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Monday May 18, 2015

Guinness PRO12 Highlights and Wrap-up from Round 22

Guinness PRO12 Highlights and Wrap-up from Round 22

There was much to play for as the regular season of the Guinness Pro12 came to a conclusion at the weekend. For some, European Champions Cup qualification was on the line while others looked to secure home advantage as the knockout stages approach.

View all match highlights and recaps here

 

There was much to play for as the regular season of the Guinness Pro12 came to a conclusion at the weekend. For some, European Champions Cup qualification was on the line while others looked to secure home advantage as the knockout stages approach.

Below you can view all the highlights, plus our recap, from each match played in Round 22.

 

Cardiff 29-5 Zebre

Battling with fellow Italian stragglers Treviso for a Champions Cup place, Zebre had to secure a rare away win in Cardiff to stand any chance.

Cardiff took their time in opening the score in a frustrating first half; winger Alex Cuthbert showed impressive strength after a fine switch from full back Aled Summerhill to batter his way past several Italian defenders to touch down in the corner. 

Zebre’s uphill task got even more difficult as they lost Captain Marco Bortolami to a yellow card. Cardiff used this incentive to look to increase their lead. And after the ensuing penalty lineout, they did so as Gethin Jenkins went in unopposed after a driving maul.

Cardiff increased their 12-0 half-time lead shortly after the break as Cuthbert scored his second try and effectively ending the Italians’ season. The hosts bagged their bonus point win with a further Rhys Patchell try after a searing initial break from out-half Gareth Anscombe.

Zebre competed until the end and scored a try of their own through Valerio Bernabo’s effort but Cardiff relpied with one final score to comfortably secure a 29-5 win.

Connacht 20-24 Ospreys

It was a case of what might have been for both sides at the Galway Sportsground as Ospreys narrowly missed out on securing a home semi final, despite beating Connacht 24-20.

The Galwegians could have gained automatic European qualification with a bonus point win but with Edinburgh’s loss to Leinster, finished 7th and face a playoff with Gloucester at the end of the month.

Ospreys leapt into a healthy lead through tries from Dan Biggar and Dan Baker. The Welsh dominance had a shellshocked home side on tenterhooks after centre Ben John sauntered through some rather suspect Irish defence.

The first misery was compounded further as the Ospreys secured the approaching the half hour mark. A well finished move initiated by Hanno Dirkson put Rhys Webb in for his 11th try of the season. 

Connacht’s comeback was impressive and they scored 20 unanswered points in the second period. Two penalties from Jack Carty and a try from Eoghan Masterson gave the hosts hope before a further try from Dennis Buckley secured them the losing bonus point.

Ospreys now face the daunting prospect of traveling to Munster as they chase another Pro12 title.

Glasgow 32-10 Ulster

Both Glasgow and visitors Ulster were aiming for victory to secure a vital home semi final, but Glasgow needed a bonus point win to make sure of it. 

A misfiring home side had to endure several onslaughts from Ulster and it culminated in a yellow card for talisman Jonny Gray. The first try followed just a minute after as Chris Henry piled over to give the Irish an early lead.

Glasgow leapt into their stride after half-time through a piece of opportunism from Stuart Hogg. The full back kicked ahead and showed impeccable control and pace to re-gather and score. 

It took until the 59th minute before the Scots stretched their legs, and fly-half Finn Russell showed great feet and power to barge over from short range to score.

Russell would grab his second ten minutes later as the superior Glasgow numbers told. The hosts at this point still had much work to do; with time against them, a bonus point still eluded them.

The floodgates opened with seven minutes left as back-row turned centre Ritchie Vernon took a flat pass from Ryan Wilson to sprint in for the fourth try. With the 32-10 bonus victory, Glasgow now face Ulster again this Friday for a place in the Pro12 final.

Edinburgh 23-36 Leinster

Edinburgh’s faint hopes of Champions Cup qualification were put to an end by a clinical Leinster squad as the former champions secured a 36-23 bonus point win at BT Murrayfield.

An early Sam Hidalgo-Clyne penalty and Ian Madigan drop goal saw the scores even at 3-3 before Leinster scored their first try of the match through Noel Reid. The centre rounded a lethargic Jack Cuthbert to easily go under the posts.

Edinburgh fought back and flanker Hamish Watson crashed through Irish defence to level the scores once more. Leinster opened more holes and a further try from Jack Conan gave the visitors a 17-10 lead.

A second Hidalgo-Clyne penalty was negated by a Zane Kirchner try, but Edinburgh battled back again. A Tim Visser try on his final appearance couple with a third kick from Hidalgo-Clyne put the home side in the lead with nine minutes left. 

But Leinster pulled clear in the closing stages and tries from Jordi Murphy and replacement scrum-half Luke McGrath gave Leinster the win.

Treviso 13-17 Scarlets

The Scarlets booked their Champions Cup spot after a nervous 17-13 victory in Italy against fellow qualifiers Treviso.

The Llanelli side were in pole position to secure 6th place prior to kick-off, holding a four point advantage over Connacht. But things didn’t begin well for the visitors as Treviso took an early lead as Davide Giazzon split from a well constructed rolling maul to score. 

The Scarlets had looked certain to score a coast-to-coast try, but a slick passing sequence was ubruptly curtailed through a Jayden Hayward interception. The full back showed great pace to touch down; Treviso led 13-3 at half-time.

The Scarlets fought back in the second period however and Liam Williams’ try proved the turning point in the Welshmen’s fortunes. 

Throughout an edgy second half, the Scarlets never lost faith and the crucial score came with just ten minutes remaining. Steff Evans finished off a prolonged and penetrative attack in the corner to give the visitors a crucial victory.

Munster 50-27 Newport Gwent Dragons

Much like the rest of the top four in the table, Munster knew that a bonus point victory over the Dragons at Musgrave Park in Cork would ensure a home semi final. They did just that with a staggering efficiency, scoring four tries in the opening 23 minutes.

Andrew Smith scored a long range try after just three minutes but the Dragons responded admirably barely 60 seconds later. Taulupe Faletau’s strength and a sumptuous offload put winger Ashton Hewit in at the corner. 

Munster were in imperious form though and retaliated with a try from CJ Stander before a double from scrum-half Conor Murray. Making the most of a yellow card for Dragons Hugh Gustafson, Munster got their fifth try through Paul O’Connell to lead 33-10 at half-time.

They continued where they left off at the start of the second half too, with Keith Earls crossing for his side’s sixth try. 

The Dragons didn’t lose heart though and rallied to score three more times themselves. Tries from Tyler Morgan, Rhys Buckley and Jack Dixon sandwiched two further Munster scores, but did hand the Welshmen a bonus point to secure 9th place in the Pro12.

Munster’s 50-27 win sets them up for a home semi final at Thomond Park against Ospreys. The Irish side will take a certain amount of confidence into the encounter, knowing that no side has ever lost a home playoff in the League’s history.

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