Connacht 30 Ulster 25
Defending Guinness PRO12 champions Connacht produced a stellar performance to down league leaders Ulster 30-25 as Cian Kelleher bagged a double.
Kelleher scored twice, while Jack Carty and James Connolly also touched down for Connacht as they continued their recent resurgence following a slow start to the new campaign.
Connacht started like an express train, desperate to dispel a poor record against Ulster that has seen them win just three of their last 26 encounters against their Irish compatriots.
Carty waltzed through under the post after only three minutes for the game’s opening score after Connacht had put together multiple phases in the Ulster 22 following a smart break from hooker Dave Heffernan. Carty also added the extras off the tee.
Ulster, who welcomed wing Tommy Bowe back into their starting XV for the first time in six months, sat top of the Guinness PRO12 table with five wins from five before kick-off but the opening exchanges were even.
And the visitors dragged themselves back into contention minutes later as Paddy Jackson slotted over a simple penalty to make the score 7-3.
Pat Lam’s champions, who have been hit by a spate of injuries this week, got off and running for the season last time out with a 28-15 defeat of Edinburgh and the win seemed to buoy Connacht as they dominated the opening exchanges against Ulster.
And things got even better for Connacht on 23 minutes as Kelleher finished off a flowing team move to score his side’s try of the game, producing a smart sidestep to finish things off. Carty this time struck the woodwork with his conversion in a swirling wind to leave the score at 12-3.
Straight from the restart Connacht strung together multiple phases again, resulting in replacement Connolly powering his way over for his side’s third score of the night after missed tackles saw the home side go from one end to the other.
After a difficult start to their PROI2 title defence, Connacht finally seemed to finally find their form of last season and Carty added to the strong start by adding the conversion to make the score 19-3.
Ulster were handed a lifeline on 32 minutes as Conor Carey was sin-binned for side entry from a driving maul as Connacht attempted to fend off heavy pressure from the visitors.
The numerical advantage eventually paid off as Craig Gilroy ran in for a try uncontested score out wide, cashing in on continued Ulster pressure – Jackson missed the resulting conversion.
Carty added a crucial score on 38 minutes to take the score back to 22-8 as he held his nerve to land a much-needed penalty.
Ulster looked a complete different side after the break and scored two quick tries in just a matter of minutes to turn the game on its head.
First hooker Rory Best burrowed his way over from close range, with Jackson adding the extras, before Bowe created a score for stand-in skipper Jared Payne to run in under the posts, with again the Ulster No.10 converting to leave the scores all square at 22-22.
Connacht refused to roll over though and Kelleher scored his second try of the night on 52 minutes to edge his side in front, scoring out wide after another flowing team move.
While Carty, who missed the conversion after Kelleher’s score, edged Connacht further in front with a penalty to make the score 30-22 soon after.
Jackson reduced the score to 30-25 with a well struck penalty on 65 minutes, while the Ulster fly-half thought he had darted over for a try minutes later but was penalised for accidental offside.
Ross Kane was sin-binned late in the game for Ulster as their challenge to win the game faltered late on.
Edinburgh 45 Benetton Treviso 10
Damien Hoyland’s first-half try-double set the tone as Edinburgh won their first game under acting head coach Duncan Hodge in style.
Hoyland – who scored twice the last time he faced Treviso – was joined on the scoresheet by Hamish Watson and Magnus Bradbury in a half that saw Edinburgh wrap up the try-bonus point.
And though Marco Fuser’s try cut into the deficit after the break, this was to be Edinburgh’s night as Tom Brown – with help from an inspired Jason Tovey – added two more tries for the hosts.
Blair Kinghorn, on his first start of the season, rounded things off with another try at the death.
Hodge had promised the BT Murrayfield a big performance and it looked as if he would prove true to his word when Hoyland touched down with four minutes gone.
The Scotland wing was first to react to a loose ball from a ruck and stormed across the whitewash from some 70 yards out, with Welsh fly-half Tovey converting.
The hosts doubled up moments later, this time Chris Dean doing all the hard work with a superb break before Watson broke through the tackles to touch down.
