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Pro 12 Round 4

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Sexton and van der Flier hand Ospreys first defeat of season

A Jonathan Sexton-inspired Leinster brought Ospreys’ 100 per cent record to an end as they completed a bonus-point 31-19 win over the former Guinness PRO12 leaders.

Alun Wyn Jones’ 200th appearance in an Ospreys shirt was almost memorable for a fine comeback, but in the end his side went down by four tries to three.

Josh van der Flier grabbed a try-double while Sexton crossed for one of his own and Leinster were awarded a penalty try, meaning efforts from Ben John, Dafydd Howells and James King, for Ospreys, were in vain.

Making his return to the side following shoulder surgery, Sexton was given a simple chance to put the Boys in Blue ahead in the fifth minute, as the visitors infringed at the breakdown, just to the right of the posts.

And the home side were looking to add to their three-point advantage in the opening ten minutes, going close after Jones lost a lineout, but fine work from Scott Baldwin forced an Ospreys turnover, just five yards from their own try line.

The RDS crowd had to wait another ten minutes before the first try came, but come it did, as van der Flier powered over from three yards to extend Leinster’s lead – but only after it was referred to the TMO – with Sexton converting.

Ospreys had their first true chance after 20 minutes, as Josh Matavesi broke clear down the right, but Jeff Hassler was brilliantly tackled by Isa Nacewa as he looked to be closing on the try line.

And the visitors were down to 14 just before the half hour as Dimitri Artip was sent to the bin for a tackle on Nacewa.

And moments later Leinster thought they had scored a second try, but the TMO adjudged there was a knock-on before Luke McGrath picked up and dived over in the left corner.

But they did get the try from the resulting scrum and drive, as the referee awarded a penalty try when Ospreys collapsed the scrum just short of the line, with Sexton adding the extras.

The visitors seemed to be getting a foothold in the game as the first half drew to a close, but they were hit with a sucker punch as Matavesi lost possession in the 40th minute and Leinster broke clear, with Sexton crossing after the Boys in Blue recycled the ball quickly.

And the returning fly-half converted his own try to give the home side a commanding 24-point lead at the break.

Ospreys had opened their season with three bonus-point victories, but it was van der Flier that gave the home side their bonus point, running a diagonal to cross the line after collecting McGrath’s pass, with Sexton adding the conversion to make it 31-0 in the 47th minute.

The visitors’ evening, up until now, was summed up in the 49th minute as Matavesi broke clear with a sparkling run, selling dummies left and right before passing to Rhys Webb, but the scrum half fumbled with the try line in sight.

But they did get the try their increased presence in the game deserved, as Dan Biggar threw an outrageous behind-the-back pass to set up John for a simple cross in the left corner – Biggar could only hit the post with the conversion attempt, though.

And a second nearly came with 13 minutes to go, but the Ospreys break was brought to a halt inside the Leinster 22.

In the aftermath, Sexton’s fine performance was marred by a yellow card for an illegal tackle, and Ospreys capitalised, crossing with eight minutes to go as Biggar set up Howells to touch down in the corner, and the fly-half added the extras to reduce the deficit to 19.

And 19 became 12 with seven minutes remaining as Sam Davies jinked his way through the Leinster defence, before feeding King for a simple finish and handing Biggar an easy conversion.

But the comeback wasn’t to be for the visitors, and neither was the bonus point, as they had to settle for three tries, despite nine phases after the 80 minutes were up.

Treviso bounce back to secure season’s first victory

Benetton Rugby Treviso banished the demons of last week’s heavy defeat to Ospreys to secure their first victory of the Guinness PRO12 campaign with a 27-11 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons.

Treviso led the game from start to finish, with Tommaso Benvenuti’s score leading the way in a 10-8 half-time advantage, while Filo Paulo and Marco Fuser compounded Dragons to a third defeat of the Guinness PRO12 season at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo.

The Dragons fought back at the close of the first half, with lock Rynard Landman crossing but it wasn’t enough to stop the Italians securing a second successive victory over Newport on home territory.

