Edinburgh end losing run but Zebre grab late bonus point
Edinburgh Rugby ended a three-game losing run in the Guinness PRO12 after a battling 24-19 victory on New Year’s Eve over Zebre at Stadio Lanfranchi.
The visitors got back to winning ways, after defeats to Glasgow Warriors and Ospreys in December, thanks to tries either side of half time from Chris Dean and Viliami Helu.
The Italians did snatch a losing bonus point with the last play of the game, following replacement Nathan Fowles’ yellow card, with Andries Van Schalkwyk forcing his way over.
The hosts out-scored their opponents by three tries to two after earlier Tommaso Boni and Carlo Canna scores but Duncan Weir kicked 14 points to ensure Edinburgh’s victory.
The visitors took the lead in the 14th minute as Weir slotted his first penalty of the afternoon following an infringement by the hosts at the ruck.
Centre Boni crossed in the corner ten minutes later for the first try of the afternoon which Canna successfully converted to give Zebre a 7-3 lead.
But the boot of Weir pegged them back at Stadio Lanfranchi with his second penalty from right in front of the posts.
Zebre came close to a second try with six minute remaining of the first half but Blair Kinghorn’s try-saving tackle stopped Boni.
And Dean added insult to injury when he grabbed a loose ball just seconds before half time and out-ran the Zebre defence to score Edinburgh’s first try of the afternoon.
Weir’s conversion from out wide extended the visitors lead over the Italians to six points at half-time with the score at 13-7.
Edinburgh had their second try after just 14 minutes of the second half as Blair Kinghorn kicked the ball through and winger Helu raced clear to collect the ball and dot down.
Weir was unable to add the extras but the visitors had a commanding 18-7 lead after the opening 15 minutes of the second period.
But the hosts immediately battled back and had their rewards on the hour mark as fly-half Canna snuck through for Zebre’s second try of the afternoon but he was unable to convert his own score.
The reliable boot of Weir extended the Edinburgh lead once more though as Zebre’s ill-discipline was punished and the visitors led 21-12 with 15 minutes to go.
Weir added his fourth penalty of the afternoon with just six minutes left on the clock after Zebre were once again penalised at the ruck.
Edinburgh finished the game with 14 men as Nathan Fowles was shown a yellow card by referee Gary Conway with two minutes left on the clock.
And prop Van Schalkwyk took full advantage to earn a losing bonus point for the Italians with a late try which was converted by Canna in the last play of the game.
Clegg saves Warriors against spirited Treviso
Rory Clegg played the part of super sub as the Glasgow Warrior scored within three minutes of his introduction to rescue his side against a spirited Benetton Treviso.
Glasgow had looked in control after responding to Luca Sperandio’s second-minute try, with Stuart Hogg – making his first start at fly-half in the Guinness PRO12 – pulling the strings.
The Scotland full-back, Tommy Seymour and the fit-again Adam Ashe all piled over before the half was out, but a Dean Budd try and Tommaso Allan’s kicking kept Treviso in touch.
Nick Grigg looked to have settled the game in the second half only for Budd to complete his try-double, with replacement Ian McKinley’s conversion levelling the scores.
Then Clegg, on for Grigg, broke Treviso’s hearts by crossing just two minutes later as Glasgow saw the last five minutes out.
Though 11th in the table, Treviso were not to be underestimated as they were aiming for their fourth victory in a row in all competitions.
And winger Sperandio got the Italians off to the perfect start by finishing a slick move in the corner with just two minutes on the clock.
The conversion was missed by fly-half Allan and then his opposite number Hogg set about trying to cancel out the deficit.
The Scotland full-back made an initial burst to put Treviso under pressure inside their own 22 – but a penalty flipped the momentum on its head.
Eventually, with the Italians camped on the Warriors line, the ball was spilled and Hogg hared up the pitch to score and then convert his own try.
Barely two minutes had gone before Glasgow scored again – this time Peter Murchie providing the inspiration, before the ball found its way to Seymour for his eighth try of the season.
Treviso continued to look dangerous, but after Allan missed a penalty in front of the posts, the Warriors made them pay.
Ashe – making his first start of the season – batted away a defender and crossed after taking on Tim Swinson’s pass, and suddenly Glasgow were 21-5 up on the half-hour.
Back came Treviso, however, after Budd got the first touch to a loose Glasgow pass that had ended up over their own try-line.
Junior Bulumakau nearly grabbed a Glasgow try-bonus point before the break but could not quite get on the end of a chip – instead Allan cut the half-time deficit to six points with a penalty.
Treviso started the second half on the front foot and Allan slotted one penalty from two, but Glasgow soon got their bonus point.
And the Warriors’ fourth try was arguably their best as Grigg showed tremendous power to bully his way over the line before Hogg’s conversion opened up a ten-point gap.
