It was another action packed round in the Guinness Pro12 last weekend, with much to play for at both the top and middle of the league. Wins for Glasgow, Munster, Ulster and Ospreys secured their play-off spots in May, while triumphs for Scarlets and Edinburgh set up a mouth-watering battle for European Champions Cup qualification.
It was another action packed round in the Guinness Pro12 last weekend, with much to play for at both the top and middle of the league. Wins for Glasgow, Munster, Ulster and Ospreys secured their play-off spots in May, while triumphs for Scarlets and Edinburgh set up a mouth-watering battle for European Champions Cup qualification. Highlights and wrap-up below.
Ulster 26 – Leinster 10
Ulster kicked off proceedings at Kingspan Stadium against a misfiring Leinster side. But it was the fifth placed reigning champions who took and early 10-0 lead thanks to a powerful opening try from Samoan centre Ben Te’o.
Ulster responded brilliantly through an excellent Ian Henderson try after 13 minutes. Ruan Pienaar’s metronomic boot added the conversion in addition to an early penalty to level the scores at 10-10.
Despite a yellow card for Leinster’s Sean O’Brien for a tip tackle, Ulster could not take the lead, Pienaar missing twice from the tee. The South African was however successful with his final kick of the half to give his side a narrow 13-10 at the break.
The turning point in the match was undoubtedly Leinster’s indiscipline and Pienaar through another two penalties punished them dearly.
Into the final stages, top try scorer of the competition Craig Gilroy guaranteed the victory after a neat inside pass from Paddy Jackson. Ulster’s 26-10 victory secures a play-off place once more while Leinster miss out on the top four for the first time since 2004.
Edinburgh 37 – Zebre 0
Edinburgh did their chances of securing 6th place in the league no harm at all with a comprehensive 37-0 demolition over a poor Zebre side at BT Murrayfield.
Using the superior strength of their pack, the Scottish side scored their opening try off the back of an unstoppable driving maul; flanker Roddy Grant bagging the first of his two tries.
Sam Hidalgo-Clyne kept the scoreboard ticking over in between tries and after slotting his second conversion of the night – this time for Dougie Fife’s well worked blindside score, the scrum-half added a penalty to take a 20-0 lead into half-time.
Zebre didn’t help their cause throughout the match as they lost three players – two props – to the sin bin at various times. They struggled no end in the set piece and Edinburgh exploited this. A neatly performed lineout switch gave hooker Ross Ford an easy run in before a further two rolling maul tries gave the home side a deserved bonus point victory.
Connacht 13 – Glasgow 31
There was much to play for at the Sportsground in Galway. Glasgow looked to cement their place at the top of the league and secure a home semi-final, while a win for Connacht would boost their chances of finishing in the top 6.
Two early Jack Carty penalties gave the home side a 6-0 lead, but Glasgow struck back with tries from winger Nikola Matawalu and Stuart Hogg. The latter benefitted from an excellent midfield break from Tommy Seymour to go in.
Connacht had dominated possession and may have pushed Glasgow even further in the game had it not been for a second try from the inspired Matawalu. A loose pass from Carty was pounced upon by the Fijian winger who juggled the ball before sprinting in to score. Finn Russell added his second conversion of the day to take a 19-6 lead.
The start of the second half saw Connacht compete more and a yellow card for Seymour after extensive Irish attack gave the Galwegians their first try. Ally Muldowney burrowed under desperate defenders to score.
But despite the fightback, Glasgow fought back again and scored two more tries, to hand the visitors the bonus point. A break from flanker Josh Strauss and good support from Adam Ashe put the Number 8 under the posts, before Seymour got his fourth try of the season to cap off a 31-13 victory.
Cardiff Blues 23 – Ospreys 31
‘Judgement day’ at a packed Millenium Stadium began with the Ospreys attempting to secure their own play-off spot against a Cardiff side that has struggled for form all season long.
But the Blues were the better of the two sides for the opening 40 minutes, taking a slender 9-7 lead in at half-time, through three Gareth Anscombe penalties. The Ospreys had two clear try scoring chances in the first half but eventually got over the line through Dan Evans, with Dan Biggar converting.
Biggar then grabbed his side’s second try five minutes into the second half, and with it, the lead for the first time. The floodgates had been opened and the Ospreys scored their third try through Tom Grabham.
Cardiff Number 8 Josh Navidi responded with a try soon after the restart but the Ospreys scored arguably their best try of the match; a slick passing sequence from one side of the pitch to the other saw Ben John go under the posts.
The Blue did however score a consolation try as replacement Dan Fish intercepted a stray Ospreys pass to sprint in from his own 22.
Munster 30 – Treviso 19
Munster became the last side to secure their place in the play offs with a comfortable bonus point victory over Treviso at Musgrave Park.
In soggy conditions, Ian Keatley’s penalty gave the hosts an early lead. Munster got their opening try after a wave of attack from short range. Winger Simon Zebo scored his eighth try of the season after barging through two Italian defenders.
Number 8 C.J Stander got the home side’s second try before Treviso finally secured some valuable possession of their own. Hard work paid off in the end and Matthew Luamanu scored after an effective Treviso maul.
Before half-time though, Munster pulled away again, as Tommy O’Donnell celebrated a century of caps for the province with a runaway try off the back of a lineout.
Treviso scored against the run of play early in the second half, with Andrea Pratichetti running in under the posts off first phase ball.
Munster were now only 20-14 in front but Keatley’s second penalty and a penalty try gave the home side some comfort as they secured the bonus point. Treviso got a consolation final try through prop Simone Ragussi to make the result 30-19.
Newport Gwent Dragons 10 – Scarlets 29
The second Welsh derby of the day was also played out in front of 52,762 spectators at
the Millenium Stadium and it saw the Scarlets keep the pressure on Edinburgh in the battle for 6th place in the league.
Despite the Scarlets taking an early 3-0 lead through a Rhys Priestland penalty, it was the Dragons who scored the first try. Centre Tyler Morgan finished off an impressive series of offloads to go in at the corner. A Dorian Jones conversion and further penalty gave the Newport Gwent side a 10-3 lead.
The Scarlets fought back and their supriority finally told as they scored their opening try through Ken Owens. The hooker steamed past the Dragons defence – and referee George Clancy to go under the posts.
Scott Williams then got the pick of the tries after the centre hit Liam Williams’ deft offload off the ground at pace to sprint towards the line. Priestland’s conversion gave the Scarlets a healthy 17-10 lead at half-time.
Shortly after the break, the Scarlets were back on the Dragons’ line and scored their third try through full back Williams, who slipped through a weak Dragons defence.
Desperately seeking a crucial bonus point, the Scarlets penetrated the opposition defence for a fourth time as Harry Robinson went over after a prolonged attack 20 minutes from full-time to secure a 29-10 victory.