotland 7/1/2017 Glasgow Warriors vs Cardiff Blues Glasgow Warriors' Alex Dunbar Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Craig Watson

Peter Murchie scored two second-half tries as Glasgow Warriors pulled clear of Cardiff Blues in the second period to claim a 29-15 win in the Guinness PRO12.

The hosts made a fast start and scored early through Pat MacArthur, but the Blues bit back and scored just before the break through winger Blaine Scully.

But that was as good as it got for Cardiff, as Murchie scored two simple tries in the corner following excellent work from Scotland winger Tommy Seymour.

Hooker James Malcolm put Glasgow out of sight shortly after to confirm the bonus point, while Rhun Williams scored a late consolation for the Blues.

Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend made eight changes to his side for the match – with the likes of Jonny Gray, Alex Dunbar and Finn Russell back in the starting 15.

The Blues made two changes themselves, with Scully replacing Rhun Williams on the left wing while Anton Peikrishvili returned from suspension and replaced by Taufa’ao Filise.

Glasgow made a fast start and attacked from the off, with Finn Russell gaining good territory and the pack powering forward.

A neat break from Seymour put the Warriors five metres out, but some good defending from Matthew Morgan prevented Glasgow from scoring.

However, a few minutes later MacArthur powered his way over from a few metres out.

Glasgow enjoyed 94% of the possession in the first 15 minutes and the Blues were permanently under the cosh, but the hosts failed to make their dominance count.

The Blues looked good with ball in hand on the rare occasions they did break into the Glasgow 22, and they should have scored when Lloyd Williams and Rey Lee-Lo created space down the right for winger Alex Cuthbert – but he spilled the ball metres from the line.

Russell hit a penalty for Glasgow shortly after, but the Blues had the last laugh in the first period when the Warriors fly-half misplaced a kick that fell perfectly for Scully – and he darted in for a simple score in the corner.

For all of Glasgow’s early dominance, they found themselves level just minutes into the second half as Steven Shingler neatly booted a penalty.

But they bounced back quickly as Seymour broke from deep by using his pace to burst through Cardiff’s defence, and slipped it through to Dunbar – who looked set to score.

Cardiff kept him at bay, but Murchie came in and carried the loose ball over the line for his first of the night.

The dangerous Glasgow backs began to cause Cardiff a whole host of problems, and they struck again shortly after Ali Price slipped Seymour through.

The winger was tackled down but some quick ball set up Murchie for his second in the corner, and a bonus point was secured when hooker Malcolm touched down from close range.

Cardiff kept pushing, looking for a way back, but they were forced to settle for a consolation as substitute Rhun Williams crossed in the corner following a neat move to the right.


Guinness Pro 12 Wrap




Giles gets another as Ospreys down Edinburgh


©INPHO/Kevin Barnes

Keelan Giles’ fourth Guinness PRO12 try in as many matches secured Ospreys a sixth bonus-point triumph at the Liberty Stadium this season as they saw off Edinburgh 31-22.

The Welsh winger dotted down shortly after the break as Ospreys recorded their third straight win, and fifth consecutive at home.

It was the home side’s only try of the second half but earlier scores from Dafydd Howell, Nicky Evans and Ma’afu Fia had done the damage.

Edinburgh trailed 24-15 at half-time as Will Helu and Blair Kinghorn touched down, but a late try for replacement Viliame Mata was mere consolation as they await their first away victory in the Guinness PRO12 in more than a year.

It looked like being a long night for Edinburgh early on as their hosts not only started the brighter of the two sides, but they also saw centre Chris Dean stretchered off and replaced by Glenn Bryce after just three minutes.

But after Sam Davies slotted an early penalty for Ospreys the home side found themselves trailing on eight minutes as the fly-half saw a kick charged down and Helu went over in the corner, with Duncan Weir missing the tough conversion.

However Ospreys were not behind for long as moments later a turnover led to a line-out just inside their own half, with the ball recycled out wide for Howells who cut inside and raced away to glide over.

Davies added the conversion and midway through the half the Ospreys fans were on their feet again as a big scrum drove Edinburgh back No.8 Evans cantered over for their second try of the night, with Davies adding the extras.

But just before the half-hour mark Edinburgh were back in the contest as Kinghorn crossed the whitewash following a collision between Dan Evans and Damien Hoyland, with the TMO allowing the score to stand.

Weir’s conversion was good but five minutes later Ospreys once again had breathing space as good work from their pack saw Fia go over and Davies convert.

Edinburgh refused to line down and Ospreys were camped outside their 5m line as half-time approached, but the visitors had to make do with a Weir penalty as they went in at the break 24-15 behind.

Ospreys started the second half brightly and after Ashley Beck was stopped just inches short of the try line, great hands from Alun Wyn Jones sent Giles over on the wing for the fourth bonus point try and his ninth score in six games, with Davies slotting the conversion.

On 55 minutes things got worse for Edinburgh as captain Grant Gilchrist was sent to the sin bin due to an accumulation of infringements.

Ospreys almost immediately made their numerical advantage count but Nicky Smith was help up over the tryline but Edinburgh held out only to be reduced to 14 men again when Allan Dell was shown a yellow card for an offence at the scrum on 68 minutes.

The hosts again almost made them pay but as Giles raced onto a Davies kick he was pulled back just a few metres short of the tryline, before a knock on saw Edinburgh awarded a scrum.

And it was the visitors who had the final saw as Mata barrelled over the whitewash and Weir added the extras, although they were unable to head back to Scotland with a bonus point as Ospreys saw the game out.


Keatley leaves it late as Munster beat Glasgow


©INPHO/Craig Watson

Ian Keatley scored a late drop-goal to secure a dramatic 16-15 victory for Guinness PRO12 leaders Munster away at Glasgow Warriors in a tight, tense game.

The league leaders surged out of the blocks and took control of the match thanks Keatley’s penalty and Andrew Conway’s try – but Glasgow surged back after the break.

Two tries from Ali Price and Mark Bennett looked to have won the game for Glasgow as they mounted an impressive second-half comeback.

But Keatley kept his cool to win the game for the Irish side, who retain their place at the top of the table.

Entering this contest, Glasgow Warriors were boosted by the return of eight international players following the end of Scotland’s fixtures – including the likes of Bennett and Tommy Seymour.

Munster recalled captain Peter O’Mahony, while Tommy O’Donnell made his 100th Guinness PRO12 appearance.

The league leaders made a fast start as Keatley scored the first points of the night with a simple penalty, minutes before full-back Conway scored the first try of the night after a neat move.

Keatley, so aware of the space out wide, sent a crossfield kick to the corner, where winger Darren Sweetnam knocked it down for Conway to score.

Glasgow responded through a Peter Horne penalty, but the fly-half only managed 22 minutes before an injury ended his evening prematurely.

The hosts recovered and piled the pressure on Munster and Dave Kilcoyne was sent to the sin-bin for an infringement at a line-out.

Munster recovered territory and possession and even had the chance to extend their lead with another Keatley penalty, which he sent sailing through the posts.

Things got worse for Glasgow after the break as Rory Hughes was stretchered off with an injury, and the game became scrappy with both sides struggling to retain the ball.

But Glasgow made Munster nervous as they closed the gap to within three points just after the hour-mark as they stole a line-out and made space for scrum-half Price to sneak through.

The game came alive, as Munster almost responded immediately as they charged down a clearance and almost won the race to the ball behind the try-line.

But Glasgow, in front of a roaring home crowd, took the lead as Bennett surged down the wing, cut inside and sprinted to the line for a memorable score.

However, if Munster want to be champions they know they have to respond to those situations and Keatley won the game with a drop-goal after a controlled drive.


Scarlets in seventh heaven after Zebre success


©INPHO/Francesca Soli

Scarlets have now won seven successive Guinness PRO12 games as Jonathan Evans went over for two of five tries in a 31-24 win at Zebre.

Heading to Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi Scarlets had won six games in a row, while Zebre were still awaiting their first win at home this season.

But early on it looked as though fortunes might be reversed as the boot over Carlo Canna had the home side 9-7 in front.

However, that was as good as it got for the Italians as Aaron Shingler and DTH van der Merwe added to Evans’ earlier Scarlets score.

And after the break Aled Davies and Evans grabbed a second, before Zebre showed their fighting spirit by going over themselves late on through Federico Ruzza and Giovanbattista Venditti, with a Canna penalty at the death earning them a losing bonus point.

Zebre hosted Scarlets having never beaten then in eight attempts, but took an early lead thanks to a third-minute drop goal from Canna.

The hosts had started brightly and a kick in behind from centre Tommaso Boni looked to get them in behind but Hadleigh Parkes managed to get to the ball first.

Canna then sent over a penalty just outside the Scarlets 22 to double Zebre’s lead, but on 12 minutes the Welsh side nudged ahead as scrum-half Evans stole the ball and raced away to dot down, Rhys Patchell adding the extras.

However the home side were not rolling over and midway through the half Canna sent over another drop goal to restore their lead.

But while Zebre were struggling to trouble the tryline their visitors were having no such trouble as Shingler went over for the Welsh side’s second of the first half on 33 minutes.

Good hands from Tadhg Beirne and Van der Merwe saw the flanker go over, with Patchell adding the extras once again.

And just before the break Scarlets had their third try, this time Van der Merwe went over following some slick handling, with Patchell converting for a 21-9 half-time lead.

Five minutes after the restart Scarlets had the bonus point secure as Jonathan Davies broke away before full-back Aled Davies finished the move off, Patchell failing with his kick for the first time in the game.

And five minutes later the Welsh side were celebrating again as Evans went over for his fifth of the season following a fortunate bounce and Scarlets’ fifth of the afternoon.

To Zebre’s credit they never gave up, but a forward pass following a line out on the Scarlets 10m line halted their progress on the hour mark.

However they did have a try on 64 minutes as a long Canna pass to Edoardo Padovani saw No.8 Ruzza go over for a converted score.

And with ten minutes left the home fans were on their feet again as Venditti went over, with Canna’s late penalty earning the home side a losing bonus point.


Seven-try Connacht overpower Benetton Treviso in Galway


©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Connacht continued their fine run of home form as they ran in seven tries against the Guinness PRO12’s basement side Benetton Treviso to win 47-8.

Tom McCartney’s first-half double and scores from Danie Poolman and Denis Buckley secured a try-bonus-point before half-time, and a commanding 28-3 lead for the hosts.

And John Cooney, Quinn Roux, and Jack Carty completed the scoring as Connacht eased home, meaning Braam Steyn’s try for Treviso was no more than a consolation.

The Irish outfit were unbeaten in four Guinness PRO12 games at the Sportsground prior to the match, but were dealt a blow when they lost Matt Healy in the warm-up with Poolman coming in on the wing.

The visitors started well, probing for an early try on the Connacht five-metre line after Jake Heenan was stripped of the ball, but while the home side’s defence stood firm they were pinged and Ian McKinley made it 3-0 from the tee.

Connacht forced a turnover and then a penalty deep in Italian territory, with Marnitz Boshoff kicking to the corner the Guinness PRO12 champions decision to turn down a routine three points was justified when McCartney rumbled over on 12 minutes to give the hosts the lead – Cooney making no mistake with the conversion.

But while Cian Kelleher immediately saw yellow after accidentally taking out McKinley in the air, Pat Lam will have been thrilled to see his side absorb Treviso’s pressure for the duration of his time on the sidelines.

Buckley got in over the ball to win a vital turnover on 23 minutes, which led to Connacht’s second try of the afternoon.

Bundee Aki found Nepia Fox-Matamua, and the Kiwi-born flanker’s beautiful flicked pass was gratefully grasped by Poolman who ran in to score, with Cooney nailing the conversion again.

Things went from bad to worse for Treviso as Simone Ferrari saw yellow for persistent fouling at the breakdown, and just after the half-hour mark John Muldoon was just held up after crossing the whitewash.

But Connacht’s pressure told and they got their reward when McCartney doubled his tally for the afternoon in the right corner.

And the Galway outfit had their try-bonus point before the interval as Kelleher, Cooney and Aki put the ball through the hands for Buckley to score.

Cooney’s flawless kicking continued as he converted both to make it 28-3 at the interval, and while Treviso stabilised slightly after half-time, ten minutes into the second half Connacht were over again.

A brilliant training ground move off the back of a lineout just outside Treviso 22 saw Poolman come off his wing and offload for Cooney to score under the posts, and Roux added try number six from a five-metre scrum moments later.

