Keatley leaves it late as Munster beat Glasgow
Ian Keatley scored a late drop-goal to secure a dramatic 16-15 victory for Guinness PRO12 leaders Munster away at Glasgow Warriors in a tight, tense game.
The league leaders surged out of the blocks and took control of the match thanks Keatley’s penalty and Andrew Conway’s try – but Glasgow surged back after the break.
Two tries from Ali Price and Mark Bennett looked to have won the game for Glasgow as they mounted an impressive second-half comeback.
But Keatley kept his cool to win the game for the Irish side, who retain their place at the top of the table.
Entering this contest, Glasgow Warriors were boosted by the return of eight international players following the end of Scotland’s fixtures – including the likes of Bennett and Tommy Seymour.
Munster recalled captain Peter O’Mahony, while Tommy O’Donnell made his 100th Guinness PRO12 appearance.
The league leaders made a fast start as Keatley scored the first points of the night with a simple penalty, minutes before full-back Conway scored the first try of the night after a neat move.
Keatley, so aware of the space out wide, sent a crossfield kick to the corner, where winger Darren Sweetnam knocked it down for Conway to score.
Glasgow responded through a Peter Horne penalty, but the fly-half only managed 22 minutes before an injury ended his evening prematurely.
The hosts recovered and piled the pressure on Munster and Dave Kilcoyne was sent to the sin-bin for an infringement at a line-out.
Munster recovered territory and possession and even had the chance to extend their lead with another Keatley penalty, which he sent sailing through the posts.
Things got worse for Glasgow after the break as Rory Hughes was stretchered off with an injury, and the game became scrappy with both sides struggling to retain the ball.
But Glasgow made Munster nervous as they closed the gap to within three points just after the hour-mark as they stole a line-out and made space for scrum-half Price to sneak through.
The game came alive, as Munster almost responded immediately as they charged down a clearance and almost won the race to the ball behind the try-line.
But Glasgow, in front of a roaring home crowd, took the lead as Bennett surged down the wing, cut inside and sprinted to the line for a memorable score.
However, if Munster want to be champions they know they have to respond to those situations and Keatley won the game with a drop-goal after a controlled drive
Scarlets in seventh heaven after Zebre success
Scarlets have now won seven successive Guinness PRO12 games as Jonathan Evans went over for two of five tries in a 31-24 win at Zebre.
Heading to Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi Scarlets had won six games in a row, while Zebre were still awaiting their first win at home this season.
But early on it looked as though fortunes might be reversed as the boot over Carlo Canna had the home side 9-7 in front.
However, that was as good as it got for the Italians as Aaron Shingler and DTH van der Merwe added to Evans’ earlier Scarlets score.
And after the break Aled Davies and Evans grabbed a second, before Zebre showed their fighting spirit by going over themselves late on through Federico Ruzza and Giovanbattista Venditti, with a Canna penalty at the death earning them a losing bonus point.
Zebre hosted Scarlets having never beaten then in eight attempts, but took an early lead thanks to a third-minute drop goal from Canna.
The hosts had started brightly and a kick in behind from centre Tommaso Boni looked to get them in behind but Hadleigh Parkes managed to get to the ball first.
Canna then sent over a penalty just outside the Scarlets 22 to double Zebre’s lead, but on 12 minutes the Welsh side nudged ahead as scrum-half Evans stole the ball and raced away to dot down, Rhys Patchell adding the extras.
However the home side were not rolling over and midway through the half Canna sent over another drop goal to restore their lead.
But while Zebre were struggling to trouble the tryline their visitors were having no such trouble as Shingler went over for the Welsh side’s second of the first half on 33 minutes.
Good hands from Tadhg Beirne and Van der Merwe saw the flanker go over, with Patchell adding the extras once again.
And just before the break Scarlets had their third try, this time Van der Merwe went over following some slick handling, with Patchell converting for a 21-9 half-time lead.
Five minutes after the restart Scarlets had the bonus point secure as Jonathan Davies broke away before full-back Aled Davies finished the move off, Patchell failing with his kick for the first time in the game.
And five minutes later the Welsh side were celebrating again as Evans went over for his fifth of the season following a fortunate bounce and Scarlets’ fifth of the afternoon.
To Zebre’s credit they never gave up, but a forward pass following a line out on the Scarlets 10m line halted their progress on the hour mark.
However they did have a try on 64 minutes as a long Canna pass to Edoardo Padovani saw No.8 Ruzza go over for a converted score.
And with ten minutes left the home fans were on their feet again as Venditti went over, with Canna’s late penalty earning the home side a losing bonus point.
Seven-try Connacht overpower Benetton Treviso in Galway
Connacht continued their fine run of home form as they ran in seven tries against the Guinness PRO12’s basement side Benetton Treviso to win 47-8.
Tom McCartney’s first-half double and scores from Danie Poolman and Denis Buckley secured a try-bonus-point before half-time, and a commanding 28-3 lead for the hosts.
And John Cooney, Quinn Roux, and Jack Carty completed the scoring as Connacht eased home, meaning Braam Steyn’s try for Treviso was no more than a consolation.
