LEINSTER 30 - 31 OSPREYS*
Royal Dublin Society - Sunday 27th May 2012
KO: 16:00 BST HT: 17-9 Att: tbc
SHANE WILLIAMS scored a sensational late double in his final club game and Dan Biggar added a touchline conversion to hand the Ospreys the RaboDirect PRO12 title with a 31-30 win over Leinster at the RDS.
Isa Nacewa's opportunistic double had looked set to deny Williams on his final appearance as Leinster attempted to become the first team to complete the domestic and European double since Wasps in 2004.
And having been denied in similar circumstances a year ago against Munster, Leinster were desperate to back up their European win over Ulster last weekend.
After a good start from the Ospreys, the Irish side settled into their groove with tries from Sean Cronin and Nacewa giving them an eight-point lead at the break at the RDS.
However the Ospreys were showing the form that saw them cruise past reigning champions Munster in the semi-final and fought back thanks to a try from Ashley Beck.
Two penalties from Jonathan Sexton appeared to be taking the game away from the Ospreys only for Williams to score his first of the game in the corner.
But again Leinster stepped it up when they had to as Nacewa grabbed his second but when Nathan White was sent to the sin bin, Williams popped up to score his second try and Biggar held his nerve to win the game.
The Ospreys made the quicker start and Biggar made no mistake with his first effort from wide on the left to give the Ospreys the first points of the game, but Sexton responded immediately to level things up.
Biggar added another penalty to make it 6-3 but Leinster had looked the stronger side up to then and eventually the pressure told as they took advantage of poor control at the back of a strong Ospreys scrum to set up Cronin.
Leinster mounted a series of attacks before Brian O'Driscoll showed some great footwork and handed the ball on to Cronin who went through a gap in the Ospreys' defensive line to score the opening try. Sexton's conversion made it 10-6.
With seven minutes remaining in the first half the Ospreys scrum, which proved the stronger all game, got the better of their Leinster counterparts and Biggar carried on his perfect kicking display to make it 10-9.
But the Ospreys then switched off completely from the restart and Nacewa claimed Sexton's kick to sprint over unchallenged for Leinster's second try. Sexton found the target to put Leinster 17-9 up with four minutes left in the half.
The Ospreys responded with a couple of powerful scrums on the Leinster line and loosehead Heinke van der Merwe was sent to the sin bin. But despite two more scrum penalties the Irish side held out to lead 17-9 at half-time.
The visitors were clearly frustrated but came out flying in the second half and Beck collected a great offload from Joe Bearman to sprint in from the 22 despite the attentions of Sexton. Biggar added the simple conversion to bring the Ospreys back to within a point.
However again the Ospreys failed to deal with the restart and conceded a penalty straightaway which Sexton slotted to stretch the lead back to four.
With Leinster restored to a full complement they earned another penalty which Sexton knocked over from 30 metres out as the Irish side led 23-16 with half an hour remaining.
Just before the hour the Ospreys used the ball off the back of a lineout and sent it wide where Williams showed his finishing ability to race over in the corner despite the attentions of Eoin Reddan. But Biggar missed the conversion to tie it.
That stung Leinster into action and after a loose pass from Jonathan Sexton deep inside the Ospreys 22, Nacewa reacted quickest to grab his second try.
But when the Ospreys scrum again got on top, White was sent to the bin, and with the Ospreys on the attack Williams slipped between two tackles to dot down in the right corner.
Biggar's conversion attempt could not have been more difficult but the fly-half showed nerves of steel to split the uprights.
And despite some late drama as the Ospreys failed to kick the ball out with the 80 minutes up, the Welsh side got the ball back to win the title for the second time in three years.
