Allan on fire as Treviso claim derby honours
Tommaso Allan enjoyed a night to remember as his 18 points guided Benetton Treviso to a 23-12 victory over Zebre at the Stadio Monigo in the Italian derby.
Zebre had won both meetings between the sides last season, and looked good heading into half-time in front following Dries van Schalkwyk’s try.
However in the second half it was Treviso, sitting bottom of the Guinness PRO12 heading into the game, who started to shift the momentum their way to run out emphatic winners.
And having given his side the lead with a third penalty, Allan pounced for an opportunistic try which ensured there would be no comeback for Zebre, especially once Luca Sperandio ran in an intercept try to put the home team out of sight.
The visitors at least had the final say, with Kayle van Zyl going over in the final seconds, but it was too little too late.
Treviso made the better start with Robert Barbieri coming desperately close to scoring, only for Carlo Canna to get back and force the error as he reached for the line.
Still, they took the lead midway through the half when Mattia Bellini was penalised, allowing Allan to open the scoring with a penalty.
Zebre could have levelled matters following a lineout steal by George Biagi and then a scrum penalty by Edoardo Padovani’s effort from 45 metres out fell short of the posts.
The visitors took the lead just after the half-hour however, when Biagi chose to go to the corner from a penalty. Using their powerful pack, Zebre rumbled over, with Van Schalkwyk emerging from the pile of bodies. Carlo Canna’s conversion made it 7-3 heading into the final minutes of the half.
Right on the stroke of half-time Treviso got back to within a point, Allan taking advantage of an offside to slot his second penalty of the evening.
That appeared to inspire the home side, and they were first to score in the second half, Allan again on target after Dario Chistolini had given away the penalty.
Leading 9-7, Treviso moved two scores clear thanks to their inspired fly-half, with Allan grabbing his first try of the season on 55 minutes.
Taking advantage of a lost ball from Canna, Allan scooped up possession and raced over for the score. His conversion made it 16-7 for Treviso who looked to be in control.
Allan could have stretched the lead further with a penalty which fell just short, followed by a drop goal that was off-target, but the home team looked to be in total control heading into the final stages.
Zebre threw everything at their hosts in search of a try to cut the deficit, but instead it was winger Sperandio who picked off a Canna pass and sprinted in for Treviso’s second try. Allan again converted and at 23-7 there was no way back.
Zebre did at least get a second try before time was up, with replacement Van Zyl going over on the left, but Canna could not convert from out wide on a difficult evening.
Ulster convincing in victory over Connacht
Ulster moved temporarily into the top four and bounced back from European defeat with a convincing 23-7 Guinness PRO12 victory over Connacht.
After their thrilling double header against Clermont in Europe, Les Kiss’ side were dominant at the Kingspan Stadium, with tries from Stuart McCloskey in the first half and Clive Ross in the second, helping them to a 20-0 lead.
Jack Carty responded for defending champions Connacht, but their barren run in Belfast continues – having not won there since 1960.
Ulster couldn’t manage the bonus point that would have sealed a perfect night, but did enough to secure the crucial victory against a Connacht side who couldn’t match their performance against Wasps a week ago.
It was a scrappy start to the game, with both teams struggling to impose their game plan, and in the end it was Paddy Jackson who got the home side on the board with a penalty on 20 minutes.
Five minutes later and Ulster were over for the first try of the game with some brilliant build-up play from Charles Piutau ended with a score for the outstanding McCloskey.
The former All Black full-back sliced through the Connacht defence, and while the cover got across in time to stop him scoring, Ruan Pienaar had no trouble putting McCloskey over for the simple finish on the right from the two-on-one.
Jackson’s conversion made it 10-0 to the home side, and he extended the lead four minutes before half-time with a second penalty.
Another fantastic break from Piutau early in the second half left Connacht defenders trailing in his wake and led to a second Ulster try.
McCloskey chose not to go wide when he seemed to have an overlap and Pienaar was then stopped just short thanks to a great Denis Buckley tackle.
It was only temporary respite for the visitors however, with Ross showing his power to force his way over right by the posts from the resulting scrum.
Jackson’s conversion made it 20-0 and it looked another sobering trip to Belfast for Connacht.