It was the Dragons who began the game on the front foot, but a missed Angus O’Brien penalty spurred the hosts into life, rewarded for an incessant period of pressure when Tommaso Allan kicked the first three points on the match.

And Treviso were not done there, piling scrum after scrum onto Kingsley Jones’ side, strain which eventually told when Benvenuti crashed over. Allan added the extras for a ten-point advantage.

In need of an immediate response, the Dragons got their wish when O’Brien and full-back Carl Meyer broke from deep, and with the defence not quite able to find their shape, Landman was on hand to halve the deficit to 10-5 with ten minutes until the break.

From there the half belonged to the visitors, with resolute defence on the Treviso five-metre line the sole barrier to scrum-half Charlie Davies picking up his side’s second score of the half.

It seemed as though Kieran Crowley’s side would reach the break without further damage, but an impressive leap from Cory Hill saw a defensive line-out stolen, doing enough to earn a penalty which O’Brien kicked for his first points of the evening.

Despite their rearguard action at the close of the first 40 minutes, it was Treviso who came out of the blocks firing, further adding to their tally from their very first chance of the half.

The ball was worked out to the brink of the right touchline, with Paulo the man to cross, a score added to by Allan’s conversion from the narrowest of angles to put the Italians more than a score ahead once again.

That advantage prompted the game into a scrappy affair, much to the benefit of Treviso, with the Dragons looking threatening only to fumble at the crucial moment to hand possession back to their opponents.

And despite the Newport pressure, the hosts’ lead extended further as Allan made no mistake from right in front of the posts, pushing the difference to 12 points as the game headed to the final quarter.

O’Brien’s second penalty of the night kept Jones’ side in contention, but desperate defensive intervention was needed just to keep them in the game, first through Matthew Screech before a team effort provided a sigh of relief with a penalty to clear from danger to keep the score at 20-11.

But that only seemed to prolong the inevitable for the Dragons as Treviso ran in a third try on the cusp of the full-time whistle through Fuser, with neither side able to pick up a bonus point from the contest

Jackson’s sensational score sends Ulster top of the table

Paddy Jackson’s spectacular try 20 minutes from time helped Ulster move top of the Guinness PRO12 table as they edged Glasgow Warriors 22-17 in an enthralling contest at Scotstoun.

Ulster maintained their 100 per cent record through four games as Jackson decisively finished off a sparkling team move and their defence kept Glasgow’s relentless late attacks at bay.

The visitors were on top for the majority of the first half with Darren Cave and a penalty try giving them a 15-7 lead at the break – prop Gordon Reid getting the hosts’ lone score.

Finn Russell’s penalty and Tommy Seymour’s seventh try of the campaign did give Warriors a narrow lead after the break but Jackson’s effort ensure just a second Guinness PRO12 defeat at Scotstoun for Gregor Townsend’s troops since November 2013.

Les Kiss made nine personnel and position changes from the 19-8 win over Scarlets last time out but there was no lack of continuity for Ulster as they dominated the early going.

After setting up camp in the Glasgow 22, Jackson missed a fairly straightforward early penalty but made amends on five minutes as he successfully slotted a long-range three-pointer.

Ulster thought they had scored the game’s opening try when Jared Payne crossed the whitewash on eight minutes but the score was ruled out after Iain Henderson dangerously cleared out a ruck in the build-up – the Ireland international earning himself ten minutes in the sin-bin.

But that one-man disadvantage barely slowed the visitors as a magical, jinking break by Charles Piutau on the quarter-hour mark got them into the 22 and the ball was spread wide for Cave to slide over in the corner.

Jackson missed the tough conversion and Glasgow got themselves back in the match as fantastic counter-rucking from the kick-off won them a penalty and they were rewarded for aggressively kicking to the corner when Reid burrowed over from close-range.

Finn Russell – on his 24th birthday – narrowed the gap to 8-7 with the extras and although Ulster remained on top, it took until just before the break for that lead to be extended.

