Cooney stars as Connacht down Cardiff
John Cooney scored 13 points as defending Guinness PRO12 champions Connacht won their third league game of the season with a tight 18-7 victory against Cardiff Blues.
The scrum-half scored the first try of the night from close range, before the Welsh side hit back through Wales international winger Tom James.
But Cooney’s expert kicking regained Connacht the lead, before centre Bundee Aki finished off a nice, flowing move in the second period to trake the wind out of Cardiff’s sails.
The Blues applied plenty of second-half pressure in a bid to get back into the game but, Connacht held on for a crucial win.
With Wales due to play their last international match of the year this weekend, the Blues saw seveal of their international stars return.
But the Blues opted to leave winger Alex Cuthbert on the bench, while fly-half Gareth Anscombe was not involved.
Both sides showed plenty of attacking intent in the early stages, as Connacht fly-half Jack Carty made a dangerous run, while the Blues’ passing game offered promise.
In such an open game, the first try was unlikely to be far away and so it proved as the defending champions struck through scrum-half Cooney after a powerful scrum.
But the Blues, not to be outdone, fought back and levelled the scores quickly as in-form winger James intercepted a lose Carty pass to score his seventh try of the season.
And the Welsh side had a chance to take the lead after the referee awarded them a kickable penalty, but Steven Shingler pulled his effort wide.
The Blues continued on the front foot as full-back Dan Fish narrowly missed out on a try after he was marginally beaten in a foot race to his kick over the top.
But Connacht led at the break after another powerful scrum forced a penalty, which Cooney comfortably knocked over.
And the no.9 extended their advantage after the break with his second penalty after the referee spotted a tackle off the ball, before being replaced by 22-year-old Caolan Blade.
Blade almost made an immediate impact as he burst through the Blues defence, before the ball was later knocked on.
But they could not stop the hosts from scoring for their second try minutes later as winger Niyi Adeolokun split open the defence and centre Aki touched down.
Now trailing by 11 points, Cardiff started to play with more urgency as Rey Lee-Lo and substitute Matthew Morgan linked up nicely down the left wing, but the ball was lost by Tomos Williams at the base of a ruck.
And minutes later they thought they were back in it when Morgan touched down in the corner, only for the TMO to rule it out for a knock-on.
The Blues continued to ask questions of the Connacht defence with a series of line-outs in the Irish side’s 22, but the home side’s defence remained firm to the end.
Scarlets hold off 14-man Leinster comeback in nine-try Guinness PRO12 thriller
A nine-try Guinness PRO12 thriller saw Scarlets beat Leinster in South Wales, with the hosts eventually running out 38-29 bonus-point winners in the Guinness PRO12.
The hosts ran riot in the first period at Parc y Scarlets, with Johnny McNicholl, Werner Kruger, and Steff Evans all running in tries – while Richardt Strauss’ 39th-minute effort was all Leinster could muster.
Things went from bad to worse for the boys in blue when Barry Daly was sent off in the first minute of the second half with Will Boyde and Ryan Elias scoring soon after, but the Irish province showed their character to claw back two tries through Adam Byrne and Tom Daly.
And they got what they deserved for an admirable second-half comeback at the death, as Andrew Porter scored his first try in Leinster colours to wrap up a try bonus of their own.
It was the hosts who drew first blood in a thrilling, end-to-end start to the contest.
From a Leinster scrum on the Scarlets 22, the home side pounced on a loose ball and McNicholl was away to score on seven minutes – with Rhys Patchell adding the conversion.
Soon the penalties started to mount for the visitors, and after skipper Isa Nacewa was warned, Mike McCarthy saw yellow and Scarlets kicked the resulting penalty into the corner before Kruger was able to rumble over at the back of a driving maul.
Patchell was again on the money from the tee, but Nacewa reduced arrears on 26 minutes with a simple penalty after the boys in blue, still down to 14, won a penalty in front of the posts.
But the Welsh region were truly in the ascendancy just before Leinster returned to full strength, building the phases and lineouts with Evans eventually going over, and another smart Patchell conversion gave them a commanding 21-3 advantage.
It could have been ever worse for Leo Cullen as Evans dropped the ball moments later with the tryline at his mercy, and the four-time Guinness PRO12 champions made them pay.
Leinster put the ball through the hands, running the ball all the way across the back line to the right wing, where Byrne cut inside and fed hooker Strauss to score to give his side a sniff going into the break – although Nacewa’s conversion sailed wide.
But their task got an awful lot harder straight after the interval, when they were reduced to 14 men as Daly saw red for tackling Aled Thomas in the air, with the full-back landing dangerously.
And the ruthless Scarlets made them pay straight away, as a brilliant passing move saw Evans and Thomas combine to send young No.8 Boyde over in the left corner.
Bonus-point secured, Patchell then sent another brilliant conversion over from out wide to give the hosts a 20-point cushion at 28-8.
A scrappy ten minutes followed, but after Hadleigh Parkes elected to go for the corner once again, great composure from the Scarlets’ forwards saw Elias score with a bit of help over the line from Aaron Shingler.
Byrne hit back for Leinster on 55 minutes after a great Ian Nagle drive, and Scarlets fans will have started to feel nervy four minutes later when Ross Byrne’s grubber through the sticks was dotted down by Daly to make the score 35-22.
Despite more Leinster pressure, Scarlets soon steadied the ship and Daniel Jones’ 71st minute penalty gave them a little more breathing room, before Porter’s bonus-point securing score as the clock ticked into the red.
Munster go top with bonus-point win over Benetton Treviso
Munster scored seven tries to move to the top of the Guinness PRO12 with a bonus point 46-3 win over Benetton Treviso at Thomond Park.
With Leinster losing 38-29 to Scarlets on Friday night, the five-point victory for Munster moves them a point ahead of their rivals and two ahead of Ospreys at the summit of the Guinness PRO12.
Andrew Conway scored two tries in the first half after Robin Copeland had crossed following a dominant Munster scrum to push them into the lead.
Second row Dan O’Shea, Ronan O’Mahony, two, and Alex Wootton added four second half tries.
Ian McKinley had given the Italians an early lead with a seventh minute penalty after Treviso looked up for the battle during the first ten minutes before Tyler Bleyendaal pulled his side level after 14 minutes.
As the Munster pack began to get on top, the home side had their first try through No.8 Copeland after a strong scrum from five metres.
Man of the match Bleyendaal added the extras and created both the second and third try for his team as they took a commanding lead during the second half of the first period.
First he chipped through for winger O’Mahony who got a boot onto the ball before Conway touched the ball down in the corner to extend the hosts’ lead to 15-3.
Next, Bleyendaal hit a pinpoint cross-field kick from inside his own half, picking out O’Mahony brilliantly who burst away before giving Conway an easy run in under the posts.
Bleyendaal’s second conversion moved Munster, who are unbeaten at Thomond Park since Christmas 2015, into a 22-3 lead they took into the break.
The home side secured the try bonus point just two minutes into the second half as Bleyendaal popped to the ball off to a charging O’Shea who burst through for his first Munster try.
The home side’s defence came under increased pressure but a quick counter attack saw the Munster grab their fifth try. Another driving maul got them close before the ball was spread to O’Mahony to cross.
Replacement Wootton added the sixth after beating his man and touching down under the posts with Ian Keatley’s conversion making the score 41-3.
A training ground move from Munster pack gave them their seventh try, and O’Mahony’s second, as Copeland went to the blindside from tail of the line out to create a two on one which the hosts converted.
Giles gets another as Ospreys down Edinburgh
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.