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Pro 12 Round 3



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.
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