Tovey made it two conversions from two before the game settled down for a spell – and crucially for Treviso, Tommaso Allan slotted a penalty to get them on the board.
But Hoyland piled the pain on the Italians on the half-hour with another smart finish and Tovey was on target for the third time with the extras.
Hoyland was involved once more soon after, combining with Dean and Mike Allen before back-rower Bradbury was set free to race home from 60 metres out.
Tovey took his personal tally to eight with the conversion and suddenly Edinburgh were 26-3 to the good, which is stayed until half-time.
Treviso showed admirable spirit upon the restart and responded when Fuser rumbled over four minutes into the half, Allan on target with the extras.
It was only to be momentary respite for Treviso – who have not won away from home since December 2014 – as a sumptuous Tovey miss pass opened up the space for Brown to dive over.
Edinburgh made a slew of replacements on the hour mark including a first Edinburgh appearance for young prop Murray McCallum.
The hosts’ sixth of the night also came through Brown and Tovey was the creator again, placing his cross-field kick where only his wing could reach it.
Tovey’s kick then put Edinburgh 40 up before Kinghorn finished a flowing move to round off a morale-boosting night for the home side.
Ospreys 46 Cardiff Blues 24
Ospreys scored seven tries as they recovered from an early deficit in their Guinness PRO12 Welsh derby with Cardiff Blues to win 46-24 as Eli Walker starred with a double.
Alun Wyn Jones, two tries from Walker and Dimitri Arhip all scored before the break for the Ospreys as they took control of the game, while Ben John and Dan Evans touched down straight after half-time in the romp, with Josh Matavesi adding No.7.
Gareth Anscombe slotted over an early penalty for Cardiff Blues but Ospreys replied almost immediately through Sam Davies off the tee.
The Blues fell to a narrow 16-13 defeat to Leinster last weekend, having held a ten-point advantage at the interval but they seemed back to their best against the Ospreys as they dominated the early exchanges.
The Ospreys were penalised at the breakdown on the halfway line after 17 minutes, Anscombe found touch to bring his side back into the Ospreys 22m.
And a great driving maul from the resulting line-out saw Kristian Dacey drive over, with Anscombe adding the extras.
Ospreys were looking to return to winning ways following consecutive defeats to Leinster and Ulster in recent weeks, with Davies preferred to Dan Biggar at No.10 in an otherwise unchanged 15 from last weekend’s loss at the Kingspan Stadium.
But the home side struggled to assert themselves against a pumped up Cardiff in the first quarter of the game.
Dan Fish’s kick was charged down inside his own 22m by Davies on 20 minutes. Referee Nigel Owens looked to the TMO for a potential off the ball tackle and Fish was sin-binned attempting to atone for his error.
Ospreys kicked to the corner from the resulting penalty and Welsh international Alun Wyn Jones was the lucky recipient from the resulting pressure as he burrowed his way over for his 100th point for his side. Davies added the extras to level things up.
And it could have got worse for Cardiff on 24 minutes but Davies missed his drop goal to put the Ospreys in the box seat.
The Ospreys took further advantage of the extra man, as Eli Walker found space on the right to dive over on 27 minutes but Davies missed the conversion.
And things got even worse for Cardiff Blues minutes later as Walker scored his second try of the night for the now rampant Ospreys.
Dan Evans gathered a deep kick and broke to give the Ospreys a good platform, with the ball shipped wide to Walker to score and Davies added the extras to make it 22-10.
And the Ospreys sealed the bonus point, with Dimitri Arhip this time crossing the whitewash to make the score 27-10 but Davies hit the woodwork with his conversion.
Ospreys extended their lead on 41 minutes as Ben John was awarded a score from close range via the TMO, with Davies adding the extras.
And just four minutes later the Ospreys added their sixth score of the game as Dan Evans crossed, with Davies this time missing the conversion to leave the score at 39-10.
Tom James pulled a score back for Cardiff after the hour mark, with Anscombe adding a conversion for the Blues.
But the comeback was short-lived as Josh Matavesi scored the Ospreys seventh try, with Dan Biggar extending the score to 46-17.