The Irish outfit were unbeaten in four Guinness PRO12 games at the Sportsground prior to the match, but were dealt a blow when they lost Matt Healy in the warm-up with Poolman coming in on the wing.
The visitors started well, probing for an early try on the Connacht five-metre line after Jake Heenan was stripped of the ball, but while the home side’s defence stood firm they were pinged and Ian McKinley made it 3-0 from the tee.
Connacht forced a turnover and then a penalty deep in Italian territory, with Marnitz Boshoff kicking to the corner the Guinness PRO12 champions decision to turn down a routine three points was justified when McCartney rumbled over on 12 minutes to give the hosts the lead – Cooney making no mistake with the conversion.
But while Cian Kelleher immediately saw yellow after accidentally taking out McKinley in the air, Pat Lam will have been thrilled to see his side absorb Treviso’s pressure for the duration of his time on the sidelines.
Buckley got in over the ball to win a vital turnover on 23 minutes, which led to Connacht’s second try of the afternoon.
Bundee Aki found Nepia Fox-Matamua, and the Kiwi-born flanker’s beautiful flicked pass was gratefully grasped by Poolman who ran in to score, with Cooney nailing the conversion again.
Things went from bad to worse for Treviso as Simone Ferrari saw yellow for persistent fouling at the breakdown, and just after the half-hour mark John Muldoon was just held up after crossing the whitewash.
But Connacht’s pressure told and they got their reward when McCartney doubled his tally for the afternoon in the right corner.
And the Galway outfit had their try-bonus point before the interval as Kelleher, Cooney and Aki put the ball through the hands for Buckley to score.
Cooney’s flawless kicking continued as he converted both to make it 28-3 at the interval, and while Treviso stabilised slightly after half-time, ten minutes into the second half Connacht were over again.
A brilliant training ground move off the back of a lineout just outside Treviso 22 saw Poolman come off his wing and offload for Cooney to score under the posts, and Roux added try number six from a five-metre scrum moments later.
Lam rang the changes for the hosts around the hour mark, and Treviso began to threaten when they won a penalty at scrum time, and after setting up a five-metre rolling maul knocked the ball on over the line on 65 minutes.
But just a minute later the Italians got their first try for their efforts, using their strength up front to drive Connacht back over the line and Steyn touched down at the back of the scrum.
McKinley’s conversion attempt was unlucky to hit the right post, and there was still time for Carty to go over for Connacht’s final try of the afternoon under the sticks.
Ulster stop the rot with bonus-point Blues win
Ulster ended their three-game Guinness PRO12 losing run in superb style as Ruan Pienaar starred in a bonus-point 35-22 victory against Cardiff Blues.
Charles Piutau, Stuart McCloskey and loosehead Kyle McCall all touched down in a breathless first-half, despite Les Kiss’ side playing their first game for a month.
Openside flanker Chris Henry marked his return to secure the bonus-point win in the second half, with a Louis Ludik charge down sealing the win.
Kristian Dacey’s first-half score followed by tries from Willis Halahalo and Alex Cuthbert gave the Blues hope, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a fifth Guinness PRO12 defeat in six outings.
Despite Ulster boasting much of the early ball, it was the hosts who first ticked over the scoreboard, Steve Shingler needing just four minutes to find his range for a side missing Sam Warburton through illness.
And it could have got better for Blues too as Tom James – eyeing up a seventh try of the season – found room on the left after a wonderful Shingler pass, only for Piutau to hold his own and bundle his man to touch.
But from the first meaningful attack, rewards came, Ulster pinning the home defence right on their line, 11 phases of pressure proving its worth as Piutau dotted down for his second try in Ulster colours.
With Blaine Scully by this point in the sin-bin, Ulster’s numerical advantage came to the fore, McCloskey dancing his way through the defence to make the most of wing Craig Kilroy’s break.
Pienaar’s conversion extended the lead to 11, but the South African was not done there, charging down a kick to allow McCall to power over from short range.
Only Zebre and Benetton Treviso had conceded more than the Blues’ 27 tries before Guinness PRO12 round ten, and with three against their name in quick succession, Danny Wilson’s side had to find form fast.
And they did exactly that with the last play of the half, brilliant footwork from Reynold Lee-Lo setting up Kristian Dacey to bundle over, the deficit 21-8 at the break.
It was Blues’ momentum that carried into the second period with a superb break down the right seeing Cuthbert denied by a high Iain Henderson tackle, enough to see the Ulsterman in the sin-bin.
Yet with Luke Marshall following suit after Henderson’s return, it was Ulster next on the scoreboard, a wonderful break from Tommy Bowe – eyeing up his 65th try in the league – saw quick ball to the left, Henry crossing under pressure from Matthew Morgan to bring the bonus point.
Nick Robinson – making his first Blues appearance since 2009 – almost single-handedly brought his side back, delivering two delicious passes for Halahalo and Cuthbert to dot down within minutes of each other, the jitters certainly present in the Ulster squad.
That was until a second charge-down try sealing the deal, Ludik profiting to touch down for the Irish province’s fifth try in an entertaining clash in Wales, Pienaar maintaining his excellent form with the boot.