Lam rang the changes for the hosts around the hour mark, and Treviso began to threaten when they won a penalty at scrum time, and after setting up a five-metre rolling maul knocked the ball on over the line on 65 minutes.

But just a minute later the Italians got their first try for their efforts, using their strength up front to drive Connacht back over the line and Steyn touched down at the back of the scrum.

McKinley’s conversion attempt was unlucky to hit the right post, and there was still time for Carty to go over for Connacht’s final try of the afternoon under the sticks.

Ulster stop the rot with bonus-point Blues win



Ulster ended their three-game Guinness PRO12 losing run in superb style as Ruan Pienaar starred in a bonus-point 35-22 victory against Cardiff Blues.

Charles Piutau, Stuart McCloskey and loosehead Kyle McCall all touched down in a breathless first-half, despite Les Kiss’ side playing their first game for a month.

Openside flanker Chris Henry marked his return to secure the bonus-point win in the second half, with a Louis Ludik charge down sealing the win.

Kristian Dacey’s first-half score followed by tries from Willis Halahalo and Alex Cuthbert gave the Blues hope, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a fifth Guinness PRO12 defeat in six outings.

Despite Ulster boasting much of the early ball, it was the hosts who first ticked over the scoreboard, Steve Shingler needing just four minutes to find his range for a side missing Sam Warburton through illness.

And it could have got better for Blues too as Tom James – eyeing up a seventh try of the season – found room on the left after a wonderful Shingler pass, only for Piutau to hold his own and bundle his man to touch.

But from the first meaningful attack, rewards came, Ulster pinning the home defence right on their line, 11 phases of pressure proving its worth as Piutau dotted down for his second try in Ulster colours.

With Blaine Scully by this point in the sin-bin, Ulster’s numerical advantage came to the fore, McCloskey dancing his way through the defence to make the most of wing Craig Kilroy’s break.

Pienaar’s conversion extended the lead to 11, but the South African was not done there, charging down a kick to allow McCall to power over from short range.

Only Zebre and Benetton Treviso had conceded more than the Blues’ 27 tries before Guinness PRO12 round ten, and with three against their name in quick succession, Danny Wilson’s side had to find form fast.

And they did exactly that with the last play of the half, brilliant footwork from Reynold Lee-Lo setting up Kristian Dacey to bundle over, the deficit 21-8 at the break.

It was Blues’ momentum that carried into the second period with a superb break down the right seeing Cuthbert denied by a high Iain Henderson tackle, enough to see the Ulsterman in the sin-bin.

Yet with Luke Marshall following suit after Henderson’s return, it was Ulster next on the scoreboard, a wonderful break from Tommy Bowe – eyeing up his 65th try in the league – saw quick ball to the left, Henry crossing under pressure from Matthew Morgan to bring the bonus point.

Nick Robinson – making his first Blues appearance since 2009 – almost single-handedly brought his side back, delivering two delicious passes for Halahalo and Cuthbert to dot down within minutes of each other, the jitters certainly present in the Ulster squad.

That was until a second charge-down try sealing the deal, Ludik profiting to touch down for the Irish province’s fifth try in an entertaining clash in Wales, Pienaar maintaining his excellent form with the boot.


Leinster keep up the pace with thrilling Dragons win


©INPHO/Donall Farmer

Leinster kept up the pressure on Guinness PRO12 pacesetters Munster and Ospreys with a bonus-point victory over Newport Gwent Dragons to cut the gap to points difference.

A marauding first half saw Peter Dooley and Ross Molony cross in the space of two minutes at the RDS Arena, with Jack Conan’s score completing an emphatic first half.

Joey Carbery dotted down just a minute into the second period to secure the bonus point, though Pat Howard ensured the Dragons were not out of the fixture heading into the final stages.

And with Sarel Pretorius adding some bite for the Dragons, a purple patch saw them finish with a flourish, the South African ensuring the game closed out with a 28-15 scoreline.

After a tight opening between the sides, it was a moment of magic that brought Leinster their first points of the evening, with Luke McGrath the architect.

The scrum-half elected to take a quick tap penalty, Dooley eventually the man to profit to crash over with 12 minutes on the board.

And it was to get better just minutes later, McGrath again at the heart of the action when offloading to Hayden Triggs, the ball finding its way over to academy graduate Molony to dot down as Leinster came out of the blocks firing.

Angus O’Brien pulled a penalty back for the Welsh region to reduce the gap to 14-3, but moments after Tom Daly came on for his RDS Arena debut, Jack Conan stole the plaudits to barge his way through to get his side’s third score.

That, coupled with another successful Isa Nacewa conversion, extended the Irish lead, with Carbery making no mistake early in the second half.

The international fly-half made the most of some super Rory O’Loughlin work – the man who had his own effort disallowed upon referral from the TMO.

He faked a pass, broke through the tackle and perfectly offloaded to Carbery, with Nacewa’s fourth conversion of the evening seemingly putting Leinster out of sight.

But the Dragons refused to be beaten, Kingsley Jones’ side battling back in mightily impressive fashion, Howard crossing in the corner on 55 minutes for his side’s first score of the evening.

While the tricky conversion was missed, the visitors were not to be done there, with Sarel Pretorius – mightily impressive since coming on as a replacement – dotting down to send the nerves through the Leinster camp.

It was the scrum-half keeping Newport in with a chance of a losing bonus point, but despite the endeavour, it wasn’t quite to be for the Men of Gwent.


Pro12 Round 7 Wrap




Hughes double helps Glasgow Warriors go top of table

Guinness PRO12, Scotstoun Stadium, Glasgow 28/10/2016
Glasgow Warriors vs Benetton Treviso
Glasgow Warriors' Rory Hughes celebrates his try
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Craig Watson

Rory Hughes bagged a double as Glasgow Warriors moved top of the Guinness PRO12 table with a 31-14 bonus-point win over Benetton Treviso at Scotstoun.

Jonny Gray, Mark Bennett, Hughes and Alex Dunbar all crossed for Gregor Townsend’s side in the first half as they wrapped up the four-try bonus point.

The Italians had a penalty try to show for their efforts in the first 40 minutes – Dunbar also sent to the sin bin – but the Scots looked ruthless in attack.

And when man of the match Hughes crossed for his second soon after half-time it looked like the Scottish side might turn the screw and pull away.

However, the Italians – without a win on their travels since the 2012/13 season – refused to buckle and hit back with a Davide Giazzon score shortly after the hour mark while Glasgow debutant Langilangi Haupeakui was in the sin bin.

And the USA international then saw red late on when he received a second yellow for a no-arms tackle to end the match on a sour note for the hosts.

The Warriors have now won their last ten matches against Treviso, whilst the Italians’ most recent success in Scotland was when they beat Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield back in 2012.

So it was of surprise to few that the Warriors came storming out of the blocks and should have had the game’s first try as early as the second minute.

Stuart Hogg collected a clever chip to dive over in the left corner but the TMO spotted that the full-back had grounded the ball before the line and then knocked it on before crossing it.

But that was a temporary stay of execution for the Italians as wave after wave of pressure on the try-line eventually told in the ninth minute when Gray muscled over from close range.

Their second try was not far behind either, a line-out move released Dunbar through the middle and then Bennett cut a fabulous arcing line from left to right to stutter over in the corner.

Russell could not convert this time but at 12-0 the writing appeared to be on the wall for the visitors.

They needed the next score and it duly arrived, with a bit of luck thrown in.

Dean Budd made the break but appeared to have delayed the offload to Alberto Sgarbi too long, but the pass cannoned off the centre’s legs and over the line.

There appeared to be only one winner in the race to the line with Sgarbi certain to score but Dunbar was already committed to the tackle and referee David Wilkinson had little choice but to yellow card the Scotland centre and award a penalty try.

With the simple conversion from Ian McKinley the visitors were within touching distance at 12-7 with a man advantage.

But Townsend’s men came again and despite their numerical disadvantage summoned their third try of the half just before the half-hour mark.

Hughes was the man to go over this time, cutting back onto Henry Pyrgos’ inside ball to coast over under the posts.

And before the break the Warriors had their bonus point and it was Dunbar, back from ten minutes in the sin bin, who collected a loose ball and shrugged off three tacklers to go over.

Russell’s tough conversion bisected the posts as well and at the break Glasgow were 26-7 to the good.

It did not take long after the break for the Warriors to grab a fifth –and it was Hughes again going over in the left corner after Hogg expertly exploited an overlap to release him.

But thereafter the Warriors lost their rhythm after emptying the bench and it was a debut to forget for Haupeakui who received two yellow cards – either side of Giazzon’s score at the back of a driving maul.

It was not the way Townsend would have wanted the game to end but they are top of the standings and well placed to challenge for the title they won for the first time in 2015.

Scannell’s late drop goal lifts Munster above Ulster

Guinness PRO12, Kingspan Stadium, Belfast 28/10/2016
Ulster vs Munster
Munster's Rory Scannell scores a drop goal 
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Rory Scannell’s late drop goal secured Munster a dramatic comeback 15-14 win over Ulster that lifts them above their provincial rivals and back into the Guinness PRO12 top four.

Munster have now won three in a row at the Kingspan Stadium – the first time they have done that since the Second World War – but they had to do it the hard way in Belfast.

First-half tries from Charles Piutau – his first for the club – and Rob Lyttle opened up a 14-0 lead for the hosts who came into the game sitting top of the Guinness PRO12 standings.

But Rory Scannell went over for Munster – who dominated huge swathes of this clash – in first-half stoppage time to trim the gap.

Jaco Taute then crossed in the second half for the visitors but it looked like Ian Keatley’s misfiring boot would cost the away side.

The fly-half – Munster’s hero with a late penalty in this same fixture in January – missed three kicks at a goal and a drop goal and Ulster were clinging on to a 14-12 win as time ticked down.

But up stepped man of the match Scannell to slot a fine drop goal with five minutes remaining and although Jackson came agonisingly close with a drop goal of his own in the last two minutes, it drifted wide and Munster held on.

The home side came roaring out of the blocks and had the game’s first try inside five minutes.

Jackson’s kick to the corner was well batted down by Craig Gilroy despite the attention of two Munster defenders and Piutau was on hand to collect the loose ball and dart over for the score.

Jackson added the extras for a 7-0 lead but for the next half an hour that was as good as it got for the hosts as Munster turned the screw.

But Keatley’s misfiring right foot failed to make the most of a forceful visiting pack that established both territory and possession.

The fly-half missed a drop goal and dragged a penalty horribly wide in the first quarter and the Ulster defence held firm.

They had to make do without Darren Cave who went off injured forcing a backline reshuffle as Piutau moved to outside centre and Gilroy to full-back.

But on a rare foray into the Munster half however, the home side grabbed their second try around the half-hour mark.

A kickable penalty went to the corner and although Munster withstood the driving line-out they hadn’t counted on winger Lyttle.

On as an injury replacement for Cave, the youngster wriggled through three Munster tacklers to dive over under the posts and with Jackson’s extras the home side had a flattering 14-0 lead.

But as the clock ticked into the red at end of first half the visitors finally got their reward as Scannell went over in the right corner. Keatley compounded a poor half by dragging the extras wide and Ulster led 14-5 at the break.

Keatley’s second half didn’t look like it was going to be much better than the first as he smacked a penalty against the post to keep Ulster nine points in front.

And as the heavens opened, the game tightened up and neither side could find a breakthrough as the hour mark approached.

But Munster kept coming, picking and going around the corner and eventually the dam broke as Taute cut a hard line to roll over and dot down their second try.

Rory Scannell took over the kicking duties and duly slotted the conversion and the home side’s lead had been trimmed to just 14-12 with quarter of an hour remaining.

Ulster then wasted the chance to immediately respond when Jackson dragged a penalty wide and it stayed a two-point game into the final ten minutes.

Scannell then held his nerve while Jackson – the drop goal hero last weekend in Europe on the same ground – saw his effort drift just wide.

Venditti’s late try sees Zebre make history in Edinburgh


Zebre recorded their first ever Guinness PRO12 win in Scotland as Giovanbattista Venditti’s late try handed them a dramatic 19-14 victory over Edinburgh.

The Italians had not won on eight previous visits to the country but when Damien Hoyland’s interception attempt failed, Venditti went over for the 78th-minute try which made history.