The hosts refused to give up and, following McKinley’s penalty, forced Glasgow to scramble and touch down over their own line.
In a bizarre passage of play Treviso won a penalty from a five-metre scrum and the kick hit the post, which then was adjudged to have rebounded off a Glasgow player for a knock-on.
Another penalty was rewarded and Budd scored through a quick-thinking tap-and-go – but Treviso’s joy would be short-lived.
Clegg, only just on the field, was at the right place at the right time to finish off another lightning Glasgow move and there was to be no way back for the home side after Hogg’s conversion.
O’Loughlin bags try double in comfortable Leinster win
Winger Rory O’Loughlin scored two tries as Leinster moved ahead of Ospreys into second in the Guinness PRO12 after a comfortable 22-7 victory over Ulster Rugby at the RDS.
Leinster are just a single point behind Munster after failing to secure a try bonus point with Jack McGrath receiving a yellow card midway through the second half.
But O’Loughlin crossed twice, with Luke McGrath also getting his name on the scoresheet, as Leinster put in a significantly improve display from their Boxing Day defeat to Munster.
Charles Piutau added a late consolation try for Ulster who dominated possession for most of the second period but struggled to break down the Leinster defence.
Pienaar, starting at fly-half rather than his usual scrum-half, missed a long-range penalty attempt three minutes in and Leinster took full advantage.
O’Loughlin broke through the middle of the Ulster defensive line on six minutes after the ball was released off the top of the line-out ball on half-way and raced in the corner.
Isa Nacewa converted well to give the hosts a 7-0 advantage inside the opening ten minutes before Pienaar again missed a second kick at goal.
And the Leinster skipper was on target again into the wind as he stretched the lead to ten points with a successful penalty after Ulster were penalised for a high tackle.
Winger Tommy Bowe almost got Ulster’s first points straight from the restart as Leinster failed to gather but the ball slipped from his grasps and the chance went begging.
Leinster had their second try with six minutes to play of the first half after an extremely inventinve line-out move on the edge of the Ulster 22.
Prop Jack McGrath received the line-out before feeding scrum-half Luke McGrath who raced through unopposed to extend the home side’s advantage at the RDS.
Nacewa was once again on target with his boot as he made the score 17-0 much to the delight of the majority of the sold out RDS crowd.
Leinster had their third try just four minutes into the second half as Ross Byrne put in a inch-perfect grubber kick behind Ulster and man 0f the match O’Loughlin collected and touched down for his second.
Ulster ramped up the pressure as they looked for a way back into the game and Leinster prop Jack McGrath was shown a yellow card by referee John Lacey for an infringement at the ruck.
But a loose pass from the resulting scrum was hacked clear by Nacewa and the visitors found themselves back inside their own half of the field.
Piutau finally got Ulster off the mark after taking a fine inside ball from Pienaar with three minutes remaining with the try converted by the scrum-half.
Leaders Munster battle past Connacht
Munster consolidated their position at the top of the Guinness PRO12 table with a hard-fought 16-9 victory over Connacht at the Galway Sportsground.
In difficult playing conditions, Ian Keatley and Jack Carty exchanged penalties in the first half before Luke Marshall, at the back of a Munster driving maul, crossed for the game’s only try.
David Kilcoyne’s late yellow card meant Munster finished the game a man down and Carty was able to kick his third penalty of the night to earn a losing bonus point for his side.
Keatley had kicked the first points of the evening, with Duncan Williams holding the ball in place, after just two minutes to take an early 3-0 lead.
Scrum-half Keiran Marmion almost had the first try of the game with nine minutes on the clock as he chased down a kick but after referring the decision to the TMO, no try was awarded.
With 17 minutes gone, Connacht won a penalty ten metres inside the Munster half but fly-half Jack Carty’s effort went wide and Munster retained their three point advantage.
Carty did manage to level the scores on the hour half but the visitors restored their narrow advantage through the boot of Keatley with two minutes left of the first half.
And it was the Munster fly-half who stepped up first after the break to try and extend the lead with a long range penalty effort which fell just short of the posts.
Another penalty, this time at a scrum, then gave Connacht the chance to level the scores once more and Carty duly obliged with a successful kick from inside the Munster 22 with 50 minutes gone.
Marshall crossed for the first try of the match just before the hour as the Munster forwards drove over the line from a five metre lineout.
Keatley added the vital extras despite the slippery conditions under foot to take the score to 13-6 with 20 minutes left to play.
And the fly-half, who was named man of the match, crucially took the visitors’ advantage to ten points on 68 minutes as he took knocked over a drop goal.
Replacement Kilcoyne was sent to the bin for repeated infringements as Munster were forced to conclude the game with just 14 men.
