Hughes double helps Glasgow Warriors go top of table
Rory Hughes bagged a double as Glasgow Warriors moved top of the Guinness PRO12 table with a 31-14 bonus-point win over Benetton Treviso at Scotstoun.
Jonny Gray, Mark Bennett, Hughes and Alex Dunbar all crossed for Gregor Townsend’s side in the first half as they wrapped up the four-try bonus point.
The Italians had a penalty try to show for their efforts in the first 40 minutes – Dunbar also sent to the sin bin – but the Scots looked ruthless in attack.
And when man of the match Hughes crossed for his second soon after half-time it looked like the Scottish side might turn the screw and pull away.
However, the Italians – without a win on their travels since the 2012/13 season – refused to buckle and hit back with a Davide Giazzon score shortly after the hour mark while Glasgow debutant Langilangi Haupeakui was in the sin bin.
And the USA international then saw red late on when he received a second yellow for a no-arms tackle to end the match on a sour note for the hosts.
The Warriors have now won their last ten matches against Treviso, whilst the Italians’ most recent success in Scotland was when they beat Edinburgh at BT Murrayfield back in 2012.
So it was of surprise to few that the Warriors came storming out of the blocks and should have had the game’s first try as early as the second minute.
Stuart Hogg collected a clever chip to dive over in the left corner but the TMO spotted that the full-back had grounded the ball before the line and then knocked it on before crossing it.
But that was a temporary stay of execution for the Italians as wave after wave of pressure on the try-line eventually told in the ninth minute when Gray muscled over from close range.
Their second try was not far behind either, a line-out move released Dunbar through the middle and then Bennett cut a fabulous arcing line from left to right to stutter over in the corner.
Russell could not convert this time but at 12-0 the writing appeared to be on the wall for the visitors.
They needed the next score and it duly arrived, with a bit of luck thrown in.
Dean Budd made the break but appeared to have delayed the offload to Alberto Sgarbi too long, but the pass cannoned off the centre’s legs and over the line.
There appeared to be only one winner in the race to the line with Sgarbi certain to score but Dunbar was already committed to the tackle and referee David Wilkinson had little choice but to yellow card the Scotland centre and award a penalty try.
With the simple conversion from Ian McKinley the visitors were within touching distance at 12-7 with a man advantage.
But Townsend’s men came again and despite their numerical disadvantage summoned their third try of the half just before the half-hour mark.
Hughes was the man to go over this time, cutting back onto Henry Pyrgos’ inside ball to coast over under the posts.
And before the break the Warriors had their bonus point and it was Dunbar, back from ten minutes in the sin bin, who collected a loose ball and shrugged off three tacklers to go over.
Russell’s tough conversion bisected the posts as well and at the break Glasgow were 26-7 to the good.
It did not take long after the break for the Warriors to grab a fifth –and it was Hughes again going over in the left corner after Hogg expertly exploited an overlap to release him.
But thereafter the Warriors lost their rhythm after emptying the bench and it was a debut to forget for Haupeakui who received two yellow cards – either side of Giazzon’s score at the back of a driving maul.
It was not the way Townsend would have wanted the game to end but they are top of the standings and well placed to challenge for the title they won for the first time in 2015.
Scannell’s late drop goal lifts Munster above Ulster
Rory Scannell’s late drop goal secured Munster a dramatic comeback 15-14 win over Ulster that lifts them above their provincial rivals and back into the Guinness PRO12 top four.
Munster have now won three in a row at the Kingspan Stadium – the first time they have done that since the Second World War – but they had to do it the hard way in Belfast.
First-half tries from Charles Piutau – his first for the club – and Rob Lyttle opened up a 14-0 lead for the hosts who came into the game sitting top of the Guinness PRO12 standings.
But Rory Scannell went over for Munster – who dominated huge swathes of this clash – in first-half stoppage time to trim the gap.
Jaco Taute then crossed in the second half for the visitors but it looked like Ian Keatley’s misfiring boot would cost the away side.
The fly-half – Munster’s hero with a late penalty in this same fixture in January – missed three kicks at a goal and a drop goal and Ulster were clinging on to a 14-12 win as time ticked down.