Reynold Lee-Lo went over for another late score for Cardiff to soften the blow of their heavy defeat, with Anscombe again adding the extras off the tee.
Leinster 25 Munster 14
Isa Nacewa grabbed a double as Leinster leapfrogged Munster in the Guinness PRO12 table with a 25-14 victory over their fierce rivals at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
Leo Cullen’s men have now won seven of their last eight meetings at the Aviva while Munster’s poor recent record against fellow Irish provinces continues.
Skipper Peter O’Mahony crossed for the visitors in the first half and they had plenty of opportunities but Leinster were too clinical with Nacewa their tormentor in chief.
The winger finished with a try in each half while scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park also crossed in the second period for the boys in blue.
Munster – who have started this season in impressive fashion – have now only won one of their last six clashes against Irish opposition but did get a late consolation through Jaco Taute.
It was the home side who hit the front from the outset, two Jonathan Sexton penalties in the first ten minutes opening up a 6-0 lead.
Either side of those kicks Leinster came agonisingly close to the first try of the game when Gary Ringrose and Sexton combined to release Nacewa down the left but the winger was collared by a superb try-saving tackle by Simon Zebo.
Despite the scoreline, the majority of the rugby in the first quarter was actually played by Munster – muscular carries through the middle creating inroads.
And eventually their pressure told as skipper O’Mahony – in his first start for his province since May of last year – went over at the back of a rolling maul.
Tyler Bleyendaal added the extras to put the Red Army in front at 7-6 but Leinster nearly responded immediately.
Sexton’s clever kick in behind released Ringrose who seemed certain to score but the young centre knocked on with the try line at his mercy.
That miss did not prove too costly however as Leinster did get their try before the break, Nacewa making up for his earlier wasted chance to go over in the left corner after quick hands from Luke McGrath and Sexton had released him.
The fly-half missed with the extras however, so the home side went into the break at the Aviva Stadium leading 11-7.
Munster made early changes in the second half to their pack – skipper O’Mahony withdrawn for Jack O’Donoghue.
But it was another replacement in James Cronin who nearly got their second try – the prop only denied by the TMO for a double movement as the Munster pack turned the screw.
But having spent most of the first ten minutes trapped in their own half, Leinster turned the tide and struck with real ruthlessness.
Ringrose made the initial incision down the right and when the ball was spread left Nacewa again had a simple run in off a Rob Kearney pass.
This time Sexton did add the extras and at 18-7 in front before the hour mark Leinster looked home and hosed.
And not long afterwards they had a third try, a clever kick in behind from debutant Robbie Henshaw sparking chaos in the Munster back line. Ronan O’Mahony and Bleyendaal both failed to ground the ball and replacement scrum-half Gibson-Park was on hand to dot down.
Nacewa slotted the extras for Leinster as Sexton was withdrawn and while Zebo fed Taute late on for a consolation the damage was done as Leinster went second in the table, only behind Ulster on points difference.
Glasgow Warriors 33 Zebre 28
Leonardo Sarto scored against his former side as Glasgow Warriors battled to their fourth Guinness PRO12 victory of the season in a hard-fought 33-28 encounter against Zebre in Italy.
The Italian international dotted down soon after the restart following superb work by Nick Grigg, with the centre delivering a masterclass to play his part in three tries in the Warriors’ bonus-point success.
Sean Lamont was also on hand to score twice, but the 2014-15 Guinness PRO12 champions far from had the situation their own way against a side who had not beaten them in eight previous encounters in the competition.
But despite their wretched record, it was Zebre who started on the front foot, playing through the phases to eventually catch the visitors offside as Carlo Canna kicked for the early lead.
It wasn’t to last long, however, with Lee Jones haring down the wing, halted in his tracks to find Lamont on hand to dot down with less than ten minutes played.
Despite their lead, Glasgow will have considered themselves far from their fluent best with a number of penalties conceded, Canna making the most of the opportunity to put the hosts 6-5 to the good.
It made for a rather end-to-end encounter as Rory Clegg kicked twice from in front of the posts to restore a Warriors lead, but once again Zebre made the most of a kick-off, hooker Oliviero Fabiani eventually showing great footwork to manoeuvre his way over and level the game.