15 Rob Kearney 14 Fergus McFadden 13 Brian O'Driscoll 12 Gordon D'Arcy 11 Isa Nacewa 10 Jonathan Sexton 9 Eoin Reddan 1 Heinke van der Merwe 2 Sean Cronin 3 Mike Ross 4 Leo Cullen (Capt) 5 Devin Toner 6 Kevin McLaughlin 7 Shane Jennings 8 Jamie Heaslip BENCH: 16 Richardt Strauss 17 Cian Healy/Jack McGrath 18 Nathan White 19 Brad Thorn 20 Dominic Ryan 21 John Cooney 22 Ian Madigan 23 David Kearney
SCORERS T: Cronin, Nacewa (2) C: Sexton (3) P: Sexton (3) Van der Merwe, White
15 Richard Fussell 14 Hanno Dirksen 13 Andrew Bishop 12 Ashley Beck 11 Shane Williams 10 Dan Biggar 9 Rhys Webb 1 Paul James 2 Richard Hibbard 3 Adam Jones 4 Alun Wyn Jones (Capt) 5 Ian Evans 6 Ryan Jones 7 Justin Tipuric 8 Joe Bearman BENCH: 16 Scott Baldwin 17 Ryan Bevington 18 Aaron Jarvis 19 James King 20 Tom Smith 21 Kahn Fotuali’i 22 Matthew Morgan 23 Tom Isaacs
SCORERS T: Beck, Williams (2) C: Biggar (2) P: Biggar (4)
Referee: Romain Poite (FFR) Asst Referees: George Clancy (IRFU), Neil Paterson (SRU) Citing Commissioner: Denis Templeton (IRFU) TMO: Giulio de Santis (FIR)
*Report courtesy of RaboDirect Pro12
ULSTER 45 - 7 AIRONI
RAVENHILL - 30 March 2012
KO: 19:05 HT: 24-7 Att: 10,125
ULSTER kept up the pressure in the race for RaboDirect PRO12 play-off places as they completed a 45-7 bonus-point victory over Aironi at Ravenhill.
It was Aironi who could have taken the lead after just 9 minutes as Sinoti Sinoti produced a scintillating break stepping inside several tackles before being stopped ten metres short of the line.
However the home side fought back well and on their next incursion into Italian territory Chris Henry was held just short but after some quick recycling Ian Humphreys threw a pop pass to Wallace who breezed straight through for a try, converted by Ruan Pienaar.
Ulster's dominance up front was proving decisive and they were rewarded with a penalty try after three scrums on the Aironi five-metre line to make it 14-0 with 23 minutes gone.
Just after the half hour Brian McLaughlin was handed a big blow when Stephen Ferris was forced off with an injury and Aironi took full advantage scoring from a cleverly-worked lineout immediately after. The Italians threw to the front opening up a gap in the lineout which allowed Tito Tebaldi to dart through a gap and dive over, Naas Olivier added a tough conversion.
Having let Aironi back into it, Ulster immediately went on the offensive and Pienaar slotted the penalty after the Italians were penalised for going off their feet.
It got worse for Aironi soon after when Giulio Toniolatti was sent to the sin bin for hands in the ruck and from the ensuing lineout Best went over from a driving lineout to stretch the lead to 24-7 at half-time.
The second half began in the same way as the first ended with Cave combining well with his centre partner Wallace to cross for the bonus point score.
And after being frustrated as a raft of replacements caused the game to lose its rhythm, Court finished off a move started by replacement Adam D'Arcy, producing a great sidestep to barge over from close range.
With 8 minutes remaining, Wannenburg picked up from the back of a scrum before throwing a dummy and going through the ensuing gap for the sixth try.
T: Wallace, Penalty Try, Best, Cave, Court, Wannenburg C: Pienaar (4), Humphreys (2) P: Pienaar
T: Tebaldi C: Olivier Toniolatti
DRAGONS 19 - 27 CONNACHT
RODNEY PARADE - 30 March 2012
KO: 19:15 HT: 9-19 Att: 6,297
WINGER Fetu'u Vainikolo scored a try at the start of each half to give Connacht only their second away win in their surprise 27-19 defeat of Newport Gwent Dragons, despite three Wales Grand Slam winners starting in Dan Lydiate, Toby Faletau and Luke Charteris.
The Dragons took the lead when Connacht infringed at a maul and Robling slotted the resulting penalty although that would be the last time they had the lead.
The visitors, who had made much of the early running, moved the ball at speed to the left where Vainikolo skipped his way around the home defence to run in from 22m with Nikora converting.
After Robling reduced the deficit with a booming 50m effort, Kiwi stand-off Nikora soon got into his rhythm with three penalties inside 12 minutes, the last of which was after Lydiate was yellow carded by referee Giuseppe Vivarini for an offence at the breakdown.
Robling responded with 2 minutes remaining in the half when John Muldoon was pinged for holding on in the tackle, but in truth the visitors were unlucky not to go in more than 19-9 ahead at half-time as they knocked on with the tryline begging.