But up stepped man of the match Scannell to slot a fine drop goal with five minutes remaining and although Jackson came agonisingly close with a drop goal of his own in the last two minutes, it drifted wide and Munster held on.
The home side came roaring out of the blocks and had the game’s first try inside five minutes.
Jackson’s kick to the corner was well batted down by Craig Gilroy despite the attention of two Munster defenders and Piutau was on hand to collect the loose ball and dart over for the score.
Jackson added the extras for a 7-0 lead but for the next half an hour that was as good as it got for the hosts as Munster turned the screw.
But Keatley’s misfiring right foot failed to make the most of a forceful visiting pack that established both territory and possession.
The fly-half missed a drop goal and dragged a penalty horribly wide in the first quarter and the Ulster defence held firm.
They had to make do without Darren Cave who went off injured forcing a backline reshuffle as Piutau moved to outside centre and Gilroy to full-back.
But on a rare foray into the Munster half however, the home side grabbed their second try around the half-hour mark.
A kickable penalty went to the corner and although Munster withstood the driving line-out they hadn’t counted on winger Lyttle.
On as an injury replacement for Cave, the youngster wriggled through three Munster tacklers to dive over under the posts and with Jackson’s extras the home side had a flattering 14-0 lead.
But as the clock ticked into the red at end of first half the visitors finally got their reward as Scannell went over in the right corner. Keatley compounded a poor half by dragging the extras wide and Ulster led 14-5 at the break.
Keatley’s second half didn’t look like it was going to be much better than the first as he smacked a penalty against the post to keep Ulster nine points in front.
And as the heavens opened, the game tightened up and neither side could find a breakthrough as the hour mark approached.
But Munster kept coming, picking and going around the corner and eventually the dam broke as Taute cut a hard line to roll over and dot down their second try.
Rory Scannell took over the kicking duties and duly slotted the conversion and the home side’s lead had been trimmed to just 14-12 with quarter of an hour remaining.
Ulster then wasted the chance to immediately respond when Jackson dragged a penalty wide and it stayed a two-point game into the final ten minutes.
Scannell then held his nerve while Jackson – the drop goal hero last weekend in Europe on the same ground – saw his effort drift just wide.
Venditti’s late try sees Zebre make history in Edinburgh
Zebre recorded their first ever Guinness PRO12 win in Scotland as Giovanbattista Venditti’s late try handed them a dramatic 19-14 victory over Edinburgh.
The Italians had not won on eight previous visits to the country but when Damien Hoyland’s interception attempt failed, Venditti went over for the 78th-minute try which made history.
The unerring boot of Carlo Canna and some resilient defence had given Zebre a 12-0 lead with half an hour remaining but a pair of converted front-row tries – from Ross Ford and Murray McCallum – looked to have got Edinburgh out of jail.
However, Venditti’s score broke their hearts and snapped a three-game winning streak in the process.
Zebre may have suffered five consecutive Guinness PRO12 defeats to start the season but they began strongly at BT Murrayfield, continuous pressure yielding a penalty in front of the posts which Canna duly converted.
The Italians’ defence then stepped up to deny Edinburgh a quick response, winning turnover ball in their own 22 on multiple occasions.
With the hard running of Viliame Mata and the searching kicks of Jason Tovey and Hoyland, it appeared to be only a matter of time before the hosts got on the scoreboard but Zebre consistently cleared their lines.
And they got even more respite on 26 minutes as Canna slotted another three-pointer from in front of the posts to double the lead.
Edinburgh spurned an opportunity to halve the deficit seven minutes before the break, opting to boot a kickable penalty to the corner before coming up short in search of a try.
Instead, the Italian outfit promptly went down the other end and Canna nailed three more points for a 9-0 half-time lead.
The hosts looked certain to score just after the half-time interval following a great break from Phil Burleigh and nice work from Mata but Allan Dell knocked on at the line.
And they were again punished as the boot of Canna did more damage to extend the advantage to 12-0, before the Italian international lost his perfect record from the tee on 52 minutes as he failed to bisect the posts with his fifth attempt.