And as Connacht piled on the pressure with the extra man they earned another penalty which Carty successfully kicked to earn his side the losing bonus point.
Evans shines as Scarlets edge out Blues
Steffan Evans’ exemplary display ensured Scarlets took Guinness PRO12 bragging rights over Cardiff Blues in the Welsh derby at Parc y Scarlets.
The winger scored once and had a major part in the hosts’ other effort, their two tries narrowly enough to take the spoils as conditions ensured a difficult game for both sides.
Willis Halahalo scored in the second half to set up a nervy finish, the latest try in a game of brilliant finishing, as both sides made the most of minimal chances.
But it was Scarlets who held their own, enough to go fifth in the Guinness PRO12, while the gap between Blues and the top six now sits at five points.
Both sides struggled to find their feet as the swirling wind proved havoc, encouraging ball-in-hand rugby at Parc y Scarlets, much to the delight of the home faithful.
But while phases were lengthy, chances were at a premium despite numerous breaks, but that all changed as some delightful Patchell skill opened the scoring.
Taking a high ball deep in his half, the fly-half crossed halfway before support came in the form of Johnny McNicholl, temporarily strengthening the left wing as Scarlets suddenly boasted numerical advantage.
He in turn found Evans, and after orchestrating a clever dummy of his own, the fellow winger was through to dot down in the corner for the game’s first points.
With conditions as they were, it seemed mistakes could become crucial as the game wore on, though Patchell made up for his missed conversion to put Scarlets more than a score ahead with a penalty, 8-0 after Blues came in from the side.
They responded immediately with a penalty of their own though as Steve Shingler took advantage of a rare Jonathan Davies error, knocking on from the restart as the visitors were able to build up a head of steam heading to the interval.
But it took just six minutes of the second half for the stuffing to be knocked out, with Evans following up his own score to set up Williams for a second try.
A brisk turn of place saw Evans marauding through with no trouble before finding Davies on the left, firing back inside to set centre partner Williams away, the Scarlets once again dotting down from deep, with Patchell adding the extras.
But Blues showed they were not out of the game, Shingler this time making the most of a kick to manoeuvre his way forward with the help of Lloyd Williams.
There was still plenty to do when the baton was handed to Halahalo, but some quick-thinking saw the centre sidestep the last man to close the gap to five points.
It seemed Blues would come again moments later, but some excellent intuition from McNicholl led to an interception, shifting back the momentum with 20 minutes remaining.
Yet despite both teams pushing hard, 15-10 was how the score was to remain, with Aled Thomas’ late penalty falling wide to give Scarlets spoils and bragging rights on home soil.
Tipuric try sends Ospreys second after low-scoring affair
Ospreys climbed to second in the Guinness PRO12 table as Justin Tipuric’s first-half try was the difference in an attritional 10-0 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.
With conditions not conducive to running rugby, a Welsh derby that contained more than 100 kicks from hand – with varying levels of success – was essentially decided by Tipuric’s 12th-minute score.
Great combination play from Tom Habberfield and Olly Cracknell enabled the flanker to cross the whitewash, while it took another 60 minutes for the scorers to be troubled again, when Dan Biggar added a late penalty for the visitors.
Angus O’Brien missed two three-pointers for the Dragons as Ospreys did enough to get the victory on the board – seeing them leapfrog Leinster into second, just two points behind league leaders Munster.
A cagey opening saw both teams struggle to get used to the boggy conditions at Rodney Parade with Pat Howard’s interception of Josh Matavesi’s loose pass a rare moment of excitement, only for Matavesi to recover in defence and win the ball back.
And the sole score of the opening period came from the half’s one moment of true quality, on 12 minutes.
Ospreys scrum-half Habberfield made the initial break, squirming out of one tackle and releasing the impressive Cracknell before the former Wales Under-20 international drew the last defender and offloaded to back-row partner Tipuric to canter over.
The try saw the 27-year-old bring up 100 points for Ospreys while his Wales team-mate Biggar – who recently became the first man to score 2000 points in the regional rugby era – slotted the conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Habberfield was sin-binned on 17 minutes but the Dragons failed to take advantage of the extra man, while O’Brien also spurned an opportunity to get the hosts on the board by putting a penalty wide of the left-hand upright just after the half-hour mark.
With the conditions causing both sides to consistently opt to put boot on ball, rather than keeping it in hand, the game became a territorial kicking battle.
The second half began with Ospreys twice turning down the chance for points by booting penalties to the corner but the Dragons defence held firm in the face of pressure.
O’Brien had another opportunity to narrow the deficit but his 66th-minute penalty from near halfway drifted agonisingly wide of the right upright.
And on 72 minutes, Biggar gave the visitors an unassailable 10-0 lead by slotting a three-pointer of his own, as, despite late pressure, the Dragons were unable to get anything on the board.