They made amends though in the first play of the second half as Vainikolo relied on his power rather than his speed to put them 15 points ahead with Nikora unable to convert. And Nikora was off target with another penalty attempt as Robling edged the Dragons closer with a penalty of his own after Connacht failed to release the tackler.
After a 57th minute penalty from Nikora when the hosts were caught offside, the Dragons started to go for broke. That approach started to pay dividends as Ronan Loughney was binned for persistent infringement and the Dragons did eventually cross the tryline with 7 minutes to go through Faletau from close range.
But even though Eoghan Grace was also binned late on, the Dragons' revival was too little too late and they were left empty handed as they could not force even the consolation of a losing bonus point as Steffan Jones shanked a penalty wide.
T: Faletau C: S Jones P: Robling (4) Lydiate
T: Vainikolo (2) C: Nikora P: Nikora (5) Loughney, Grace
EDINBURGH 26 - 23 SCARLETS
MURRAYFIELD - 30 March 2012
KO: 19:35 HT: 20-6 Att: 2,969
GREIG LAIDLAW kicked 16 points as Edinburgh recorded their first RaboDirect PRO12 win in 2012 as they held off a tremendous Scarlets fightback to triumph 26-23 at Murrayfield.
It was the visitors who made the running early on and when Edinburgh were penalised for going off their feet Rhys Priestland made no mistake from the kicking tee.
That lead lasted barely a minute as Laidlaw kicked his side level and after Tim Visser was called back for a forward pass when he threatened to add to his 12 tries in the RaboDirect PRO12 this season, Laidlaw added another 3 to put the home side in front.
The returning internationals were making all the difference and it was David Denton, playing at blindside flanker, who got the game's opening try with a trademark charge, battling his way over the line. Laidlaw converted but a penalty from Priestland edged the Scarlets back into contention with 7 minutes remaining in the first half.
The home side finished the half in complete control and after some concerted pressure in the Scarlets 22, Deacon Manu paid the price for his team's indiscipline and was sent to the sin bin.
He was joined there soon after by Wales hooker Matthew Rees who received his marching orders for an intentional knock on, and with two members of the front row in the bin, the Scarlets scrum crumpled to concede a penalty try. Laidlaw's conversion made it 20-6 at the half, but despite a two-man advantage, Edinburgh could not build on their lead.
Once Manu and Rees had returned it was the Scarlets who began to take control and after some good handling in the backs Andy Fenby went over for their first try.
Laidlaw replied with another penalty but the momentum swung the Scarlets' way when Ross Rennie was sent to the sin bin for a tip tackle.
The visitors took their chance with replacement fly-half Stephen Jones darting through and finding Welsh teammate Davies for the try, Jones' conversion made it 23-23.
However Edinburgh were not done yet and with eight minutes remaining their pack earned a penalty which Laidlaw slotted to put the home side back in front and they held out for a morale-boosting win.
T: Denton, Penalty Try C: Laidlaw (2) P: Laidlaw (4) Rennie
T: Fenby, JJV Davies C: Priestland, SM Jones P: Priestland (3) Rees, Manu
GLASGOW 31 - 3 CARDIFF BLUES
FIRHILL - 30 March 2012
KO: 19:35 HT: 10-0 Att: 4,224
No.8 Ryan Wilson scored two tries before going off injured as Glasgow Warriors all but extinguished Cardiff Blues' RaboDirect play-off hopes while strengthening their own in a resounding 31-3 victory.
In a highly attritional injury-ridden match, Glasgow centre Graeme Morrison joined Wilson and John Barclay, while the Blues lost Wales centre Jamie Roberts, making his first start in the RaboDirect PRO12 this season, to a knee injury.
The Warriors began the scoring as the Blues were turned over on their own scrum on the 3m line and Wilson barged his way through three visitors to ground the ball with the blessing of the TMO.
Glasgow sensed blood and good lineout ball allowed Shaw to make a break before feeding Stuart Hogg who just failed to get his offload away. They wasted a chance on the half-hour mark when Fusaro contrived to waste a two-on-one opportunity, but had the consolation of a penalty which Weir kicked to make it 10-0. This score remained through half time, with Weir missing with another penalty and drop-goal attempt, while Leigh Halfpenny was horribly off target with his first attempt.
The wasted opportunities were soon forgotten after the break when Wilson barged through Halfpenny's tackle after Glasgow had patiently gone through the phases, and Weir converted.
Halfpenny got the Blues on the board with a penalty before the game was held up for injuries.