The unerring boot of Carlo Canna and some resilient defence had given Zebre a 12-0 lead with half an hour remaining but a pair of converted front-row tries – from Ross Ford and Murray McCallum – looked to have got Edinburgh out of jail.

However, Venditti’s score broke their hearts and snapped a three-game winning streak in the process.

Zebre may have suffered five consecutive Guinness PRO12 defeats to start the season but they began strongly at BT Murrayfield, continuous pressure yielding a penalty in front of the posts which Canna duly converted.

The Italians’ defence then stepped up to deny Edinburgh a quick response, winning turnover ball in their own 22 on multiple occasions.

With the hard running of Viliame Mata and the searching kicks of Jason Tovey and Hoyland, it appeared to be only a matter of time before the hosts got on the scoreboard but Zebre consistently cleared their lines.

And they got even more respite on 26 minutes as Canna slotted another three-pointer from in front of the posts to double the lead.

Edinburgh spurned an opportunity to halve the deficit seven minutes before the break, opting to boot a kickable penalty to the corner before coming up short in search of a try.

Instead, the Italian outfit promptly went down the other end and Canna nailed three more points for a 9-0 half-time lead.

The hosts looked certain to score just after the half-time interval following a great break from Phil Burleigh and nice work from Mata but Allan Dell knocked on at the line.

And they were again punished as the boot of Canna did more damage to extend the advantage to 12-0, before the Italian international lost his perfect record from the tee on 52 minutes as he failed to bisect the posts with his fifth attempt.

Edinburgh got themselves back in the contest with 18 minutes remaining as Ford was the beneficiary of an inexorable driving maul and Blair Kinghorn nailed the tricky touchline conversion.

Relentless play at the breakdown then culminated in McCallum powering his way over the line for his first Edinburgh try and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne’s extras gave the hosts their maiden lead of the game on 68 minutes.

However, with just two minutes left, Hoyland missed his interception and Federico Ruzza sent in Venditti for the pivotal try – Canna also slotting the conversion for a famous victory, Zebre’s first away win in any competition since beating Worcester Warriors in the European Challenge Cup back in January.

Scarlets make it four in a row with derby win over Cardiff Blues

©INPHO/CameraSport/Simon King

Scarlets recorded a fourth Guinness PRO12 win in a row as they secured a 26-15 bonus-point victory over Cardiff Blues in an absorbing Welsh derby at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.

An open first half saw Scarlets notch three tries – Aaron Shingler, Jonathan Evans and DTH van der Merwe all dotting down – to their hosts’ one through Tom James.

Hadleigh Parkes then appeared to put the visitors out of sight shortly after the interval and despite Blaine Scully’s spectacular finish giving the Blues a glimmer of hope, they ultimately suffered a third Guinness PRO12 defeat in a row for the first time since November 2015.

It was the visitors who got off the perfect start on seven minutes as Rhys Patchell’s dangerous, hanging cross-field kick against his old club earned the Scarlets an attacking line-out and after seven phases of persistent pressure, Shingler used his powerful frame to barrel forward and stretch out to dot down.

Patchell duly added the conversion and did the same three minutes later as Scarlets crossed again – van der Merwe superbly scooping up and darting from the base of a ruck before offloading out the back of his hand for Evans to canter over.

But barely two minutes after that score, a back-and-forth passage of play ended with the hosts going over to narrow the deficit to 14-7.

A knock-on in the visiting 22 looked to have ended the Blues’ chances of a score as the Scarlets countered with pace but a loose John Barclay pass was gleefully intercepted by James, who sauntered over for his 40th Guinness PRO12 try.

The breathless nature of the derby continued and with both teams adventurously flinging the ball about, it was no surprise when another interception led to the game’s fourth score on 22 minutes.

Aled Thomas plucked Steve Shingler’s pass out of the air in his own 22 and reached halfway before passing to speedster van der Merwe to do the rest, the Canadian jogging clear to seemingly put the visitors on course for a fourth successive Guinness PRO12 win at 21-7 ahead.

And they held that lead until half-time thanks to some superb last-ditch defending, with the Blues spending the final ten minutes of the half camped in the Scarlets 22 but ultimately leaving pointless.

Danny Wilson’s men needed to score first after the break but instead, with just 40 seconds on the clock, Scarlets wrapped up the four-try bonus point.

Patchell’s dummy pass enabled him to burst through a hole in the defence on halfway and he feinted past full-back Matthew Morgan before offloading to Parkes for the score, although the missed conversion ended Patchell’s 100 per cent record from the tee.

Steve Shingler’s 46th-minute penalty narrowed the gap to 26-10 and when Will Boyde was sent to the sin-bin with 25 minutes left, the Blues had a glorious chance to get themselves back in contention.

They did just that as Scully collected a bouncing pass on the right and went airborne to avoid going into touch, acrobatically dotting down in the corner.

Shingler’s conversion attempt sailed just wide and despite Aaron Shingler getting yellow-carded for the Scarlets soon after, the Blues couldn’t close the gap any further as they suffered a third league loss in a row.


Giles scores twice as Ospreys ease past rivals Dragons


Keelan Giles scored two more tries as Ospreys returned to the top of the Guinness PRO12 with a convincing 35-17 bonus-point win against Newport Gwent Dragons at the Liberty Stadium.

The home side struggled in the first 20 minutes but as soon as Tom Habberfield scored their first try victory seemed inevitable, as they preserved their strong record against the Dragons – who they have not lost to in the Guinness PRO12 since 2012.

Scott Baldwin, released from Wales international duty to start the match along with flanker Dan Lydiate, scored Ospreys’ second from a rolling maul just before the break.

And in the second half Ospreys cut loose as Giles made it eight tries in four appearances with his pair, while Brendan Leonard put the icing on the cake late on before the Dragons scored two consolation tries through replacement Matthew Screech and Pat Howard.

The Dragons, who have won just once all season, handed a first start to scrum half Tavis Knoyle, who partnered the recalled Nick Macleod at fly-half.

And the visitors made a bright start by moving the ball confidently and quickly, earning a fourth-minute penalty which Macleod slotted over.

Ospreys’ slow start got worse minutes later when prop Dimitri Arhip was handed a yellow card, but the Dragons failed to make their extra man advantage count as they coughed up the ball when just inches from the try line.

And they were made to pay when Ospreys scored the game’s opening try in the 22nd minute as captain Habberfield caught the Dragons out when he picked the ball up off the back of a five-metre scrum, held off desperate tackles and planted the ball down to give his side the lead.

From there, the home side enjoyed more possession and territory and with that their confidence grew as speedy winger Giles darted down the right, only to be bundled into touch just five metres out.

But they scored their second try just before the break as some neat footwork from Josh Matavesi in his own half, allowed him to release Giles through the heart of the Dragons side.

After he was dragged down, the referee awarded Ospreys a penalty which they kicked for touch, and a rolling maul was capitalised on by hooker Baldwin who powered over.

Giles was kept largely quiet in the first half but he came alive minutes after the break as he scored Ospreys’ third try after breaking through from close range.

And just over ten minutes later the 18-year-old took advantage of a Dragons handling error by booting the ball forward and beating the Dragons defence to the ball to score his second of the match to secure Ospreys a bonus point.

Ospreys controlled the game from there, defending well and preventing the Dragons from getting anywhere near the try line.

And they wrapped it up thanks to former New Zealand international Leonard, who darted over from close range following a ruck, before the Dragons scored through Screech who muscled over.

Howard scored with the last action of the game with a neat try in the corner after a the ball was moved quickly right, but the visitors’ comeback was cut short as they ran out of time.

Leinster move top with victory over Connacht

Guinness PRO12, RDS, Dublin 29/10/2016
Leinster vs Connacht
Leinster's Adam Byrne gathers the ball to score his sides opening try
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

A try for both Leinster wings saw them move to the top of the GUINNESS Pro12 table, level on points with Ospreys and Glasgow Warriors, after a 24-13 victory over Connacht.

Adam Byrne and debutant Barry Daly both crossed for the home side at the RDS Arena with Isa Nacewa adding 14 points with the boots while Shane Delahunt got a consolation Connacht try.

The win stretches the Leinstermen’s winning streak at home to 19 matches and saw them avenge the Guinness PRO12 final defeat to Connacht last year.

Connacht enjoyed the better of the early stages and took the lead when Craig Ronaldson successfully a converted a penalty after Cian Healy was penalised.

Ronaldson doubled the visitors lead after 13 minutes with a second penalty from the right-hand side just outside the 22.

Leinster finally managed to get themselves onto the scoreboard after 23 minutes as the New Zealand born Isa Nacewa knocked over a straight forward kick from in front of the posts.

Flanker Sean O’Brien was then shown a yellow card for an illegal clear out at a ruck but it didn’t prevent Nacewa levelling the scores after 32 minutes.

With O’Brien seconds away from returning to the field, it was Connacht’s turn to be temporarily reduced to 14 men as outside-centre Peter Robb was given his marching orders.

Robb was stretching for an interception but only managed to knock on and referee John Lacey adjudged it to have been deliberate.

And it was the home side that took the lead into the break as Nacewa knocked over the resulting penalty with 38 minutes on the clock.

Connacht piled on the pressure as the clock ticked past 40 minutes but a knock on just metres out from the Leinster line saw their opportunity go begging.

The crucial score of the game came ten minutes after the break as Byrne scored his third try in Leinster colours.

The home side had a five-metre scrum and after a few tight phases, hooker Jack Conan’s good hands found Byrne in space with the winger cleverly waiting for the bounce before gathering and diving over the line.

Nacewa missed the conversion but had his fourth successful penalty of the afternoon just before the hour mark.

Leinster sealed the victory with five minutes left on the clock, as winger Barry Daly sealed a dream debut with try from close range.

Shane Delahunt added a late consolation try with an excellent line to break through the Leinster defence which had been impregnable up until the last minute of the game.

Read more at at Pro12 Website

Pro 12 Wrap




Connacht 30 Ulster 25

Defending Guinness PRO12 champions Connacht produced a stellar performance to down league leaders Ulster 30-25 as Cian Kelleher bagged a double.

Kelleher scored twice, while Jack Carty and James Connolly also touched down for Connacht as they continued their recent resurgence following a slow start to the new campaign.

Connacht started like an express train, desperate to dispel a poor record against Ulster that has seen them win just three of their last 26 encounters against their Irish compatriots.

Carty waltzed through under the post after only three minutes for the game’s opening score after Connacht had put together multiple phases in the Ulster 22 following a smart break from hooker Dave Heffernan. Carty also added the extras off the tee.

Ulster, who welcomed wing Tommy Bowe back into their starting XV for the first time in six months, sat top of the Guinness PRO12 table with five wins from five before kick-off but the opening exchanges were even.

And the visitors dragged themselves back into contention minutes later as Paddy Jackson slotted over a simple penalty to make the score 7-3.

Pat Lam’s champions, who have been hit by a spate of injuries this week, got off and running for the season last time out with a 28-15 defeat of Edinburgh and the win seemed to buoy Connacht as they dominated the opening exchanges against Ulster.

And things got even better for Connacht on 23 minutes as Kelleher finished off a flowing team move to score his side’s try of the game, producing a smart sidestep to finish things off. Carty this time struck the woodwork with his conversion in a swirling wind to leave the score at 12-3.

Straight from the restart Connacht strung together multiple phases again, resulting in replacement Connolly powering his way over for his side’s third score of the night after missed tackles saw the home side go from one end to the other.

After a difficult start to their PROI2 title defence, Connacht finally seemed to finally find their form of last season and Carty added to the strong start by adding the conversion to make the score 19-3.

Ulster were handed a lifeline on 32 minutes as Conor Carey was sin-binned for side entry from a driving maul as Connacht attempted to fend off heavy pressure from the visitors.

The numerical advantage eventually paid off as Craig Gilroy ran in for a try uncontested score out wide, cashing in on continued Ulster pressure – Jackson missed the resulting conversion.

Carty added a crucial score on 38 minutes to take the score back to 22-8 as he held his nerve to land a much-needed penalty.

Ulster looked a complete different side after the break and scored two quick tries in just a matter of minutes to turn the game on its head.

First hooker Rory Best burrowed his way over from close range, with Jackson adding the extras, before Bowe created a score for stand-in skipper Jared Payne to run in under the posts, with again the Ulster No.10 converting to leave the scores all square at 22-22.

Connacht refused to roll over though and Kelleher scored his second try of the night on 52 minutes to edge his side in front, scoring out wide after another flowing team move.