It seemed as if the game would be on terms by the break, but fantastic work from Grigg saw the centre run from 90 metres from his own 22. He was eventually tackled, but with the Italian defence regrouping, Fraser Brown touched down in the corner for a seven-point lead after a conversion.
It gave the Warriors a head of steam heading into the second half, momentum they made the most of, counter-attacking to good effect as Lamont scored his second of the afternoon, courtesy of another Grigg offload.
Despite a 14-point deficit, Zebre were far from out of the game, but it was a former player who came back to haunt them as Sarto raced down the left wing to score.
Grigg was once again the architect, profiting from a quick penalty to stretch the defence before Sarto mopped up against the side he enjoyed four Guinness PRO12 years until the summer, securing the bonus point in the process.
And the breathless second half showed no signs of letting up, with replacement Thomas Boni putting through a neat grubber for Venditti to collect and run home to make it 18-30 heading to the last quarter.
Rob Harley was sent to the sin bin for pulling down the line-out as Zebre kept pushing, but a strong Glasgow defence kept the difference at a vital 12 points as the clock ticked away for the Italians.
Their pressure eventually told though as Andries van Schalkwyk ran through, and with a successful conversion making it a five-point encounter, a frantic finish was in store.
However, Zebre were not able to get their first win of the Guinness PRO12 season, Clegg kicking the decisive penalty to seal a ninth successive win over their Italian counterparts for Glasgow.
Scarlets 31 Newport Gwent Dragons 27
Steff Evans notched a try-double as the Scarlets survived a scare at the hands of Newport Gwent Dragons to bring up a bonus-point victory and their third win on the bounce.
The Dragons were looking to snap a three-game Guinness PRO12 losing streak and despite Evans’ early try, roared into the lead through Hallam Amos and Adam Warren’s try-double.
Ominously for the Dragons, Liam Williams responded for Scarlets before the break, and Jonathan Evans and Steff Evans then put the hosts firmly back in control heading into the final quarter.
To their credit the Dragons did not wave the white flag and a converted try for Sarel Pretorius meant there were just four points in it, but it was not to be for the visitors.
In the last of the ‘Big Weekend’ match-ups, Evans brought Parc y Scarlets to its feet four minutes in as he scythed through the Dragons defence to complete a superb try, converted by Rhys Patchell.
The Dragons showed their intent when they opted for the corner after winning a penalty, which ultimately came to nothing.
But their positive attitude paid off in the 13th minute as Wales flyer Amos squeezed over in the corner, and Nick Macleod levelled the scores with a fine touchline conversion.
Dragons then leaned on Macleod again ten minutes later as the former Sale Sharks fly-half struck another excellent kick to put the visitors up by three points.
The momentum was well and truly with the Dragons on the half-hour mark as Amos turned provider with a sumptuous kick over Scarlets heads into the path of Warren for the try. The conversion was wide to leave the score at 15-7.
But Warren heaped more woe on the Scarlets soon after as he crossed again upon verification from the TMO. Angus O’Brien, on as a replacement for Macleod, could not convert.
Crucially for the Scarlets they responded almost immediately through Wales full-back Williams and were back to within a score when Patchell made the extras.
O’Brien missed the chance to extend the Dragons’ lead back out to nine points as they went in at half-time 20-14 to the good.
Scarlets first began to claw back the deficit when Dragons were pinged for offside and Patchell pushed a penalty through the posts.
And with an hour gone, the turnaround was complete as Scarlets made good use of line-out ball and Jonathan Evans slipped his way through and over the whitewash.
The Dragons’ resistance was then broken for good moments later, Steff Evans grabbing both his try-double and the try-bonus point for the home side. With Patchell’s conversion, suddenly Scarlets were boasting an 11-point lead.
As befitting this see-saw match back came the Dragons with ten minutes to go, Pretorius conjuring a break before racing under the sticks. O’Brien’s conversion cut the lead down to four.
But to the relief of the home crowd Scarlets made it across the line to ensure they head into the European break on a high note.