O’Brien shines from tee as Dragons get back to winning ways
Angus O’Brien delivered a kicking masterclass from the tee as Newport Gwent Dragons put a stop to their three-game losing streak with a dominant display over Benetton Treviso under Friday Night Lights.
The Dragons came into their tie at Rodney Parade on the back of successive defeats in the Guinness PRO12, but turned their fortunes around for only their fourth league victory of the season.
After giving Kingsley Jones’ side an early lead from a penalty, O’Brien went on to add 11 further points for the Dragons, with tries for the Welsh outfit coming from Sarel Pretorius and skipper Lewis Evans.
A score from Tito Tebaldi and three points from Tommaso Allan looked to have given the Italians hope early on in the first half, but a sudden increase in tempo from the Dragons put the game to bed.
O’Brien broke the deadlock for the Dragons, kicking them into the lead from the tee after the Italians were penalised in front of the posts.
But Treviso immediately responded when Tebaldi reacted quickest to a Dragons mistake, hacking on and gathering to cross in the corner.
They further extended their lead on 24 minutes when Allan successfully kicked for three points after the Dragons were called up for slowing possession at a ruck, having given away a handful of penalties in the lead up.
It didn’t take long, however, for the hosts to regain their advantage, upping the tempo for Pretorius to dot down under the posts after spotting the gap before O’Brien nailed the conversion.
Pretorius was then sin-binned seven minutes later for slamming the ball down following a scrum in the Dragons’ 22, before the visitors wasted a glorious opportunity to pull some points back, knocking on after attacking from the scrum.
O’Brien ensured Jones’ men would go into the break with a five-point advantage, slotting home a penalty from 40 metres on the stroke of half-time.
The hosts saw their lead further extended ten minutes into the second period, that man again O’Brien – the Dragons’ top point scorer – coolly burying a drop goal after struggling to find a way through the Treviso defence.
He then stretched his side’s lead to 11 points four minutes later, opting for the posts after the opposition were penalised.
It was the turn of Evans to cross the whitewash next for the Dragons, finding himself on the end of the maul to score, and the hosts put the game out of Treviso’s reach when Dorian Jones added the extras.
Sexton returns in style as Leinster ease past Zebre
Johnny Sexton marked his long-awaited return to Guinness PRO12 action with a perfect record from the tee as Leinster sailed past Zebre under Friday Night Lights.
With seven different try scorers, including three for Rory O’Loughlin, Leo Cullen’s men sealed the bonus point with just half an hour played, with Sexton – pulling on the Leinster jersey for the first time since the autumn internationals two months ago – contributing 12 points to their tally.
Two first-half penalties from Edoardo Padovani had given the Italians hope in the early stages, but the Irish province proved too strong as they maintained their top three position.
Leinster were the first to get on the scoresheet when Sean O’Brien dotted down after fine work from the centres saw the ball spread wide, Sexton successfully kicking the conversion from the tee.
Zebre pulled a penalty back on 16 minutes through Padovani, but the hosts immediately responded as Hayden Triggs crossed the whitewash before Sexton added the extras.
Padovani added another three points to Zebre’s tally to narrow the advantage to eight, but Luke McGrath was quick to restore the hosts’ lead with a try, running under the posts following slick play with Zane Kirchner.
Cian Healy’s big carry made it 28-6 on the 30-minute mark to secure the bonus point, with Sexton converting both to make it four from four.
And on the stroke of half-time, McGrath broke free from the scrum before putting O’Loughlin through for a converted try to ensure Leinster went into the break 29 points ahead.
The hosts had the first opportunity for points of the second period, when Dan Leavy looked set to cross in the corner after a stunning James Tracy pass, only to be tackled into touch.
But they didn’t have long to wait for that first try of the second 40, Garry Ringrose ploughing over the line for his side’s sixth try of the evening, Sexton continuing his perfect record from the tee.
O’Loughlin got his second of the game on the 70-minute mark when he crossed from close range, before securing his hat-trick just minutes later after latching on to a sublime Ringrose off-load to score once more, Ross Byrne successfully converting both.
The Italians finished the game with 14 men when Guillermo Roan was shown a yellow card, and their fate was sealed when Ringrose added his second try – and his side’s ninth – of the game with the clock ticking down, crossing over following a scrum five metres from the line, Byrne once again adding the two points.
And Jamie Heaslip wrapped up his side’s stunning performance with a last-gasp try, converted by Byrne, to seal a 70-6 victory for Leinster for their second win on the bounce.
Second-half comeback gives Scarlets victory over Ulster
Scarlets returned to winning ways with a hard-fought victory over Ulster at Parc Y Scarlets with an excellent second-half comeback to consolidate their top four position.
The hosts were trailing 13-6 at the break due to Jacob Stockdale’s try for Ulster with Paddy Jackson adding the conversion and two penalties.
But Ulster were unable to add to their tally in the second half as a penalty try and a third penalty from Dan Jones gave the Scarlets all four points.
Jones, on his first Guinness PRO12 start of the season, nearly gave his side the perfect start after three minutes as he charged down a kick by his opposite number Paddy Jackson.
The Scarlet’s No. 10 hacked the ball towards the tryline but was just beaten to the ball by Jackson who managed to atone for his error and force a knock-on.
Jones did give his side the lead with 11 minutes played though as he scored his first penalty and another successful kick four minutes later made it 6-0 to the home side.
Jackson responded with a penalty of his own on 17 minutes with a 45 metre penalty and the visitors had the lead for the first time soon after.