While Carty, who missed the conversion after Kelleher’s score, edged Connacht further in front with a penalty to make the score 30-22 soon after.

Jackson reduced the score to 30-25 with a well struck penalty on 65 minutes, while the Ulster fly-half thought he had darted over for a try minutes later but was penalised for accidental offside.

Ross Kane was sin-binned late in the game for Ulster as their challenge to win the game faltered late on.

Edinburgh 45 Benetton Treviso 10

Damien Hoyland’s first-half try-double set the tone as Edinburgh won their first game under acting head coach Duncan Hodge in style.

Hoyland – who scored twice the last time he faced Treviso – was joined on the scoresheet by Hamish Watson and Magnus Bradbury in a half that saw Edinburgh wrap up the try-bonus point.

And though Marco Fuser’s try cut into the deficit after the break, this was to be Edinburgh’s night as Tom Brown – with help from an inspired Jason Tovey – added two more tries for the hosts.

Blair Kinghorn, on his first start of the season, rounded things off with another try at the death.

Hodge had promised the BT Murrayfield a big performance and it looked as if he would prove true to his word when Hoyland touched down with four minutes gone.

The Scotland wing was first to react to a loose ball from a ruck and stormed across the whitewash from some 70 yards out, with Welsh fly-half Tovey converting.

The hosts doubled up moments later, this time Chris Dean doing all the hard work with a superb break before Watson broke through the tackles to touch down.

Tovey made it two conversions from two before the game settled down for a spell – and crucially for Treviso, Tommaso Allan slotted a penalty to get them on the board.

But Hoyland piled the pain on the Italians on the half-hour with another smart finish and Tovey was on target for the third time with the extras.

Hoyland was involved once more soon after, combining with Dean and Mike Allen before back-rower Bradbury was set free to race home from 60 metres out.

Tovey took his personal tally to eight with the conversion and suddenly Edinburgh were 26-3 to the good, which is stayed until half-time.

Treviso showed admirable spirit upon the restart and responded when Fuser rumbled over four minutes into the half, Allan on target with the extras.

It was only to be momentary respite for Treviso – who have not won away from home since December 2014 – as a sumptuous Tovey miss pass opened up the space for Brown to dive over.

Edinburgh made a slew of replacements on the hour mark including a first Edinburgh appearance for young prop Murray McCallum.

The hosts’ sixth of the night also came through Brown and Tovey was the creator again, placing his cross-field kick where only his wing could reach it.

Tovey’s kick then put Edinburgh 40 up before Kinghorn finished a flowing move to round off a morale-boosting night for the home side.


Ospreys 46 Cardiff Blues 24

Ospreys scored seven tries as they recovered from an early deficit in their Guinness PRO12 Welsh derby with Cardiff Blues to win 46-24 as Eli Walker starred with a double.

Alun Wyn Jones, two tries from Walker and Dimitri Arhip all scored before the break for the Ospreys as they took control of the game, while Ben John and Dan Evans touched  down straight after half-time in the romp, with Josh Matavesi adding No.7.

Gareth Anscombe slotted over an early penalty for Cardiff Blues but Ospreys replied almost immediately through Sam Davies off the tee.

The Blues fell to a narrow 16-13 defeat to Leinster last weekend, having held a ten-point advantage at the interval but they seemed back to their best against the Ospreys as they dominated the early exchanges.

The Ospreys were penalised at the breakdown on the halfway line after 17 minutes, Anscombe found touch to bring his side back into the Ospreys 22m.

And a great driving maul from the resulting line-out saw Kristian Dacey drive over, with Anscombe adding the extras.

Ospreys were looking to return to winning ways following consecutive defeats to Leinster and Ulster in recent weeks, with Davies preferred to Dan Biggar at No.10 in an otherwise unchanged 15 from last weekend’s loss at the Kingspan Stadium.

But the home side struggled to assert themselves against a pumped up Cardiff in the first quarter of the game.

Dan Fish’s kick was charged down inside his own 22m by Davies on 20 minutes. Referee Nigel Owens looked to the TMO for a potential off the ball tackle and Fish was sin-binned attempting to atone for his error.

Ospreys kicked to the corner from the resulting penalty and Welsh international Alun Wyn Jones was the lucky recipient from the resulting pressure as he burrowed his way over for his 100th point for his side. Davies added the extras to level things up.

And it could have got worse for Cardiff on 24 minutes but Davies missed his drop goal to put the Ospreys in the box seat.

The Ospreys took further advantage of the extra man, as Eli Walker found space on the right to dive over on 27 minutes but Davies missed the conversion.

And things got even worse for Cardiff Blues minutes later as Walker scored his second try of the night for the now rampant Ospreys.

Dan Evans gathered a deep kick and broke to give the Ospreys a good platform, with the ball shipped wide to Walker to score and Davies added the extras to make it 22-10.

And the Ospreys sealed the bonus point, with Dimitri Arhip this time crossing the whitewash to make the score 27-10 but Davies hit the woodwork with his conversion.

Ospreys extended their lead on 41 minutes as Ben John was awarded a score from close range via the TMO, with Davies adding the extras.

And just four minutes later the Ospreys added their sixth score of the game as Dan Evans crossed, with Davies this time missing the conversion to leave the score at 39-10.

Tom James pulled a score back for Cardiff after the hour mark, with Anscombe adding a conversion for the Blues.

But the comeback was short-lived as Josh Matavesi scored the Ospreys seventh try, with Dan Biggar extending the score to 46-17.

Reynold Lee-Lo went over for another late score for Cardiff to soften the blow of their heavy defeat, with Anscombe again adding the extras off the tee.


Leinster 25 Munster 14

Isa Nacewa grabbed a double as Leinster leapfrogged Munster in the Guinness PRO12 table with a 25-14 victory over their fierce rivals at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.

Leo Cullen’s men have now won seven of their last eight meetings at the Aviva while Munster’s poor recent record against fellow Irish provinces continues.

Skipper Peter O’Mahony crossed for the visitors in the first half and they had plenty of opportunities but Leinster were too clinical with Nacewa their tormentor in chief.

The winger finished with a try in each half while scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park also crossed in the second period for the boys in blue.

Munster – who have started this season in impressive fashion – have now only won one of their last six clashes against Irish opposition but did get a late consolation through Jaco Taute.

It was the home side who hit the front from the outset, two Jonathan Sexton penalties in the first ten minutes opening up a 6-0 lead.

Either side of those kicks Leinster came agonisingly close to the first try of the game when Gary Ringrose and Sexton combined to release Nacewa down the left but the winger was collared by a superb try-saving tackle by Simon Zebo.

Despite the scoreline, the majority of the rugby in the first quarter was actually played by Munster – muscular carries through the middle creating inroads.

And eventually their pressure told as skipper O’Mahony – in his first start for his province since May of last year – went over at the back of a rolling maul.

Tyler Bleyendaal added the extras to put the Red Army in front at 7-6 but Leinster nearly responded immediately.

Sexton’s clever kick in behind released Ringrose who seemed certain to score but the young centre knocked on with the try line at his mercy.

That miss did not prove too costly however as Leinster did get their try before the break, Nacewa making up for his earlier wasted chance to go over in the left corner after quick hands from Luke McGrath and Sexton had released him.

The fly-half missed with the extras however, so the home side went into the break at the Aviva Stadium leading 11-7.

Munster made early changes in the second half to their pack – skipper O’Mahony withdrawn for Jack O’Donoghue.

But it was another replacement in James Cronin who nearly got their second try – the prop only denied by the TMO for a double movement as the Munster pack turned the screw.

But having spent most of the first ten minutes trapped in their own half, Leinster turned the tide and struck with real ruthlessness.

Ringrose made the initial incision down the right and when the ball was spread left Nacewa again had a simple run in off a Rob Kearney pass.

This time Sexton did add the extras and at 18-7 in front before the hour mark Leinster looked home and hosed.

And not long afterwards they had a third try, a clever kick in behind from debutant Robbie Henshaw sparking chaos in the Munster back line. Ronan O’Mahony and Bleyendaal both failed to ground the ball and replacement scrum-half Gibson-Park was on hand to dot down.

Nacewa slotted the extras for Leinster as Sexton was withdrawn and while Zebo fed Taute late on for a consolation the damage was done as Leinster went second in the table, only behind Ulster on points difference.

Glasgow Warriors 33 Zebre 28

Leonardo Sarto scored against his former side as Glasgow Warriors battled to their fourth Guinness PRO12 victory of the season in a hard-fought 33-28 encounter against Zebre in Italy.

The Italian international dotted down soon after the restart following superb work by Nick Grigg, with the centre delivering a masterclass to play his part in three tries in the Warriors’ bonus-point success.

Sean Lamont was also on hand to score twice, but the 2014-15 Guinness PRO12 champions far from had the situation their own way against a side who had not beaten them in eight previous encounters in the competition.

But despite their wretched record, it was Zebre who started on the front foot, playing through the phases to eventually catch the visitors offside as Carlo Canna kicked for the early lead.

It wasn’t to last long, however, with Lee Jones haring down the wing, halted in his tracks to find Lamont on hand to dot down with less than ten minutes played.

Despite their lead, Glasgow will have considered themselves far from their fluent best with a number of penalties conceded, Canna making the most of the opportunity to put the hosts 6-5 to the good.

It made for a rather end-to-end encounter as Rory Clegg kicked twice from in front of the posts to restore a Warriors lead, but once again Zebre made the most of a kick-off, hooker Oliviero Fabiani eventually showing great footwork to manoeuvre his way over and level the game.

It seemed as if the game would be on terms by the break, but fantastic work from Grigg saw the centre run from 90 metres from his own 22. He was eventually tackled, but with the Italian defence regrouping, Fraser Brown touched down in the corner for a seven-point lead after a conversion.

It gave the Warriors a head of steam heading into the second half, momentum they made the most of, counter-attacking to good effect as Lamont scored his second of the afternoon, courtesy of another Grigg offload.

Despite a 14-point deficit, Zebre were far from out of the game, but it was a former player who came back to haunt them as Sarto raced down the left wing to score.

Grigg was once again the architect, profiting from a quick penalty to stretch the defence before Sarto mopped up against the side he enjoyed four Guinness PRO12 years until the summer, securing the bonus point in the process.

And the breathless second half showed no signs of letting up, with replacement Thomas Boni putting through a neat grubber for Venditti to collect and run home to make it 18-30 heading to the last quarter.

Rob Harley was sent to the sin bin for pulling down the line-out as Zebre kept pushing, but a strong Glasgow defence kept the difference at a vital 12 points as the clock ticked away for the Italians.

Their pressure eventually told though as Andries van Schalkwyk ran through, and with a successful conversion making it a five-point encounter, a frantic finish was in store.

However, Zebre were not able to get their first win of the Guinness PRO12 season, Clegg kicking the decisive penalty to seal a ninth successive win over their Italian counterparts for Glasgow.

Scarlets 31 Newport Gwent Dragons 27

Steff Evans notched a try-double as the Scarlets survived a scare at the hands of Newport Gwent Dragons to bring up a bonus-point victory and their third win on the bounce.

The Dragons were looking to snap a three-game Guinness PRO12 losing streak and despite Evans’ early try, roared into the lead through Hallam Amos and Adam Warren’s try-double.

Ominously for the Dragons, Liam Williams responded for Scarlets before the break, and Jonathan Evans and Steff Evans then put the hosts firmly back in control heading into the final quarter.

To their credit the Dragons did not wave the white flag and a converted try for Sarel Pretorius meant there were just four points in it, but it was not to be for the visitors.

In the last of the ‘Big Weekend’ match-ups, Evans brought Parc y Scarlets to its feet four minutes in as he scythed through the Dragons defence to complete a superb try, converted by Rhys Patchell.

The Dragons showed their intent when they opted for the corner after winning a penalty, which ultimately came to nothing.

But their positive attitude paid off in the 13th minute as Wales flyer Amos squeezed over in the corner, and Nick Macleod levelled the scores with a fine touchline conversion.

Dragons then leaned on Macleod again ten minutes later as the former Sale Sharks fly-half struck another excellent kick to put the visitors up by three points.

The momentum was well and truly with the Dragons on the half-hour mark as Amos turned provider with a sumptuous kick over Scarlets heads into the path of Warren for the try. The conversion was wide to leave the score at 15-7.