The disruption did not affect the Warriors as the impressive Dunbar sliced his way through before offloading to Fusaro who gleefully dived over to make amends for his first-half error. Weir again converted.
Although the tempo of the game slowed down in the final quarter, the Warriors were able to create the fourth try the crowd craved when Dunbar made the initial break. The young centre fed scrum-half Chris Cusiter and he timed his pass for Shaw to have a run-in under the posts.
Ruaridh Jackson converted to round off a disappointing night for the Blues.
T: Wilson (2), Fusaro, Shaw C: Weir (2), Jackson (2) P: Weir
OSPREYS 41 - 10 TREVISO
LIBERTY STADIUM - 31 March 2012
KO: 18:30 HT: 20-13 Att: 7,514
FLY HALF Dan Biggar pulled the strings for the Ospreys who continued their fine recent form with a 41-10 bonus-point victory against Benetton Treviso.
Biggar knocked over a penalty after 10 minutes and followed it up with a delightful piece of back play to create a try for inside-centre Beck.
Biggar hoisted an enormous Garryowen on to Treviso winger Tommaso Benvenuti but the ball never arrived as Biggar sprinted forward and out-jumped the Italian, collecting the ball in the process. On coming back to earth he passed onto to wing Hanno Dirksen who fed Ashley Beck inside him for the score.
Biggar converted and followed up with a penalty to put the Ospreys firmly in control at 13-3.
With the half-hour mark approaching, prop Adam Jones popped up at scrum-half and charged for the line. He off-loaded to front-row partner Paul James who barrelled over. Biggar's conversion made the score 20-3 where it remained until half-time.
Immediately after the break, Beck went over for his second try when a Shane Williams pass gave him the space to dummy and cut inside Kris Burton, Biggar again converting.
In the 55th minute, Treviso showed attacking brilliance to get a converted try back. Scrum-half Edoardo Gori launched an attack from inside his 22 and when the Ospreys did bring the Italians' attack to a halt, Gori brought the ball right and wing Ludovico Nitoglia stepped inside the cover defence to score. Alberto Di Bernardo added the afters.
But when Tommaso Benvenuti got sin binned for a deliberate knock-on 10 minutes from time, the Ospreys turned the screw. First No. 8 Joe Bearman went over from a five-metre scrum for the bonus-point try, swiftly followed by replacement wing Tom Isaacs danced down the touchline after a trademark break from Williams, making a surprise appearance for the Ospreys. Biggar converted to end the match with a personal haul of 16 points.
T: Beck (2), James, Bearman, Isaacs C: Biggar (5) P: Biggar (2)
T: Nitoglia C: di Bernardo P: Burton Benvenuti, di Bernardo
MUNSTER 9 - 18 LEINSTER
THOMOND PARK - 31 March 2012
KO: 19:30 HT: 3-9 Att: 26,500
LEINSTER secured the double over fierce rivals Munster in their gritty 18-9 victory at Thomond Park to secure their place at the top of the table.
The visitors so nearly made the perfect start at Thomond Park when Jonny Sexton's clever chip over the top found a flying Rob Kearney, but the full-back could not quite gather the ball as he raced towards the corner. While Munster won the nudge in the first scrum, Mike Ross gained a measure of revenge by forcing a Leinster penalty after 10 minutes which Sexton converted.
The scrum was shaping up to be a titanic struggle as Ross was this time penalised when Marcus Horan forced him to the turf but Ronan O'Gara's kick came off the post. The Munster fly-half was also off target with a drop goal but with a penalty coming, he made no mistake to get the home team on the board.
Parity was short lived with Sexton kicking two penalties in quick succession with Horan, the guilty party at the scrum for the second offence. Munster finished the half deep in Leinster territory but could force neither a defensive slip nor an indiscretion that left them 3-6 adrift at the break.
The scrum soon came to the fore early in the second when referee Nigel Owens lost patience with the repeated collapses and dispatched both Ross and Horan to the sin-bin.
Munster seemed to benefit most from the new 14-a-side format with O'Gara soon slotting his second penalty on 47 minutes although he missed another 2 minutes later. But when Brad Thorn was adjudged to have made a high tackle on Felix Jones, O'Gara levelled the scores from distance.
Leinster remained the greater threat with ball in hand and both Isa Nacewa and Kearney tested the home defence with runs before Sexton burst into the 22 but was stopped in his tracks by Mick O'Driscoll. But the latter was pinged for not releasing and Sexton kicked them back ahead.