The TMO had ruled out an earlier Rob Herring score as Rodney Ah You was penalised for a blocking line but this time it was the Warriors penalised with Leonardo Sarto’s no-hands tackle on Piutau handing the Irishmen a penalty try.

Trailing 15-7 at the break, Glasgow needed to register the first points of the second half and Russell’s 47th-minute penalty did just that before a crucial try from the in-form Seymour ten minutes later.

Alex Dunbar made the initial break and a few phases later, Stuart Hogg’s sumptuous offload sent Seymour over for his seventh try of the campaign before Russell’s touchline conversion gave them a first lead of the day at 17-15.

But a contender for try of the young season from Ulster with a little under 20 minutes remaining proved decisive.

After turning the ball over in their own 22, an incisive break saw Louis Ludik inject some pace before sleek handling got the ball in Jackson’s hands and he held off defenders to slide over and add the simple conversion for a 22-17 lead.

The Warriors produced phase after phase in search of a score that would see them get back in the match but the visiting defence held firm to move them top of the Guinness PRO12 table.

Forwards ensure a fine day for Munster

Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray scored a try-double for Munster but it was the Irish province’s pack that came to the fore in this comfortable bonus-point victory over Edinburgh.

Edinburgh centre Chris Dean scored the game’s opening try but Munster responded immediately through Murray – and didn’t look back from there.

Murray completed his double – both tries coming off the back of fierce scrum pushes – and academy product Conor Oliver, pictured, showed neat footwork to notch Munster’s third shortly after the break.

The bonus point was all wrapped up with 25 minutes to go, as Dave O’Callaghan surged over to cap a fine day for the Munstermen before John Hardie grabbed a consolation score.

Edinburgh were always facing a stiff task against a Munster side that had not been beaten in 2016 at Thomond Park thus far.

And they had to weather an early storm as the hosts won a scrum against the head only for fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal to push the three points on offer wide.

After some promising play from both sides were snuffed out by the opposing defences, Edinburgh lock Fraser McKenzie received a yellow card for making contact with Jack O’Donoghue’s head – who was subsequently replaced by Oliver.

However, Munster could not make their man advantage count and were let off the hook when Duncan Weir’s long-range penalty attempt went awry.

Their luck was to run out shortly after as Dean ran in uncontested from halfway in the 23rd minute after the ball squirted out of the side of a ruck, with Weir adding the extras.

There were no signs of panic among the Munster ranks though as their pack took full advantage of an Edinburgh offside and powered over from five metres out – Murray applying the dab down.

Bleyendaal’s conversion made it all square and, after a period of attrition, Munster made their forwards dominance pay again.

Edinburgh failed to secure the ball after another powerful Munster push at the scrum and the opportunistic Murray was the first one to pounce over the try-line. Bleyendaal’s conversion sent the hosts in at the break 14-7 up.

Upon the restart it took just two minutes for Munster to strike again as Bleyendaal, with two players hanging off him, offloaded to flanker Oliver who ghosted past Weir for the score.

After Bleyendaal’s conversion, the game reverted to type as the away side struggled to fend off Munster’s scrum and a series of penalties saw prop Allan Dell yellow carded.

Ultimately nothing came of the move, but by the 57th minute the bonus point was sealed as O’Callaghan charged through after finding space.

Munster continued to look dangerous – through wing Darren Sweetnam in particular – but Edinburgh to their credit refused to give up.

Hardie, on as a replacement, rumbled over with a little more than ten minutes to go and the score would stay at 28-14 after Blair Kinghorn’s conversion.

Cardiff Blues stay perfect after edging past Zebre

Cardiff Blues maintained their 100 per cent Guinness PRO12 record as they clung on to beat Zebre 23-21 in an enthralling encounter at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.

The Blues had won just one of their last eight matches in Italy and while they couldn’t relax until the final whistle, Danny Wilson’s men did just enough to leave Parma with the four points.

A lively first half saw Guglielmo Palazzani’s close-range try give Zebre the lead before Blaine Scully and Matthew Morgan got the Blues on top at the break.