But Warren heaped more woe on the Scarlets soon after as he crossed again upon verification from the TMO. Angus O’Brien, on as a replacement for Macleod, could not convert.

Crucially for the Scarlets they responded almost immediately through Wales full-back Williams and were back to within a score when Patchell made the extras.

O’Brien missed the chance to extend the Dragons’ lead back out to nine points as they went in at half-time 20-14 to the good.

Scarlets first began to claw back the deficit when Dragons were pinged for offside and Patchell pushed a penalty through the posts.

And with an hour gone, the turnaround was complete as Scarlets made good use of line-out ball and Jonathan Evans slipped his way through and over the whitewash.

The Dragons’ resistance was then broken for good moments later, Steff Evans grabbing both his try-double and the try-bonus point for the home side. With Patchell’s conversion, suddenly Scarlets were boasting an 11-point lead.

As befitting this see-saw match back came the Dragons with ten minutes to go, Pretorius conjuring a break before racing under the sticks. O’Brien’s conversion cut the lead down to four.

But to the relief of the home crowd Scarlets made it across the line to ensure they head into the European break on a high note.




Pro 12 Week 5 Wrap



Stander double as Munster reach seventh heaven

Munster’s Irish internationals dominated proceedings against Zebre in a seven-try showing to continue their winning streak on home soil as Peter O’Mahony made his long-awaited return from injury.

In the highest scoring game of the round, Conor Murray, CJ Stander, Simon Zebo, as well as Darren Sweetnam, all scored a try apiece in the first half to seal the bonus point before the break.

It was much the same after the interval as Stephen Archer and a penalty try further extended Munster’s lead, with the Italians pulling back one of their own with nine minutes remaining through Gabriele di Giulio.

But Stander crossed the line once more with two minutes left on the clock to seal a 49-5 victory to make it six wins from six in all competitions for Munster at Thomond Park and ensure they remain hot on the heels of Ulster at the top of the Guinness PRO12 table.

Sexton delivers masterclass from the tee

A Jonathan Sexton-inspired Leinster came from behind to win 16-13 as Cardiff Blues fell to their first defeat of the Guinness PRO12 season.

The in-form Blues, enjoying their best-ever start to the season, had raced to an early 13-3 lead in much part thanks to Gareth Anscombe at the interval despite Sexton giving the visitors the lead from the tee on 19 minutes.

Anscombe brought the Blues level with a long-range effort minutes later, before breaking away from the Leinster defence to run in the first try of the night, adding the remainder of the Blues’ points before the break.

But Leinster came out from half-time with all guns blazing, Rhys Ruddock going over the line and Sexton kicking a further three to continue the visitors’ unbeaten run against the Blues which dates back to 2011.

Jackson’s boot the difference as Ulster seal late victory

Paddy Jackson ensured Ulster’s unbeaten start remained intact with all the Irish side’s points coming from his boot in an attritional 9-7 affair with Ospreys.

With just two minutes left on the clock, Jackson’s decisive penalty gifted Les Kiss’ side the win, despite the Welsh side having led the encounter from the off at the Kingspan Stadium with a blistering opening quarter performance.

On his 50th appearance in an Ospreys shirt, Nicky Smith scored the only try of the match when he bundled the ball over the line from close range after the visitors had twice opened up the hosts’ back-line in the early stages, with Dan Biggar burying the conversion.

But despite Ospreys’ frantic start to the game, Ulster proved an unbreakable force as Jackson kicked three from the tee to ensure their position atop the Guinness PRO12 table.

Warriors survive second-half Dragons comeback

Alex Allan bagged his second-ever PRO12 try as Glasgow Warriors got back to winning ways, despite a battling second-half comeback from Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.

The Warriors, seeking to avoid losing three successive league games for the first time since the 2010/11 campaign, held a 16-3 advantage at half-time thanks to a Corey Flynn try and the boot of Finn Russell.

The Dragons returned to the pitch with renewed intent, scoring two tries in five minutes through Sam Hobbs and Jack Dixon, but their one-point lead was short-lived as Allan put the visitors back in control.

And Russell put the tie to bed with a late penalty to make it 26-17 as the Warriors sealed their fifth consecutive victory over the Dragons.

Sin bin no issue as Scarlets prevail in Treviso clash

Even a sin bin couldn’t prevent Scarlets sealing a comfortable 22-6 victory in Italy as they scored two tries when down to 14 men on their travels to Benetton Treviso.

In what was the Scarlets’ second win of the week, it was the hosts who got the first points on the board as Tommaso Allan slotted over a penalty, and the Italian international gave Treviso the lead once more after Rhys Patchell had equalised from the tee.

After David Bulbring was shown yellow, Scarlets’ numerical disadvantage didn’t sway them from the task at hand as Werner Kruger crossed over and Patchell added the extras to swing the game back in the favour of the Welsh.

DTH van der Merwe touched down to edge the Scarlets further ahead before Kruger saw yellow with three minutes remaining, but it proved no issue for Wayne Pivac’s men as Steff Evans surged clear of Treviso tackles to seal the hosts’ fate.

Champions Connacht back to winning ways against Edinburgh

Reigning PRO12 champions Connacht look to have finally rediscovered the form that saw them lift the title last season as they put four over Edinburgh’s line for their first victory of the campaign.

First-half scores from Niyi Adeolokun and Quinn Roux sandwiched Edinburgh captain Grant Gilchrist’s effort to ensure the hosts took an 18-10 advantage into the interval, despite Jason Tovey gifting Edinburgh the opening points with a penalty from close range.

But Connacht weren’t prepared to rest on their laurels in front of the Galway faithful as Cian Kelleher crossed over the whitewash five minutes after the second-half whistle for his first try in Connacht colours.

Mike Allen’s 70th-minute try was no more than a consolation for the Scots however, as Peter Robb raced over in the corner to secure Connacht’s bonus point seven minutes from time and seal a 28-15 victory.


Pro 12 Round 3 Wrap



Inspired Ospreys stroll past Treviso

Sam Davies starred for Ospreys as they continued their impressive start to the Guinness PRO12 season with an emphatic 64-10 win over Benetton Treviso.

The Welsh side are the first team to have secured maximum points from the first three games, after earlier wins against Zebre and defending champions Connacht.

Fly-half Davies was at his creative best as he set up tries for Ben John and Jeff Hassler in the first half during a hot 15-minute spell where Ospreys ran riot and scored four times.

And they continued after the break as Dafydd Howells, Keelan Giles and Alun Wyn Jones all scored to rack up the points in a comprehensive win.

Ospreys were boosted beforehand by the return of Wales internationals Jones and Dan Biggar to the match-day squad, with both set to make their first appearances of the season.

But the match did not get off to a good start as flanker Tyler Ardron was injured in the seventh minute and forced to come off on his 50th appearance for the club.

Treviso were physical in the early stages and forced Ospreys back, as both sides exchanged penalties in a slow start.

Ospreys soon got their backs on the ball though, and Davies superbly set up John with a subtle late pass which released the centre through a gap to touch down under the posts.

Hooker Sam Parry, who scored a hat-trick earlier this season, scored minutes later as he powered over from close range after the Ospreys pack forced Treviso into a series of errors, before Davies released winger Hassler with another smart pass.

And the bonus point was secured before the interval as Dan Evans capitalised on some good work by Howells and captain Tom Habberfield to score.

Howells’ acrobatic finish six minutes into the second half inflicted more pain on Treviso, and it was a sign of things to come for the Italian team as replacement hooker Luca Bisi was sin-binned.

It got worse minutes later when a penalty try was awarded and Ian McKinley was show a yellow for a high tackle on Habberfield.

Biggar and Jones then came off the bench to a rapturous reception, and the fly-half was soon on the board as he converted the penalty try seconds later.

He was busy again soon after as Giles showed off his potential by side-stepping his way through to score his first Ospreys try on his debut, before Ma’afu Fia also powered over.

Jones wrapped it up in the final 10 minutes  with his first try of the season, before Treviso scored in the final minute through Dean Budd – who charged down a Rhys Webb kick and sprinted upfield.

Munster fight back to down valiant Dragons

Cian Bohane’s second-half try was enough to ensure Munster scraped past a battling Newport Gwent Dragons 20-16 at Rodney Parade.

A Tyler Bleyendaal penalty and Jean Kleyn’s first try for the Men in Red ensured they stretched out to an early lead, but Welsh international winger Hallam Amos replied with a well-judged interception and Angus O’Brien kicked well to leave the sides inseparable at the break.

Kingsley Jones’ side took the lead immediately after the break, O’Brien and Bleyendaal trading penalties before the young Welsh pivot put the hosts ahead.

Bohane was on hand to finish with just over 20 minutes remaining, earning Rassie Erasmus’ outfit a second win of the Guinness PRO12 campaign as they rebounded from last weekend’s loss to the still unbeaten Cardiff Blues.

Munster struck first, Bleyendaal knocking over a penalty after ten minutes, but O’Brien pulled the hosts level three minutes later.

Kleyn, on his first start for Munster, powered over from close-range and Bleyendaal kicked the conversion, to put the Irishmen 10-3 ahead after 20 minutes.

Welsh winger Amos had been a standout performer for Jones’ men last week as they struggled to victory over Zebre and he was again their go-to man, plucking a fine interception and racing 50 metres to score his first try of the season, which O’Brien converted.

Erasmus’ side looked to have restored their lead, but they were pulled back for an O’Mahony knock on and the two sides went in level at 10-10.

Munster had struggled with handling throughout the first period and it again blighted their play after the break, a knock on handing Dragons a scrum inside the 22 that instigated a period of pressure from the hosts.

O’Brien made that pay on 40 minutes, kicking his second penalty of the evening to move Dragons 13-10 ahead.

It was to be short-lived, Bleyendaal on target from the tee to punish Dragons’ indiscretion at ruck-time.

O’Brien continued to edge Dragons ahead, the 22-year-old firing over a third penalty as the visitors continued to shoot themselves in the foot.

Bohane’s score was the turning point, but the man himself got lucky. Darren Sweetnam looked to have finished well for Erasmus’ side, but he spilled the ball backwards in going over the line, leaving 25-year-old centre the easiest try he is likely to score, Bleyendaal adding the extras for a 20-16 lead.

Newport had time for one final foray, kicking a penalty deep into the Munster 22 and driving for the line, but it was not to be for Jones’s side – though they did claim a losing bonus point.

Leinster hold on despite Edinburgh comeback

Isa Nacewa scored a try on his 150th Leinster appearance as the Irish side put in a stellar first-half performance in their 33-20 Guinness PRO12 victory away at Edinburgh.

The winger scored Leinster’s third with a simple finish down the right as Leo Cullen’s side put Edinburgh to the sword, despite falling behind to an early Mike Allen try.

However, three tries in 12 minutes, followed by a fourth shortly before the break that secured a bonus point, seemingly settled the game at Murrayfield as Leinster’s irresistible attacking game fired on all cylinders.

But Edinburgh fought back thanks to second-half tries from Hamish Watson and Magnus Bradbury, but Dan Leavy scored his second try in the dying seconds to see off their threat.

The evening started positively for the hosts after prop WP Nel led out his team-mates to mark the occasion of his 100th appearance, before a lightning-fast start brought them a first-minute try.

Some quick hands saw Edinburgh move Leinster’s defence out of position, before Phil Burleigh’s clever kick in behind was perfect for rapid winger Allen to score.

Leinster, who had lost just one of the previous five meetings between the sides prior to this match, took a while to settle down, but once they did they took control.

A quick penalty caught Edinburgh cold allowing Leavy to run through following a neat pass, before Garry Ringrose scored their second try six minutes later after Leinster sucked Edinburgh into the breakdown and exploited the space on the right.

BT Murrayfield lost its vocal edge and six minutes later it fell silent completely as Heaslip and Devin Toner made big carries, hooker Sean Cronin produced a neat pass and Nacewa strolled in for his 34th Leinster try.

The Scottish side went close to responding when debutant No.8 Viliami Fihaki used his power and strength to drive forwards, falling inches short, before Leinster regained the ball at their five-metre line.

And they secured the bonus point minutes later as their muscular pack moved Edinbugh backwards inside the 22 and scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park threw a neat dummy and scrambled over the line from two yards out for his first Leinster try.

Edinburgh’s comeback hopes were dealt a blow just before the break as lock Grant Glichrist was shown a yellow card for collapsing a maul, but Leinster evened up the numbers just after half time as Leavy was punished for a high tackle.