Edinburgh got themselves back in the contest with 18 minutes remaining as Ford was the beneficiary of an inexorable driving maul and Blair Kinghorn nailed the tricky touchline conversion.
Relentless play at the breakdown then culminated in McCallum powering his way over the line for his first Edinburgh try and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne’s extras gave the hosts their maiden lead of the game on 68 minutes.
However, with just two minutes left, Hoyland missed his interception and Federico Ruzza sent in Venditti for the pivotal try – Canna also slotting the conversion for a famous victory, Zebre’s first away win in any competition since beating Worcester Warriors in the European Challenge Cup back in January.
Scarlets make it four in a row with derby win over Cardiff Blues
Scarlets recorded a fourth Guinness PRO12 win in a row as they secured a 26-15 bonus-point victory over Cardiff Blues in an absorbing Welsh derby at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park.
An open first half saw Scarlets notch three tries – Aaron Shingler, Jonathan Evans and DTH van der Merwe all dotting down – to their hosts’ one through Tom James.
Hadleigh Parkes then appeared to put the visitors out of sight shortly after the interval and despite Blaine Scully’s spectacular finish giving the Blues a glimmer of hope, they ultimately suffered a third Guinness PRO12 defeat in a row for the first time since November 2015.
It was the visitors who got off the perfect start on seven minutes as Rhys Patchell’s dangerous, hanging cross-field kick against his old club earned the Scarlets an attacking line-out and after seven phases of persistent pressure, Shingler used his powerful frame to barrel forward and stretch out to dot down.
Patchell duly added the conversion and did the same three minutes later as Scarlets crossed again – van der Merwe superbly scooping up and darting from the base of a ruck before offloading out the back of his hand for Evans to canter over.
But barely two minutes after that score, a back-and-forth passage of play ended with the hosts going over to narrow the deficit to 14-7.
A knock-on in the visiting 22 looked to have ended the Blues’ chances of a score as the Scarlets countered with pace but a loose John Barclay pass was gleefully intercepted by James, who sauntered over for his 40th Guinness PRO12 try.
The breathless nature of the derby continued and with both teams adventurously flinging the ball about, it was no surprise when another interception led to the game’s fourth score on 22 minutes.
Aled Thomas plucked Steve Shingler’s pass out of the air in his own 22 and reached halfway before passing to speedster van der Merwe to do the rest, the Canadian jogging clear to seemingly put the visitors on course for a fourth successive Guinness PRO12 win at 21-7 ahead.
And they held that lead until half-time thanks to some superb last-ditch defending, with the Blues spending the final ten minutes of the half camped in the Scarlets 22 but ultimately leaving pointless.
Danny Wilson’s men needed to score first after the break but instead, with just 40 seconds on the clock, Scarlets wrapped up the four-try bonus point.
Patchell’s dummy pass enabled him to burst through a hole in the defence on halfway and he feinted past full-back Matthew Morgan before offloading to Parkes for the score, although the missed conversion ended Patchell’s 100 per cent record from the tee.
Steve Shingler’s 46th-minute penalty narrowed the gap to 26-10 and when Will Boyde was sent to the sin-bin with 25 minutes left, the Blues had a glorious chance to get themselves back in contention.
They did just that as Scully collected a bouncing pass on the right and went airborne to avoid going into touch, acrobatically dotting down in the corner.
Shingler’s conversion attempt sailed just wide and despite Aaron Shingler getting yellow-carded for the Scarlets soon after, the Blues couldn’t close the gap any further as they suffered a third league loss in a row.
Giles scores twice as Ospreys ease past rivals Dragons
Keelan Giles scored two more tries as Ospreys returned to the top of the Guinness PRO12 with a convincing 35-17 bonus-point win against Newport Gwent Dragons at the Liberty Stadium.
The home side struggled in the first 20 minutes but as soon as Tom Habberfield scored their first try victory seemed inevitable, as they preserved their strong record against the Dragons – who they have not lost to in the Guinness PRO12 since 2012.
Scott Baldwin, released from Wales international duty to start the match along with flanker Dan Lydiate, scored Ospreys’ second from a rolling maul just before the break.