They hit back immediately though, with winger Matt Healy producing a brilliant break through the Ulster defence, leaving Piutau, among others, behind him.
He was hauled down just short of the line but quick ball allowed Kieran Marmion to put a charging Carty over for the simple finish.
Carty added the extras and Connacht were back within two scores, although Jackson’s third penalty of the evening with 12 minutes to go all but guaranteed the victory with Ulster 23-7 up.
There was still time left for Ulster to chase a bonus point, and they almost had a brilliant try when replacement scrum-half Paul Marshall chipped over the top after a scrum and looked to be fastest to the ball only for it to beat him into touch.
And Louis Ludik was even closer when he hacked forward a loose ball, got a kind bounce but stumbled just as he looked to be in.
Connacht responded with a great break down the right from Naulia Dawai but he knocked on after being brought down on a frustrating evening for Pat Lam’s injury-hit side, with Ultan Dillane limping off late on to add to his woes.
Shingler guides Blues to derby victory
Steven Shingler scored one try and made another as Cardiff Blues claimed the bragging rights with a 27-16 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at the Cardiff Arms Park.
On Sam Warburton’s 100th Blues appearance, three first-half tries were enough for the home side to win, although they may regret not scoring a bonus point to close the gap on the Guinness PRO12 top four.
An entertaining first half saw Cardiff get off to a flyer thanks to a try for Shingler, but Ashton Hewitt hit back for the Dragons to make it 13-13 all on 30 minutes.
However the Blues finished the opening period much the stronger with tries from Kristian Dacey and then Josh Navidi to take an 11-point lead into half-time.
And that was how it remained after the break following a scoreless second 40 minutes in which handling errors and improved defence shut down the two teams.
The Blues made the perfect start when Shingler powered over on the shortside down the right, slipping out of a couple of tackles before nailing the conversion from the touchline. That gave the home side a 7-0 lead after barely two minutes.
Under pressure from the off, the Dragons fought back with a penalty from Angus O’Brien after a good scrum to cut the deficit ten minutes later.
But they allowed Cardiff to cancel that out with a penalty for obstruction from an up and under, and Shingler needed no second invitation to make it 10-3.
The teams were then temporarily reduced to 14 men apiece, Rey Lee-Lo sin-binned for a high tackle for the Blues a minute before Rynard Landman joined him for a dangerous clearout.
O’Brien and Shingler slotted the resulting penalties to make it 13-6 the home side, but the Dragons coped better a man down to level the scores just before the half-hour.
With possession just inside the Cardiff 22, O’Brien spotted some space in behind and played a perfect grubber with Hewitt racing through for the simplest of finishes. The fly-half added the extras to tie it up.
But with both players back the Blues took control once again after a long period of possession in Dragons territory. While the defence held initially, some good carrying from Nick Williams put the visitors on the back foot, and Dacey then twisted out of a tackle and over the line. Shingler added the easy conversion to put Cardiff back in front at 20-13.
O’Brien showed his kicking range with a long-range penalty after Navidi was pinged as they Dragons kept it close.
But right on the stroke of half-time the Blues took control with an elusive run through from Shingler, dummying one way before delivering the ball to Navidi for the run-in. His conversion made it 27-16 at the break.
While the first half was a free-scoring affair, the defences tightened up in the second, with both teams struggling to add to their scores.
The Dragons will have been particularly frustrated at coming away with nothing from one extended spell in the
Matthew Morgan could have stretched the Blues lead, but his penalty effort drifted just wide when Nick Crosswell was penalised for a late tackle.
And in the dying stages the Dragons looked like they might come away with a losing bonus point when Sam Beard sliced through but when he was hauled down, the visitors couldn’t recycle quickly enough and eventually conceded a penalty for holding on.
Glasgow Warriors claim bragging rights in 1872 Cup first leg
Glasgow Warriors claimed their first win in four Guinness PRO12 matches and the local bragging rights after downing Edinburgh in the first leg of the 1872 Cup on Boxing Day.
Junior Bulumakau, Josh Strauss and Alex Dunbar all crossed for the Warriors as they won 25-12 at BT Murrayfield – their first win at the venue in exactly three years.