Edinburgh seized the momentum and got back into the match thanks to a powerful finish from Watson, who showed determination to hold off two tackles and touch the ball over the line to reduce the gap to 11 points.

And they almost got the BT Murrayfield crowd on their feet minutes later as Glenn Bryce dived over in the corner, only for the TMO to bring it back for a foot in touch.

Leinster sat back in the half and focused on seeing the game out, but this only encouraged the rejuvenated hosts to pile forward and they set up a tense finale when Bradbury crashed through Leinster’s defence to score.

However, Cullen’s men went up the other end and wrapped it up as Leavy powered over.

Ludik and Henderson lift Ulster to the top of the table

Louis Ludik and Iain Henderson grabbed the tries as Ulster beat Scarlets 19-8 on Friday night at the Kingspan Stadium to move top of the Guinness PRO12 standings.

The men from Belfast have now won three from three to kick off the new campaign – the first time they have done that since the 2013/13 season.

By contrast the Scarlets have now slipped to three defeats on the spin to kick off the new campaign but they can take plenty of credit from a resilient defensive display in Belfast.

Ludik’s first-half score after a fine team counter attack opened out a lead that Paddy Jackson added to with two first-half penalties.

But Liam Williams produced an astonishing try saving tackle on Craig Gilroy in the first half while in the second Ulster were time and again rebuffed on the try-line by fine team defence.

A third penalty from Jackson meant victory looked fairly certain for the hosts but Rhys Patchell kicked one of his own before Will Boyde burrowed over in the right corner for the visitors.

That looked like it had secured a losing bonus point for Scarlets – their first point of the season – but in the final play of the game replacement Henderson smashed his way over from close range after a driving maul to deny them.

The game started brightly with both sides showing characteristic ambition with ball in hand on a clear evening.

It was the visitors who spurned the first chance for points – Patchell pulling a fifth-minute penalty horribly wide.

And Jackson showed him how it was down moments later and the hosts were in front and starting to settle – Stuart Olding and Charles Piutau looking dangerous with ball in hand and Jackson kicking from hand with great accuracy.

A second Jackson penalty – the Ulster scrum getting some early dominance – doubled the lead to 6-0. And in the 20th minute the dominant hosts grabbed the game’s first try with a fantastic counter attack.

Jonathan Davies’ clearing kick was fielded by Gilroy but spread left immediately and first Olding and then Stuart McCloskey made inroads to put Ludik over for a superb score.

Jackson missed with the conversion and at 11-0 the Scarlets were still in contention.

An absolutely magnificent covering tackle from Liam Williams then denied Gilroy a second Ulster try after another Ludik break and the Welsh region were barely hanging on.

Jake Ball didn’t make life much easier for the visitors when his continued ill-discipline earned him a yellow card but at the interval they were still in touch only 11 points down.

Les Kiss will have told his Ulster side to be more clinical with their chances in the second half to put the game to bed but twice Piutau and Ludik failed to link up with the try line gaping.

And the Scarlets – now restored to their full complement after Ball’s return – made them pay soon after as Patchell kicked the Scarlets’ first points of the game to trim the lead to 11-3.

Scott Williams was then introduced for the away side but Ulster continued to dictate affairs – Gilroy and Ruan Pienaar both denied from short range by fantastic last-ditch defence from the visitors.

The hour mark came and went and still Ulster battered against an unbreakable Welsh wall.

And the visitors then wasted a golden chance to bring themselves right back into the game, Steff Evans and Scott Williams combined to put Aled Davies clear but the replacement scrum-half opted to pass when he should have just gone for the line and Piutau gambled correctly to pick off the pass and race up the other end.

Ulster then opted for a late kick at the posts from Jackson to make it 14-3  and effectively seal the win.

But the visitors fought hard for a losing bonus point and they looked to have got it when Boyde collected Scott Williams’ pass on the overlap down the right to score only the region’s second try of the season.

But Henderson denied them with the last play of the game to move Ulster top of the standings.

Lee-Lo stars as Blues make it three in a row

Cardiff Blues maintained their dream start to the Guinness PRO12 season as they edged a thriller against Glasgow Warriors 23-19 at the BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.

First-half tries from Alex Cuthbert and Rey Lee-Lo got them on their way, and despite huge pressure from the Warriors, who scored three tries of their own through Stuart Hogg, Peter Horne and Ali Price, Danny Wilson’s men held on.

The win allows the Blues to maintain a start which has seen them beat Edinburgh and Munster already, and they carried that form into this clash with a blistering opening in the Welsh capital.

Lee-Lo is a key carrier in their midfield and it was on one such burst that the Blues took the lead, with Gordon Reid penalised for not rolling away and Gareth Anscombe slotting three points after just two minutes.

Glasgow, meanwhile, had in-form Tommy Seymour struggling with a knock early after a big tackle from Lee-Lo, and Cardiff had soon doubled their lead.

Again it came from Warriors indiscipline at the breakdown, Ryan Wilson pinged after a prolonged spell of pressure.

Then on 25 minutes the try finally came, with Cuthbert getting his first of the season. After a few charges from the forwards, the home team spread the ball and Anscombe’s pass in behind Lee-Lo sent Cuthbert straight through for the easy finish.

With Anscombe’s conversion the lead was 13-0 and Glasgow looked to be in real trouble, but they hit back immediately.

They had barely been in Cardiff territory, but when they got the opportunity, they pounced with Hogg getting on the end of an inside ball after some quick hands in the Warriors backline.

Rory Clegg converted and Glasgow should have taken the lead five minutes later when they worked a massive overlap, but Hogg’s wide pass was dropped by Wilson and the home side got away with it.

It was only a temporary respite for the Blues though, with the visitors pouncing on an error from Josh Navidi. As the No.8 carried from the base of the scrum he knocked it on allowing Clegg to regain possession. The ball was shifted to Horne, who showed his power to get over, wriggling out of one tackle before crossing. Clegg converted to give Glasgow the lead for the first time.

However right on the stroke of half-time, the home side got back in front thanks to some quick-thinking from Anscombe.

Seemingly about to kick the ball out for a penalty, he instead tapped and went and put Tom James away. A few phases later and it was Lee-Lo who crossed after good work by Navidi to feed him. Anscombe nailed the conversion to make it 20-14 at the break.

Cardiff started the second half well, with a searing break from James, but the Glasgow defence got back in time to avert the danger.

And it was the visitors who got back to within a point on 50 minutes. Lee Jones got away down the wing and after the ball was recycled quickly, Price decided to go himself and wormed his way past Nick Williams and over. Clegg couldn’t convert so Glasgow still trailed by one.

Cardiff could have killed off the game when Steven Shingler sliced through, but he couldn’t find his support with just one man to beat.

They did however stretch the lead to four points with a penalty from Shingler, Josh Turnbull having been taken out at a lineout.

And although Glasgow reclaimed the ball from the restart, they couldn’t find a way through and the Blues hung on.
More to Follow…..

Pro 12 Round 1 Wrap



Leinster start with a victory

Leinster got their PRO12 season off to a winning start but they missed out on a try bonus-point in their 20-8 victory over Treviso in Dublin.

Two Joey Carbery tries helped the Irish province ease their way past Treviso to secure four points on the opening day of the season.

The home side went ahead after three minutes, and remained in the driving seat from there on in.

Carbery’s double was added to by James Tracy late in the game, with Treviso’s only response coming from lock Marco Fuser.

Just three minutes in to the new season, the home supporters were rewarded with their side’s first try of the season from debutant Carbery, followed by Fergus McFadden slotting the conversion to make it 7-0.

After a quiet 25 minutes, Carbery was able to break free of the Treviso defence, before scoring his second of the night from more than 40 metres out.

McFadden’s touchline conversion drifted wide, but he atoned for his errors moments later with a fine penalty.

The visitors hit back just before the break as Fuser crossed the whitewash, making the most of a spell of sustained pressure from the Italians.

In the second half Tommaso Allan opened his account for the season with a simple penalty from the 22-metre line as the Italians looked for a way back in to the tie.

Tracy found the whitewash from the back of a driving maul to all but finish the tie off, giving the hosts a 12-point lead with just six minutes left on the clock.

The scorers:

For Leinster:
Tries: Carbery 2, Tracy
Con: McFadden
Pen: McFadden

For Treviso:
Try: Fuser
Pen: Allan

Eight-try victory for Ospreys

Ospreys started the new season in impressive style on Friday as they cruised to a 59-5 PRO12 victory over Zebre at the Liberty Stadium.

Sam Parry became the first ever Ospreys forward to score a hat-trick, Ben John came off the bench to add two, with Lloyd Ashley, Ashley Beck and Dafydd Howells completing the rout.

With the bonus point secured before the break, Zebre’s only reply came through Tomasso D’Apice, but the Italians were prevented from creating any other chances.

With five minutes on the clock, Ospreys Sam Davies opened his account for the season with a penalty, before a well worked line out saw Parry score the hosts’ first try of the season, which was converted by Davies.

Ashley was next to add to the scoresheet, after showing a great turn of pace to beat his man and find the corner. Davies’ touchline conversion sailed through the uprights, taking the score to 17-0.

Ospreys continued to press before Beck found his way over the try line, as he spun his man and darted home from close range to the left of the posts, making the conversion a formality for Davies.

Zebre hit back just past the half hour mark, as D’Apice crashed over at the back of a driving maul, although Edoardo Padovani failed to find his range from the tee.

A second of the game for Parry saw Ospreys go in at the break having already secured a bonus point, as the hooker broke through the middle of a maul and reached for the line.

Parry repeated the feat shortly after the break, scoring an almost identical try to secure his hat-trick, before Davies added the extras with ease.

Shortly after entering the fray as a replacement, John made a clean break before crashing over the line for the Welsh side’s sixth try of the night, as Davies converted with ease to extend their lead to 40 points.

Zebre replacement Tommaso Boni was sent to the sin-bin with 14 minutes remaining, as John came close to scoring his second try of the night, but couldn’t quite collect the offload just a metre from the try line.

Ospreys finally made the most of their numerical advantage with a great break from Dan Evans, who was able to find Howells with an inventive cross-field kick to finish the move. Davies’ kick soared through the posts.

Eventually John did score his second, and Ospreys’ eighth of the night, after collecting Justin Tipuric’s offload to finish the scoring in emphatic fashion. Davies slotted his eighth conversion of the night, as the Italians fell to a 59-5 defeat.

The scorers:

For Ospreys:
Tries: Parry 3, Ashley, Beck, John 2, Howells
Cons: Davies 8
Pen: Davies

For Zebre:
Try: D’Apice

Pienaar scores in Ulster win

Ruan Pienaar picked up the man-of-the-match award and scored a try in Ulster’s 29-8 victory over the Dragons in their PRO12 clash.

It has been a traumatic week for Ulster fans with the news that star man Pienaar departs at the end of the season. But nothing lifts the mood like a substantial win and the Belfast side delivered one on Friday.

Rookie Rob Lyttle scored a brace and his efforts were supplemented by tries from Jacob Stockdale, Rob Herring and of course, that man Pienaar.

The Dragons actually scored first through Pat Howard and the Welsh visitors kept Ulster to a slim half-time lead.

The Irish province pulled away with a second half performance that was very clinical, albeit leaving them with plenty to work on. However, the hosts will certainly be happy with a bonus point win in their first game.

The Dragons bagged the first points courtesy of a five minute Nick Macleod penalty.

It was all the visitors early on and they got the first try on 11 minutes when Howard gathered a clever Macleod kick to touch down in the corner. The conversion was missed, but that didn’t detract from the Dragons’ early dominance.

Ulster looked okay when they got the ball, Charles Piutau showing some nice touches, but the home forwards struggled to win enough possession.

Ulster hit back well on 22 minutes, though. Pienaar showed the Ravenhill faithful what they’ll miss next season by making a cutting break before cleverly chipping ahead, and his stray ball was gathered by replacement Lyttle to touch down. Pienaar converted to make it 8-7 to the Dragons.

The home side had finally hit its stride and Stockdale got the second try four minutes later when he scored in the left hand corner, Pienaar missing the conversion this time.

It got a bit fractured after that and both sides struggled for any continuity. The hosts had a greater deal of control, however, and the firepower to make their dominance count. Half-time arrived with a slim Ulster lead then, but the Ravenhill men were slowly starting to find their rhythm.