And in the second half Ospreys cut loose as Giles made it eight tries in four appearances with his pair, while Brendan Leonard put the icing on the cake late on before the Dragons scored two consolation tries through replacement Matthew Screech and Pat Howard.
The Dragons, who have won just once all season, handed a first start to scrum half Tavis Knoyle, who partnered the recalled Nick Macleod at fly-half.
And the visitors made a bright start by moving the ball confidently and quickly, earning a fourth-minute penalty which Macleod slotted over.
Ospreys’ slow start got worse minutes later when prop Dimitri Arhip was handed a yellow card, but the Dragons failed to make their extra man advantage count as they coughed up the ball when just inches from the try line.
And they were made to pay when Ospreys scored the game’s opening try in the 22nd minute as captain Habberfield caught the Dragons out when he picked the ball up off the back of a five-metre scrum, held off desperate tackles and planted the ball down to give his side the lead.
From there, the home side enjoyed more possession and territory and with that their confidence grew as speedy winger Giles darted down the right, only to be bundled into touch just five metres out.
But they scored their second try just before the break as some neat footwork from Josh Matavesi in his own half, allowed him to release Giles through the heart of the Dragons side.
After he was dragged down, the referee awarded Ospreys a penalty which they kicked for touch, and a rolling maul was capitalised on by hooker Baldwin who powered over.
Giles was kept largely quiet in the first half but he came alive minutes after the break as he scored Ospreys’ third try after breaking through from close range.
And just over ten minutes later the 18-year-old took advantage of a Dragons handling error by booting the ball forward and beating the Dragons defence to the ball to score his second of the match to secure Ospreys a bonus point.
Ospreys controlled the game from there, defending well and preventing the Dragons from getting anywhere near the try line.
And they wrapped it up thanks to former New Zealand international Leonard, who darted over from close range following a ruck, before the Dragons scored through Screech who muscled over.
Howard scored with the last action of the game with a neat try in the corner after a the ball was moved quickly right, but the visitors’ comeback was cut short as they ran out of time.
Leinster move top with victory over Connacht
A try for both Leinster wings saw them move to the top of the GUINNESS Pro12 table, level on points with Ospreys and Glasgow Warriors, after a 24-13 victory over Connacht.
Adam Byrne and debutant Barry Daly both crossed for the home side at the RDS Arena with Isa Nacewa adding 14 points with the boots while Shane Delahunt got a consolation Connacht try.
The win stretches the Leinstermen’s winning streak at home to 19 matches and saw them avenge the Guinness PRO12 final defeat to Connacht last year.
Connacht enjoyed the better of the early stages and took the lead when Craig Ronaldson successfully a converted a penalty after Cian Healy was penalised.
Ronaldson doubled the visitors lead after 13 minutes with a second penalty from the right-hand side just outside the 22.
Leinster finally managed to get themselves onto the scoreboard after 23 minutes as the New Zealand born Isa Nacewa knocked over a straight forward kick from in front of the posts.
Flanker Sean O’Brien was then shown a yellow card for an illegal clear out at a ruck but it didn’t prevent Nacewa levelling the scores after 32 minutes.
With O’Brien seconds away from returning to the field, it was Connacht’s turn to be temporarily reduced to 14 men as outside-centre Peter Robb was given his marching orders.
Robb was stretching for an interception but only managed to knock on and referee John Lacey adjudged it to have been deliberate.
And it was the home side that took the lead into the break as Nacewa knocked over the resulting penalty with 38 minutes on the clock.
Connacht piled on the pressure as the clock ticked past 40 minutes but a knock on just metres out from the Leinster line saw their opportunity go begging.
The crucial score of the game came ten minutes after the break as Byrne scored his third try in Leinster colours.
The home side had a five-metre scrum and after a few tight phases, hooker Jack Conan’s good hands found Byrne in space with the winger cleverly waiting for the bounce before gathering and diving over the line.
Nacewa missed the conversion but had his fourth successful penalty of the afternoon just before the hour mark.
Leinster sealed the victory with five minutes left on the clock, as winger Barry Daly sealed a dream debut with try from close range.
Shane Delahunt added a late consolation try with an excellent line to break through the Leinster defence which had been impregnable up until the last minute of the game.
Read more at at Pro12 Website