Stuart McCloskey cut a great line from an Ulster rolling maul to puncture the Scarlets defence and when he offloaded to Jacob Stockdale, the winger was free to run in under the posts for his third try of the season.
Jackson added the extras to give the visitors a 10-6 lead.
The Ulster fly-half extended their advantage with another well-struck penalty at the end of the first-half to put his side 13-6 up at the break.
In the second half, Jones reduced the deficit with a penalty in the 53rd minute as Ulster were penalised for not releasing the tackler.
Aled Davies was then held up over the try line but Sean Reidy was shown a yellow card for a high tackle in his attempt to stop the replacement and Scarlets were awarded a penalty try.
A successful conversion from Jones put Scarlets 16-13 ahead and it was a narrow lead that they would not relinquish.
Scarlets second row Jake Ball was also sent from the field for ten minutes for a high tackle on 63 minutes but Ulster were forced to settle for a losing bonus point.
Ospreys reach summit with bonus point win over Connacht
Ospreys moved to the top of the Guinness PRO12 table with a bonus point 29-7 victory over Connacht at the Liberty Stadium.
Dan Baker and Olly Cracknell both got tries early in the first half with Nicky Smith adding a third after the break for the home side.
Sean O’Brien got a consolation score for Connacht but Ashley Beck grabbed the bonus point try in the final moments of the game despite a yellow card for Sam Davies.
Ospreys raced out of the blocks and opened the scoring in the 12th minute when No 8 Baker charged over after Hanno Dirksen, on his 100th appearance for the club, was stopped just short.
Davies converted and barely two minutes later flanker Cracknell doubled the home side’s lead at the Liberty Stadium as he powered through the Connacht defence.
The Ospreys fly-half was once again on target with the conversion as the home side dominated the early exchanges against the Guinness PRO12 champions.
With half an hour played, the Ospreys nearly had their third try as Welsh international Justin Tipuric squeezed over in the corner but the TMO confirmed Matt Healy had taken the flanker into touch.
Davies extended the lead with a 30m penalty four minutes into the second half with a successful penalty to move past 500 points scored for the South Wales club.
The young fly-half joins team-mate Dan Biggar, Gavin Henson and James Hook in an exclusive group to have achieved the feat for the Ospreys.
A Tom Habberfield break saw Ospreys on their way to their third try as a penalty for the hosts was sent into the corner with prop Nicky Smith eventually driving over from close range.
And it was Davies again from the tee with his third successful conversion of the afternoon.
Connacht replacement Danie Poolman came close to the Ospreys try line with ten minutes to play as he attempted to latch onto John Cooney’s kick but Dafydd Howells’ tackle denied him the score.
Davies was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Cooney in the build up and Connacht’s pressure soon paid off as O’Brien pounced on a loose ball to touch down in the corner.
It was the first try the Ospreys had conceded in the Guinness PRO12 since Edinburgh on December 2 and it was converted from the touchline by Cooney.
But there was still time for Beck to snatch what could be a vital bonus point as he dived over with the last play of the game with the missed conversion inconsequential to the result.
Excellent Warriors score four in comfortable Blues victory
Peter Murchie scored two second-half tries as Glasgow Warriors pulled clear of Cardiff Blues in the second period to claim a 29-15 win in the Guinness PRO12.
The hosts made a fast start and scored early through Pat MacArthur, but the Blues bit back and scored just before the break through winger Blaine Scully.
But that was as good as it got for Cardiff, as Murchie scored two simple tries in the corner following excellent work from Scotland winger Tommy Seymour.
Hooker James Malcolm put Glasgow out of sight shortly after to confirm the bonus point, while Rhun Williams scored a late consolation for the Blues.
Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend made eight changes to his side for the match – with the likes of Jonny Gray, Alex Dunbar and Finn Russell back in the starting 15.
The Blues made two changes themselves, with Scully replacing Rhun Williams on the left wing while Anton Peikrishvili returned from suspension and replaced by Taufa’ao Filise.
Glasgow made a fast start and attacked from the off, with Finn Russell gaining good territory and the pack powering forward.
A neat break from Seymour put the Warriors five metres out, but some good defending from Matthew Morgan prevented Glasgow from scoring.
However, a few minutes later MacArthur powered his way over from a few metres out.
Glasgow enjoyed 94% of the possession in the first 15 minutes and the Blues were permanently under the cosh, but the hosts failed to make their dominance count.
The Blues looked good with ball in hand on the rare occasions they did break into the Glasgow 22, and they should have scored when Lloyd Williams and Rey Lee-Lo created space down the right for winger Alex Cuthbert – but he spilled the ball metres from the line.
Russell hit a penalty for Glasgow shortly after, but the Blues had the last laugh in the first period when the Warriors fly-half misplaced a kick that fell perfectly for Scully – and he darted in for a simple score in the corner.
For all of Glasgow’s early dominance, they found themselves level just minutes into the second half as Steven Shingler neatly booted a penalty.
But they bounced back quickly as Seymour broke from deep by using his pace to burst through Cardiff’s defence, and slipped it through to Dunbar – who looked set to score.
Cardiff kept him at bay, but Murchie came in and carried the loose ball over the line for his first of the night.
The dangerous Glasgow backs began to cause Cardiff a whole host of problems, and they struck again shortly after Ali Price slipped Seymour through.
The winger was tackled down but some quick ball set up Murchie for his second in the corner, and a bonus point was secured when hooker Malcolm touched down from close range.
Cardiff kept pushing, looking for a way back, but they were forced to settle for a consolation as substitute Rhun Williams crossed in the corner following a neat move to the right.
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