It was the Irishmen who started the second half better and they scored again on 45 minutes when talisman Pienaar charged down Dragons’ full-back Carl Meyer’s clearance kick to get Ulster’s third try, missing his conversion.

The visitors tried valiantly to get some territory and made some good inroads through skipper Thomas Rhys Thomas, but the Ulster defence kept them pinned back in their own half.

Kingsley Jones’ men were holding their own up front, but struggled badly for creativity and cohesion behind the scrum. For their part, Ulster struggled to close out the game and seemed content to keep it tight rather than stretch the Dragons’ defence.

The door was unlocked eventually on 65 minutes, though, when Lyttle grabbed his second try to seal the bonus point. Pienaar again missed the conversion, but the game was over as a contest.

The hosts got over again on 71 minutes when a mighty rolling maul allowed replacement Herring to score. Ulster’s scrum-half converted this time to give his side a mammoth 29-8 lead. The Ulstermen weren’t threatened again as they closed it out comfortably to open their account with a good win.

The scorers:

For Ulster:
Tries: Lyttle 2, Stockdale, Pienaar, Herring
Cons: Pienaar 2

For Dragons:
Try: Howard
Pen: Macleod

Munster get the better of Scarlets

Munster registered a hard-fough 23-13 victory over the Scarlets in their PRO12 opener at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.

The first half saw three tries, with James Cronin and Ronan O’Mahon crossing for Munster and Gareth Davies scoring for the Scarlets.
In the second half, two Tyler Bleyendaal penalties and three points from Rhys Patchell were the only additions to the scoreboard.

Despite a period of early dominance from Scarlets, it was Munster who grabbed the first score of the game. Munster loosehead prop James Cronin powered over and placed the ball at the foot of the posts, with Bleyendaal converting.

Just before the half hour mark, Scarlets opened their account with a penalty from Rhys Patchell. The Scarlets defence was exposed again with Ronan O’Mahony able to sprint under the posts from 40 metres for Munster second try.

Scarlets eventually got the try their possession deserved couresty of a wonderful solo effort through talismanic scrum half Gareth Davies, with Patchell adding the extras.

A Bleyendaal penalty just before half time restored Munster’s seven point lead going into the break. Patchell closed the gap to four once again just after the break with his second penalty of the evening.

The battle of the kickers continued, with Bleyendaal kicking two further penalties to extend Munsters lead to ten points. To the frustration of the Scarlets players, they were unable to overcome the deficit.

A very good away win for Munster will give them confidence ahead of their next game against Cardiff Blues. For Scarlets, they travel to Murrayfield to face Edinburgh.

The scorers:

For Scarlets:
G Davies
Con: Patchell
Pens: Patchell 2

For Munster:
Cronin, O’Mahony
Cons: Bleyendaal 2
Pens: Bleyendaal 2, Keatley

Warriors down Connacht

PRO12 champions Connact made a disastrous start to the season when they suffered a 41-5 loss to Glasgow Warriors in Galway on Saturday.

The first-half got off to a tight start with two of the Pro 12’s best sides each enjoying good spells.

However, Tommy Seymour’s two tries cancelled out Niyi Adeolokun’s effort to establish an eight-point lead at the break. The hosts were relentless in their pursuit of their 2015-16 crown, however, this intensity was absent from their second-half performance as they conceded four tries from Stuart Hogg, Tim Swinson, Sila Puafisi and Sean Lamont.

The score could have been even higher were it not for the notorious Sportsground wind affecting the Glasgow kickers. The resounding 5-41 score line putting down a convincing marker for a Warriors’ title challenge.

2015 champions Glasgow got off to perfect start in the match when, in the 10th minute, some fantastic build-up play found its way to Seymour on the wing. The Scotland international found a burst of pace before touching down in the corner.

Henry Pyrgos missed a difficult conversion attempt leaving the score set at 5-0. However, the Warriors’ scrum-half found his kicking boots with a successful effort at the posts in the 24th minute which extended the visitors’ lead to eight points.

Ryan Wilson was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle in the 28th minute reducing Glasgow to 10 men. This yellow proved to be pivotal as Connacht preceded to pile on the pressure on the visitors, this dominance paid dividends on 33 minutes as Eoin Griffin found Adeolokun on the overlap. The winger beat the defender before crossing in the corner to cut the score to 5-8 after Jack Carty’s conversion attempt was carried wide by the swirling wind.

However, the hosts’ resurgence was stopped in its tracks three minutes later when Seymour scored his second try of the match, evading the attentions of the Connacht defence for another try out wide. Pyrgos’s attempt to add the extras was once more thwarted by the wind to make the half-time score 5-13.

The Warriors started the second half in a similar manner, winning a scrum five metres out before working the ball across to Hogg. The 24-year-old showed great power in shrugging off the hosts’ defensive efforts before touching down after just 90 seconds of the second period had been played. Pyrgos converted to make the score 5-20 to the Scottish side.

Glasgow secured a bonus point after Swinson touched down for the visitors before Pyrgos added the extras to make the score 5-27, placing his side in a commanding position.

Replacement prop Sila Puafisi added a fifth score for the visitors after 58 minutes, burrowing under the tacklers to continue his side’s rout of the defending champions.

In the 70th minute, the rout was completed as Sean Lamont marked his 100th Glasgow appearance with a sniping try from close range. Rory Clegg’s conversion attempt was good and took the score to 5-41 and this was how it finished, a comprehensive bonus point victory.

The scorers:

For Connacht:
Try: Adeolokun

For Glasgow Warriors:
Tries: Seymour 2, Hogg, Swinson, Puafisi, Lamont
Cons: Pyrgos 3, Clegg
Pens: Pyrgos

Cardiff Blues too strong for Edinburgh

Cardiff Blues got their PRO12 campaign off to a winning start when they beat Edinburgh 34-16 at Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday.

The first half got off to a flyer with Cardiff going into the break with a 17-13 lead. A try from Steven Shingler and a penalty try edging the hosts in front.

Solomoni Rasolea scored for Edinburgh in what was a spirited response. However, momentum had swung in the hosts’ favour with the sin-binning of Jamie Ritchie just before the break and they stretched their lead after the interval with Nick Williams and Tomos Williams both scoring.

Kiwi Nick Williams produced a standout performance on his Blues debut both scoring and creating tries as his side put the Edinburgh defence to the sword.

The final score of 27-16 was representative of the difference in performances on the day. Edinburgh opened the scoring after three minutes, the boot of Duncan Weir slotting a penalty between the posts for an early lead.

Four minutes later, the hosts scored the first try of the match, scrum-half Shingler produced a wonderful show and go before steeling in to score.

Shingler converted his own score to edge the Blues into a four-point lead. Edinburgh responded in the 15th minute with a try of their own, Rasolea running a great line to cruise in for a debut try. Weir was successful in his conversion attempt to make the score 7-13.

After 19 minutes the Scotland fly-half was on target once more, this time he produced a colossal penalty kick from over 50 metres out to notch another three points for the visitors. In the 27th minute Shingler kicked a penalty from close range to cut the deficit to three points.

Five minutes later, a dangerous maul from the hosts was collapsed five metres out. Referee John Lacey deemed the offence worthy of the awarding of a penalty try to the Blues.

Irishman Lacey also awarded a yellow card to Ritchie meaning that Edinburgh would go into half-time down a man and with a 17-13 deficit to their hosts.

Shingler took his personal tally to 15 points with a long-range penalty for Blues after 44 minutes. Edinburgh kept themselves in touch of their hosts with a penalty to take the score to 20-16.

After 62 minutes, Nick Williams extended Cardiff’s lead with a try his fantastic performance on debut had merited. Gareth Anscombe successfully converted to extend the Blues’ advantage to nine points.

The hosts desperately pursued a fourth try and were rewarded for their efforts in the 72nd minute as Nick Williams played in Tomos Williams off the back of a scrum to cross the whitewash, taking the score to 34-16 and this was how it finished.

The scorers:

For Cardiff Blues:
Shingler, Penalty try, N Williams, T Williams
Cons: Shingler 2, Anscombe 2
Pens: Shingler 2

For Edinburgh:
Con: Weir
Pens: Weir 3
Yellow Card: Ritchie


Pro12 gets tasty flavors


The Pro12 is described as the most inferior league in Europe- rugby wise. This is a debateable statement considering some of their players featured for the Irish and they managed to push the Springboks to the wire. The depleted Ireland side brought mostly fringe players and they put on valiant performances.


A few of the Welsh stars also went on to give the All Blacks a few headaches and this is especially true with Liam Williams. The money in Europe continues to lure more and more players abroad, while to a far lesser extent the desire to experience a new culture and rugby environment. The Pro12 receives by far the least number of Marquee signings and this season’s list is littered with some quality additions.

Charles Piutau who was breath taking for the Wasps, Willis Halaholo who stepped up and played a vital role for the Hurricanes after the void left by Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith, Jaco Taute who re-unites with Rassie Erasmus at Munster, Jamie Gibson-Park who was a reliable deputy for TJ Perenara and former New Zealand Sevens star Kurt Baker to mention a few exciting and questionable acquisitions. We look at RuggaWorld’s top 4 additions from the Southern hemisphere-

Marcell Coetzee (Ulster)

Ulster seem to like players from the Sharks with Louis Ludik, Johann Muller, Ruan Pienaar and many more to have soaked in chants of ‘Stand up for the Ulster men.’ The latest addition is Marcell Coetzee who is one of the best loose forwards in the world. He will only come into play later in the season but the former Sharks man will no doubt add some breakdown prowess, strong ball carrying and defensive fortitude.

Johnny McNicholl (Scarlets)

Rivals Charles Piutau as the acquisition of the summer. The former Crusaders flyer will be a welcome addition to a back line that boasts quality, exciting players in Gareth Davies and Liam Williams. McNichol has been in sensational form in both Super Rugby and the Mitre 10 Cup. The winger is a try scorer, tackle busting strike runner who may have emerged from the shadow of Nemani Nadolo this season as he was exceptional. Despite questionable defensive efforts, the winger has been in great form and will light up the Pro12.

Marnitz Boshoff (Connacht)

Boshoff is one of the best 10’s in the country and still feel he would have been a valuable addition to the current Springbok side. He has shown his ability with the boot and ball in hand. A vital addition to a Connacht side that managed to win the Pro12 against all odds. With the assistance of Pat Lam, Marnitz could develop his game under the Kiwi’s mentorship. A loss to SA Rugby, a gain to the Pro12. Sharp goal-kicker, great defender and a general.

Marty Banks (Benetton Treviso)

The former Highlanders man is an excellent goal kicker and that is one area Italian rugby has lacked over the last few years. His ability to play 10 and 12 will be of great gain to the side. He will be joined by apt recruits in the squad and in three years could don the Italian national colours. Banks at 1,87m and 90kg he is no small man, which will add to a backline that has lacked bulk over the years. Joining a side that is used to more losing than winning, the impact of the Super rugby winner could go a long way as the Italians look to take their rugby forward after several years in the same spot.

Pro 12 Season Preview


After one of the most memorable campaigns to date, the PRO12 season starts this Friday as Connacht look to defend their title in 2016/17.


Connacht beat Leinster in the final at Murrayfield having edged Glasgow in the semis. Ulster were the other outfit to make the last four.

They will all be hunting the crown along with improved Welsh regions and of course the likes of Munster, who have a new boss at the helm.


Head coach: Danny Wilson
Last season: 7th

Missed out on the top six yet again last season but it was a much-improved effort from the Blues, winning four more games than in 2015/16.

Danny Wilson was still in the infancy of his tenure but an expansive style was evident, which all the players bought into during a season they beat the likes of Connacht, Scarlets and Ulster. However they did lose on the road at both Zebre and Treviso in disappointing results.

The off-season has seen Nick Williams arrive from Ulster and he has already become a fan favourite, but losing Rhys Patchell is a blow to their backline. A lot will rest on the form of Gareth Anscombe at fly-half while Matthew Morgan is set to be a livewire as their full-back.

Player to Watch: The artificial surface at Cardiff Arms Park is going to suit full-back Matthew Morgan, of that there’s no doubt. Opposing teams are set for tough games in defence as Morgan, who hopes for a strong campaign that will push him into the Wales line-up, cuts loose.


Head coach: Pat Lam
Last season: 2nd (champions)

What a season it was for Connacht last time out. They started strongly, as expected due to other teams being hit by World Cup commitments, but following that tournament their form continued to catch the eye. Pat Lam was clearly building something promising at the Sportsground.