Edinburgh only had 12 points from the boot of Duncan Weir to show for their efforts and they will need to impress at Scotstoun on the last day of the regular season if they are to retain the Cup they won last season.
Following Glasgow’s superlative double over Racing 92, Gregor Townsend opted to make six alterations to the starting XV for this clash.
One of those changes was the inclusion of winger Bulumakau for his first start of the season and he did not have to wait long to have an impact.
Inside the first minute of the game Dunbar’s deep kick drew an error from Edinburgh full-back Blair Kinghorn – who inked a new deal this week – as he spilled the ball on the wet turf allowing Bulumakau to dive on the ball for the simplest of tries.
It was a dream start for the Warriors in their bid to reclaim the Cup but the in-form Russell pulled the conversion wide and the hosts then found their feet.
They exerted plenty of territorial dominance and the Warriors were bleeding penalties at the breakdown – Weir punishing one in the eighth minute to trim the lead to 5-3.
And then after one infringement too many Alex Allan was sent to the bin for the Warriors and Weir kicked the hosts in front for the first time.
However, Townsend’s side marshalled their ten minutes down to 14 impressively and when restored to their full complement hit back in style.
Strauss was the beneficiary at the back of a rolling maul, burrowing over the line for their second try and this time Russell was on target with the extras.
And there was still time for the in-form Scotland fly-half to add a penalty before the interval and the visitors went in 15-6 ahead.
After the break the Warriors were on the front foot for the first ten minutes but Russell tugged a penalty wide while Weir showed him how it was done after a rare Edinburgh second-half foray.
Before the hour mark some quick thinking from Russell – who slotted a drop goal after the ball was blown off the tee right at the end of his allotted 90 seconds for a penalty – restored a nine-point advantage at 18-9.
But Weir soon pegged his old club back again to 18-12 as the game entered the final quarter of an hour.
However, the Warriors then found another gear and after an exhausting passage of play in attack, the tiring Edinburgh defence was eventually punctured for the decisive score.
Phase after phase in the Gunners’ 22 took its toll in the end and it was Dunbar who went over in the left corner, fed by replacement Sean Lamont.
Russell added the extras to make it 25-12 and the rest of the match was spent with the home side trying in vain to claim a consolation score that would trim the points difference to a losing bonus point and give them a better chance of retaining the 1872 Cup at the end of the season.
Clinical Munster pull clear at Guinness PRO12 summit
With a place atop the Guinness PRO12 standings up for grabs, it was Munster who claimed the spoils with a battling interpro derby 29-17 triumph over Leinster.
Ronan O’Mahony’s try with the clock in the red at the end of the first half was perhaps the big turning point of the match, giving the hosts a 14-10 lead at the interval after Simon Zebo had cancelled out Zane Kirchner’s opening score.
And two more Munster tries before the hour mark from Tommy O’Donnell and CJ Stander were decisive, meaning Richardt Strauss’ late effort was no more than a consolation, and ending a run of three consecutive losses to their fierce Irish rivals.
Despite a fast and furious start to the game at a Thomond Park that was rocking with noise, there was no score for the opening ten minutes with both sides demonstrating big carries and sturdy defence.
Tadhg Furlong’s run took Leinster into Munster territory again in the 13th minute, and after a penalty allowed Ross Byrne to kick to the corner, the visitors opened the scoring.
The boys in blue controlled the scrum expertly before Jack Conan’s carry from the base allowed Kirchner to burst through off Jamison Gibson-Park’s pass with 18 minutes played.
Isa Nacewa added the extras, but Munster then began immediately build the pressure in Leinster territory, and patient play saw them go through the phases to get themselves level.
Conor Murray eventually fed Zebo on the right touchline after Tyler Bleyendaal was denied, and the Ireland international twisted and dived over under pressure from Barry Daly and Conan.
The try was confirmed via the TMO, and while Bleyendaal made it 7-7 with the conversion, Nacewa was on target again from the tee on 25 minutes to put Leinster back ahead after a neck roll on Furlong.
The game then turned slightly scrappier, but once again Munster began to look the more threatening and Leinster were forced to doggedly defend.
But while they came within a whisker of surviving until half-time, it was not to be as the hosts’ patience once again paid dividends.