Tom James’ score early in the second half looked to have sealed the contest but when Giulio Bisegni and Giovanbattista Venditti dotted down, the visitors were forced to hold on for the final five minutes.

But hold on they did and now sit second in the Guinness PRO12 table, level on points with leaders Ulster and yet to taste defeat this term.

Zebre were leading Connacht 22-10 at half-time last week before the match was abandoned due to bad weather and they picked up where they left off in Parma.

Carlo Canna and Steve Shingler had already traded three-pointers when the hosts booted an 11th-minute penalty to touch and, from the resulting five-metre line-out, scrum-half Palazzani burrowed over from close-range.

Canna failed to add the conversion but Blues kicker Shingler was also errant from the tee as he pushed two penalty chances wide before finally finding his mark on 22 minutes to narrow the deficit to 8-6.

And when Oliviero Fabiani was sentenced to ten minutes in the sin-bin, the visitors capitalised as Scully crossed the whitewash after strong work from the forwards following a line-out.

Shingler duly slotted the conversion and despite Josh Turnbull seeing yellow, the 14 men of Cardiff got a second try five minutes before the break.

They showed great patience to go through a number of phases before Cory Allen deftly grubbered the ball through and Morgan pounced to dot down.

Edoardo Padovani did slot a penalty on the stroke of half-time to reduce Zebre’s deficit but the Blues came out firing after the break and flying winger James stripped the ball in contact before racing into the corner unopposed for a 23-11 lead.

But the Italian outfit are nothing if not resilient and a long Canna pass put Bisegni over in the corner to narrow the gap to seven points.

Rey Lee-Lo wasted a golden opportunity to put the game to bed with 12 minutes remaining as his pass failed to find the waiting Scully and Zebre capitalised on 75 minutes.

Nick Williams knocked on close to his own line and, despite a desperate scramble, Venditti was released to go over in the corner – although Padovani failed to add the tying conversion.

And Blues did enough to see out the final few minutes as they beat Zebre for the sixth time in nine Guinness PRO12 meetings.

Williams inspires Scarlets to down Connacht

Liam Williams’ try double secured a 17-8 win for Scarlets as they earned a first Guinness PRO12 win of the season and condemned champions Connacht to 12th place.

Niyi Adeolokun’s first-half score had cancelled out Williams’ first converted try, before Jack Carty’s penalty gave Connacht a one-point half-time advantage.

But Wayne Pivac’s side looked a different animal after the second-half, piling the pressure on a resilient Connacht side who eventually crumpled when Williams grabbed his second before Rhys Patchell turned the screw with a drop goal.

Pat Lam’s side remain winless and welcome Edinburgh to the Sportsground next weekend while Scarlets travel to Italy to take on Benetton Treviso.

The two sides were inseparable for 20 minutes in a scrappy first-half, but it was one of the stars of Connacht’s title charge last year – Adeolokun – who broke the deadlock.

Connacht’s pack had been gradually getting the upper-hand and a strong scrum put Lam’s men in position, before slick hands from prop Denis Buckley sent Adeolokun haring over.

Carty missed the conversion and was off target again, before Scarlets fought back through Williams.

The initial impetus came from Aaron Shingler, the flanker collecting a wide pass and bursting through the Connacht defence.

When the ball was recycled, slick hands between brothers James and Jonathan Davies sent Williams over under the posts, which Patchell converted.

Scarlets were growing into the game, but Connacht were at their dogged best, captain John Muldoon intervened critically on 53 minutes with a goal-line turnover that relived vast amounts of pressure.

Ken Owens’ break looked potentially game-breaking and when the ball found Williams on the flank, one outcome looked likely, but he was denied by a stunning Tiernan O’Halloran cover-tackle.

Yet Pivac’s men continued to pile forward and despite heroic defence, the men from Galway could not escape their tryline.

Williams then made amends for missing out, with a textbook finish on 66 minutes on the touchline and Patchell found his kicking boots to convert superbly, taking the hosts 14-8 ahead with less than 15 minutes remaining.

An ever-more influential Patchell then thumped over a drop-goal to move Scarlets beyond a converted score.

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