Signing AJ MacGinty proved a masterstroke from Lam as he continued his World Cup form being a steady influence at pivot, while Bundee Aki was outstanding behind a solid pack, some of whom were rewarded with Ireland call-ups. It really was a whole team effort though in Galway.

Losing Robbie Henshaw to Leinster is a setback while MacGinty also moves on so it’s going to be a big ask to repeat their 2015/16 heroics.

Player to Watch: Such a talisman in this Connacht backline, Bundee Aki is set to lead another spirited charge this season. They signed him from the Chiefs in 2014 and Aki has never looked back, with the possibility of Ireland caps from October 2017 now very much on the horizon.


Head coach: Alan Solomons
Last season: 9th

Ninth place was a disappointing finish for Edinburgh last season, but it is worth noting they won the same amount of games as the seventh-placed Cardiff Blues. Damian Hoyland topped their try ladder on eight scores while Cornell du Preez was again a threat with ball in hand.

They have a strong side on paper that includes an all-international front-row while John Hardie always impresses on the flank. A lot will rest on the form of Duncan Weir at fly-half as he arrives from Glasgow, looking to ignite a backline now without the departed Matt Scott.

Last season they boasted the third best defence in the whole league after leaking just 366 points so it’s clear that they need to offer a good deal more going forward in possession if they’re to trouble those battling for the play-off spots. That appears unlikely in our eyes.

Player to Watch: Mentioned already and for good reason, Cornell du Preez is such an imposing figure with ball in hand. Much of Edinburgh’s game centres around the South African number eight and when he gets over the advantage line, Alan Solomons’ men profit more often than not.


Head coach: Gregor Townsend
Last season: 3rd (semi-finalists)

The 2015/16 champions launched a solid push up the table in the second half of the season and were never written off due to the class they had in their squad, with the likes of Leone Nakarawa, Jonny Gray, Stuart Hogg, Mark Bennett and many more players of the highest standard.

But they ultimately fell just short at the Sportsground against Connacht in the semi-final as hopes of back-to-back titles came to an end.

This season they enter without the aforementioned Nakarawa, who’s now at Racing 92, and their players also recently discovered that Gregor Townsend would be moving on to the Scotland job at the end of the season. They will be desperate for the perfect send off for their coach.

Player to Watch: Impressive last season for both club and country and Glasgow will need that to continue from Stuart Hogg. He also has the British and Irish Lions tour in the back of his mind so a strong campaign at the Warriors will do Hogg’s chances of touring no harm at all.


Head coach: Leo Cullen
Last season: 1st (runner-up)

Finished top of the pile and had the strongest defence in the regular-season, conceding just 27 tries in 22 games which is a number to be proud of. However, losing the final to Connacht in the manner they did will sting Leinster while their dismal European form was also poor.

Jonathan Sexton struggled to recapture his best form while injuries unfortunately played a part in their campaign, with powerful back-row Sean O’Brien’s absence particularly felt. In contrast, Isa Nacewa’s class and leadership was outstanding as he skippers them this season.

The departure of Ian Madigan is cushioned by Robbie Henshaw’s arrival from Connacht but it’s up front where their strength is as the likes of Richardt Strauss and Sean Cronin rotate as two quality hookers while Jack McGrath’s stock continues to climb as an international prop.

Player to Watch: Leinster need Sexton firing on all cylinders if they are to challenge while an injury free campaign will be the hope for the likes of O’Brien and Cian Healy. Jamie Heaslip is our one to watch though as he looks to lead what is a powerful pack to PRO12 glory.


Head coach: Rassie Erasmus
Last season: 6th

With a new director of rugby in Rassie Erasmus, Munster know that anything less than the play-offs would be a huge disappointment. After finishing sixth last season, winning 13 matches and losing nine, they missed the cut by six points but did qualify for the Champions Cup.

It would have been unthinkable to imagine Munster not being in European club rugby’s main competition, but they did come close to missing out in a disappointing season. Anthony Foley has carried the can somewhat as Erasmus arrives, with Foley now second in command at Munster.

On paper though it’s hard to see a drastic improvement as the backline still looks a touch short in terms of creativity while the arrival of Jaco Taute hardly gets pulses racing. Jean Kleyn should add further steel up front while Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander are vital again.

Player to Watch: Keeping O’Mahony fit is a must for Munster as if he can combine with Tommy O’Donnell and Stander then Munster have a top class back-row trio. Behind them Conor Murray will keep things ticking and it’s his intelligence at nine that makes him so key this term.


Head coach: Kingsley Jones
Last season: 10th

It could be a tough campaign for the Dragons. 10th last season but that doesn’t tell the full story as they were only six points off the basement, with Edinburgh a whopping 28 points ahead of them in ninth. Just four wins all PRO12 campaign was a major step back from them.

They beat Zebre and Treviso by Round 5 and in Round 9 they shocked Munster before doing the same against Leinster in Round 13. Other than that the season made for dismal reading for boss Lyn Jones, who left the region in April 2016, with Kingsley Jones taking over the reins.

The Dragons surely can’t do any worse in 2016/17 and will look to Elliot Dee, Rynard Landman, Sarel Pretorius and Hallam Amos to lead the charge. Making Rodney Parade a tough venue is a must but with no PRO12 win since January it’s vital they stop the rot as soon as possible.

Player to Watch: He impressed in a disappointing season last term and Elliot Dee will be hoping to carry on that progress in 2016/17. The 22-year-old has surely caught the eye of Wales’ coaching team and will hope to learn as much as he can from the experienced T Rhys Thomas.


Head coach: Steve Tandy
Last season: 8th

An eighth-placed finish was a major step back for the Ospreys as they were third in 2014/15. Steve Tandy will wonder how they spiraled so drastically down the standings and many may have pointed the finger at it being a World Cup year, meaning they missed their star players.

However, that was the same story for their rivals so there’s no doubt work has been done on the training field to ensure they bounce back with purpose. Big seasons are expected of Alun-Wyn Jones, a possible Lions captain, Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar while the return from injury of Jeff Hassler is also a boost. Tyler Ardron was another who missed a large chunk of last term so that duo will be like two new signings.

Expect the Ospreys to be much better in 2016/17 and they will hope Kieron Fonotia and Bradley Davies add extra bite to the backs and pack respectively. Anything but a serious play-off push would be a disappointment for Tandy, who could feel the heat if they don’t start well.

Player to Watch: The form of Dan Biggar when he is not on international duty with Wales is going to be crucial to the Ospreys. If he can dominate games then they’ll win more than they lose. Sam Davies rarely lets the region down when Biggar is away so it’s the two 10s here.


Head coach: Wayne Pivac
Last season: 5th

Definitely going in the right direction under former Auckland head coach Wayne Pivac, the Scarlets finished last season in fifth position. With 14 wins they were the strongest Welsh region and will be determined to prove that was a sign of things to come in the coming seasons.

They have recruited particularly well as Werner Kruger, Rhys Patchell, Jonathan Davies, Johnny McNicholl will run out at Parc y Scarlets. McNicholl will arrive after his Mitre 10 Cup commitments and was in excellent form in Super Rugby and could strike up a devastating wing combination with DTH van der Merwe. Elsewhere, Great Britain Sevens star James Davies is set to kick on from 2015/16 with a big campaign.

Expect the Scarlets to do likewise as we don’t envisage them going backwards. On paper they look a strong outside bet to go all the way.

Player to Watch: Patchell will relish playing for the Scarlets this season but it’s hard not to look at James Davies here. The all-action flanker dominated PRO12 games last season yet still missed out for Wales. GB7s saw his talent though and the rest as they say is history.


Head coach: Kieran Crowley
Last season: 12th

It was bottom spot last term after they won just three games all season, those coming against Cardiff Blues, the Dragons and Connacht. In their defence they went close in several of their defeats and ended up having a much stronger points difference (-294) than Zebre (-410).

But, it is results that matter and Treviso were looking up at the rest and will this season have a new head coach in Kieran Crowley, who arrives from Canada. He has the tough ask of turning things around which is looking like a hard job as rivals look stronger than 2015/16.

Marty Banks is a shrewd signing but they must cope without him until the Mitre 10 Cup concludes, with Tommaso Allan set to step up in his place. Other than that though there’s little to excite the neutral about Treviso in what promises to be another uphill battle in the PRO12.

Player to Watch: Has never let Tasman down in New Zealand, Marty Banks deserves his crack at PRO12 rugby. Nicknamed ‘Screech’, Banks will be solid off the kicking tee and is a talisman of a fly-half who can also fill in at full-back. Treviso will hope he’s a big hit for them.


Head coach: Les Kiss
Last season: 4th (semi-finalists)

It was fourth position and 69 points for the second season running for Ulster although they lost two more games in 2015/16 so it wasn’t a successful campaign. Craig Gilroy finished joint top of the try-scoring chart while Paddy Jackson was fourth on the points scoring ladder.

They lost the talismanic Nick Williams in the off-season while news on Wednesday emerged that Ruan Pienaar would also be moving on at the end of the campaign. How fitting it would be for him to play a large role in his farewell term alongside new star signing Charles Piutau.

Les Kiss certainly has the quality of player to challenge for the PRO12 title, as the backline in particular oozes class and depth. Iain Henderson will be key up front while tighthead prop Rodney Ah You’s arrival is timely due to Wiehahn Herbst being injured. Flank Marcell Coetzee is another new face who will catch plenty of attention when he is fit to feature. The Bok will win over Ulster’s fans in no time.

Player to Watch: Even during pre-season Charles Piutau has been in electric form as after a year wowing the Premiership crowds for Wasps the full-back makes his mark in the PRO12. Piutau’s exit from New Zealand upset the All Blacks and it’s little wonder why. What a talent.


Head coach: Gianluca Guidi
Last season: 11th

Not finishing as the league’s bottom side was one in the win column for Zebre, albeit a small one. They won five games to Treviso’s three and in fact were victorious on more occasions than the Dragons, who only edged them on the table due to their superior bonus-point tally.

Gianluca Guidi will hope they can build on last season’s upsurge in form and the arrival of Derick Minnie from the Lions is a significant coup to their back-row. They boast international class all over their line-up and if another signing, Kurt Baker, fires, rival teams will struggle in Parma. Joshua Furno, Carlo Festuccia and Giovanbattista Venditti arriving are also signs that things are looking up at Zebre.

Can they better that 11th? Maybe 10th at best, above the Dragons, but anything higher than that would be a shock to the established order.

Player to Watch: He has been a rock for the Lions and Golden Lions in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup over the years and now a new venture is here for Derick Minnie. Powerful in both attack and defence, he will relish regular rugby and the PRO12 will soon know all about him.

By: Planet Rugby

Erasmus hails defence coach’s impact


Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus praised the impact of his side’s defence coach, Jacques Nienaber, after their 17-0 win over Zebre at the weekend.


Nienaber’s methods has had the desired effect, in Munster’s first pre-season friendly, and the Irish province’s players have adapted quickly to his coaching style.

“I think they enjoy the way Jacques does it,” Erasmus told after Friday’s clash in Waterford.

“He has a massive passion for defence and the players are understanding what he’s trying to do.

“He understands them and he doesn’t expect a player who has a certain skillset to do something he can’t, so that’s where the connection is really good at the moment.

“Jacques will be pretty happy with that. When you make so many changes, you lose a little bit of rhythm but you always expect the defence to stay solid and they did that tonight.

“Zebre came close a couple of times but it was solid.”

Erasmus was happy to keep the opposition scoreless in Munster’s first friendly, but he was disappointed that his charges couldn’t build attacking pressure on their Italian opponents without kicking.

“I think philosophy-wise, we couldn’t really do a lot of things because of the weather,” he added.

“I know it’s going to rain a lot here, but when the wind is howling like that it really makes it tough to play any rugby.

“Defensively, we did well and tactically we did ok, but it’s tough to judge the attack really. We scored three tries but they were kicking tries; it’s tough to judge it. But there were individual skills, which is pleasing.”

The former Stormers boss hopes to see an improved attacking effort when Munster host Worcester Warriors in Cork this Friday.

“Hopefully, we will get some attacking stuff going next week,” he said.

“I know we scored three tries, but we want to get some structured attack. Our turnover attack and general attack was good, but some structured attack would be excellent if we could get it under the belt.”