Another move where Munster went through the phases – 21 of them in total – ended in O’Mahony diving over in the right corner with the clock in the red, after Bleyendaal’s pass skipped out Darren Sweetnam.
Bleyendaal’s conversion from exactly the same spot as his first made it 14-10 at the break, but it was a different story in the second half where Munster imposed themselves on their guests.
After several minutes camped deep inside Leinster territory, with penalty advantage Murray’s cross-field kick allowed O’Donnell to beat Daly in the air and get the ball down over the whitewash after a slight juggle in the 50th minute.
But it was just six minutes later when Rassie Erasmus’ side struck what proved to be the killer blow from a lineout and subsequent five-metre driving maul, with the pack forcing Stander over for a bonus-point score.
Bleyendaal’s first miss of the afternoon meant the score stayed at 26-10, and even though Zebo then saw his drop-goal attempt miss the target on the hour mark, Munster had the playing advantage and the fly-half landed a three-pointer.
And while it was Munster who were hammering away at the line again in the next ten minutes, Leinster were not down and out and Strauss gave them some hope of at least a bonus point when he broke off a lineout maul with Nacewa adding the extras.
But there was not enough time for Leo Cullen’s men to find another try, and the 29-17 scoreline meant Munster pulled out a five-point lead at the Guinness PRO12 summit.
Jones man of the match as Ospreys grind past Scarlets
West Wales bragging rights went to Ospreys after a dogged performance saw them past Scarlets in a penalty-laden game at the Liberty Stadium.
The visitors saw three players sin-binned in the 80 minutes and a penalty try to Ospreys proved the difference between the two sides as Scarlets’ seven-game winning run came to an end.
Coming into the game on the back of two against French opposition, Ospreys maintained that momentum to move up to second in the Guinness PRO12 table.
A patient build up by Scarlets in the opening five minutes had them within range of the Ospreys 22, but when the visitors failed to release they were penalised and Steve Tandy’s side could clear their lines.
A cagey period ensued with both sides trying to impose themselves on the game, but it was the boot that dominated as full-backs Sam Davies and Liam Williams repeatedly kicked to each other.
Dan Biggar and Rhys Patchell exchanged penalties as the mid-point of the first half approached, with the crowd waiting for the game to spark into life.
And before the 25 minute mark Rob Evans was sent to the bin for a high tackle of Davies, giving Ospreys a platform to kick for touch and set up camp in the Scarlets half.
They nearly punished the visitors from the ensuing drive, but Alun Wyn Jones failed to ground the ball when he was bundled over the line in the 25th minute.
The home side continued to push for the opening score, but when Will Boyde forced an Ospreys penalty on his own five-metre line, the visiting fans erupted and Patchell could clear Scarlets’ lines.
Ospreys eventually earned themselves a penalty within kicking distance, though, but Biggar was uncharacteristically wayward with a relatively straightforward kick to keep the scores level.
And when Patchell kicked a penalty of his own, Scarlets had run out the sin bin clock and ended up three points to the good.
That lead then became six in the 39th minute as Patchell kicked another penalty after Ospreys were pulled up for rotating a scrum.
But Biggar found his range in the final minute of the half and kicked a 40-metre effort after Josh Macleod infringed at the breakdown.
After ten uneventful second-half minutes a stolen lineout from Jones led to the first showing of Keelan Giles, who spun away from DTH van der Merwe’s tackle, inside his own 22, and ended up putting Scarlets under pressure in their 22.
And that pressure told as, after several further phases, they were awarded a penalty try following a second infringement from Scarlets when the referee was already playing an Ospreys advantage.
As a result, Boyde was sent to the bin for stopping a certain home try from a rolling maul, and Biggar added the extras to put Ospreys four ahead.
The fly-half then made sure to punish the short-handed Scarlets and successfully kicked a penalty on the hour to stretch their lead to a converted score.
As the penalty count racked up Scarlets’ Steff Evans was sent to the bin for the final ten minutes and, a minute later, another infringement allowed Biggar to stretch Ospreys’ lead to ten points.
All that was left was for Ospreys to run out the clock in the Scarlets half and send their fans home happy after a tense, cagey and attritional derby encounter