The visitors remained in the ascendancy and McFadden booted them 6 points in front with 10 minutes to go after another Munster offence at the scrum.
And the win was wrapped up when Sexton’s replacement, Ian Madigan found the space to execute a drop goal in front of the posts that all but secures Leinster's place in the semi-finals.
P: O'Gara (3) Horan
P: Sexton (4), McFadden DG: Madigan Ross
DRAGONS 21 - 20 OSPREYS
RODNEY PARADE - 06 January 2012
KO: 19:05 HT: Att: 6,897
DAN BIGGAR crashed a last-minute drop goal against the upright as Newport Gwent Dragons edged past Welsh rivals Ospreys 21-20 for their first RaboDirect PRO12 victory since September.
The Dragons, captained by blind side flanker Danny Lydiate for the first time, took the lead in the 9th minute through Tovey, who made no mistake with an early penalty.
The Ospreys cause went from bad to worse when Ian Evans was sin-binned for coming over the top, but Tovey failed to increase the Dragons' advantage from close-range on 12 minutes - but the Wales U20 international made amends 2 minutes later from a similar position.
Opposing fly-half Morgan, who drifted a 6th minute penalty wide, then restored parity for the Ospreys with kicks in the 25th and 34th minute in what was proving to be a cagey first half at Rodney Parade.
In a pulsating end to the half though, both sides were reduced to 14 men when firstly Dragons winger Tonderai Chavhanga and then Ospreys' Tom Smith were sent to the sin bin, before Tovey sent over his third penalty of the half to give the hosts a 9-6 lead at the break.
Not to be outdone, Morgan fired over his third penalty 5 minutes after the restart but almost immediately Dragons' full-back Thomas grabbed the game's first try, going over in the right corner after a half-break from Tovey exposed the space in the Ospreys defence.
Tovey pulled the conversion wide, but 2 minutes later a poor Morgan pass presented the ball straight to Dragons substitute Robling, who ran unchallenged from 40 metres to touch down underneath the posts. Tovey added the extras for a 21-9 lead.
With the game slipping away, Ospreys coach Scott Johnson brought some of his big guns off the bench, with Huw Bennett, Duncan Jones and Rhys Webb all joining the fray.
It took immediate effect, with Morgan sending over a long-range penalty after good work by the forwards, with his replacement Biggar adding another three points just after the hour mark to bring the Ospreys within one score.
They got that score, as Biggar, whose pass looked suspiciously forward, fed Bowe to power over 7 minutes from time but the outside half missed the conversion before his dramatic drop goal attempt came back off the post.
T: Thomas, Robling C: Tovey P: Tovey (3) Chavhanga
T: Bowe P: Morgan (4), Biggar Evans, Smith
EDINBURGH 20 - 42 ULSTER
MURRAYFIELD - 06 January 2012
KO: 19:30 HT: Att: 3,792
ULSTER, who welcomed back Ireland quartet Trimble, Best, Stephen Ferris and Tom Court took an early lead through Ian Humphreys' 4th minute penalty, and 8 minutes later he kicked the visitors six points ahead before being taken off with a serious-looking injury.
Edinburgh responded though through Scotland international Nick De Luca, who pounced on a loose ball to go over on 13 minutes with Godman adding the extras.
A Greig Laidlaw penalty 4 minutes later extended Edinburgh's advantage but that was as good as it got as Ulster turned the screw.
South African scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, who took over kicking duties from the unfortunate Humphreys, brought the Ulstermen within a point with a penalty of his own on 20 minutes.
8 minutes later Best gave the visitors a deserved lead with a well taken try and then, almost immediately, Dan Tuohy crossed the whitewash. Pienaar was wasteful with the boot on both occasions to leave the score 19-10.
Just as Ulster appeared to be heading into the break with a comfortable lead, a needless penalty allowed Laidlaw to reduce the Gunners' arrears to six points.
The Ulstermen, though, dominated proceedings after the interval, and with Pienaar finding his kicking boots, they quickly amassed an unassailable lead.
His penalty on 46 minutes was quickly followed by Trimble's try, and when the South African added his conversion and another penalty, the score was 32-13 and out of Edinburgh's reach.
Alun Walker barged his way over to give the home side hope but Cave's late try, after great work on the counter attack by Paul Marshall, gave Ulster the decisive bonus-point before Pienaar added another three points with a late penalty.
T: de Luca, Walker C: Godman, Laidlaw P: Laidlaw (2)
T: Best, Tuohy, Trimble, Cave C: Pienaar (2) P: Humphreys (2), Pienaar (4)
AIRONI 20 - 6 CONNACHT
STADIO ZAFFANELLA - 07 January 2012
KO: 16:35 HT: Att: 2,500
AIRONI made it back-to-back home wins with a 20-6 win over Connacht at the Stadio Zaffanella thanks a 15 point-haul from Luciano Orquera to add to a Sinoti Sinoti second-half try.
The Italians made the perfect start as Orquera notched up an early penalty after just 4 minutes.
And the Argentine-born pivot was on target again 7 minutes later to extend the home side's lead to 6-0.
With his side missing a host of regular starters, including flanker Johnny O'Connor who broke three bones in his cheek last week, Connacht couldn't afford to miss their chances, but Matthew Jarvis did just that on the quarter-hour with a penalty attempt.
Orquera extended the lead 5 minutes later as Connacht failed to break down their opposition, trailing 9-0 at the break.
Things got worse for the visitors immediately after the break as Sinoti crossed 2 minutes into the second half to extend the lead, Orquera this time missing the conversion.
5 minutes later Orquera found his range again with another penalty as Aironi stretched to a 17-0 lead.
Connacht showed some resolve to come back to 17-3 thanks to a successful Jarvis effort before the fly-half was replaced by Niall O'Connor.
However Orquera took advantage of another penalty shot soon after to take the lead back to 17 points, and despite the loss of Fabio Staibano to the sin bin, Connacht could only manage three more points through O'Connor 13 minutes from time.
T: Sinoti Toomaga P: Orquera (5) Staibano
P: Jarvis, O'Connor Rogers
CARDIFF BLUES 19 - 23 LEINSTER
CARDIFF CITY STADIUM - 07 January 2012
KO: 18:15 HT: Att: 9,390
LEIGH HALFPENNY's wayward boot allowed Leinster to strengthen their grip at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12 table after a nervy climax against Cardiff Blues.
The Blues, who had Gavin Henson withdraw before kick-off with a calf injury, went behind in the 5th minute when No. 8 Jamie Heaslip fed O'Brien to crash under the posts.
Fly-half Jonathan Sexton added the extras before Kearney went over for his side's second try 3 minutes later - Sexton again kicking the conversion for a 14-0 lead.
Welsh international Halfpenny began the fight back on 17 minutes when he booted his first penalty, and followed that up 3 minutes later with another.
Fly-half Dan Parks - retained in Andy Robinson's Scotland Six Nations squad despite suggestions otherwise - then got in on the act with a drop-goal before Sexton's three-pointer just before the break sent Leinster in 17-9 ahead.
Halfpenny's third penalty of the contest 11 minutes after the restart seemed to galvanize the Blues, as prop Jenkins then barged over from close-range to reduce the deficit still further.
The full-back's subsequent conversion brought the Blues to within one point. However the wheels then fell off for the 23-year-old as he missed two glorious opportunities to snatch the game.
His 63rd minute penalty fell short, and he then screwed another wide 2 minutes later as the chance of a remarkable comeback slipped away with it.
Outside centre McFadden then showed him how to do it as he extended Leinster's winning league run to ten games.
T: Jenkins C: Halfpenny P: Halfpenny (3) DG: Parks
T: O'Brien, R Kearney C: Sexton (2) P: Sexton (2), McFadden
SCARLETS 16 - 14 GLASGOW
PARC Y SCARLETS - 07 January 2012
KO: 18:15 HT: Att: 9,869
AFTER some cagey opening exchanges, it was Sean Lineen's side who seized the initiative in the 7th minute when prop Low crashed over after Scarlets made a hash of a lineout near their own try-line.
Jackson failed to add the extras and Rhys Priestland reduced his side's arrears to only 5-3 when he slotted his first penalty of the match just 3 minutes later.
But in the 12th minute the gap was back out to five when Jackson slotted over a penalty after the Welsh region failed to roll away at the breakdown.
But that was Jackson's final contribution as he limped off with an apparent leg injury after the kick to be replaced by youngster Scott Wight.
Two penalties from Priestland then turned the match around and the Scarlets led 9-8 after half an hour and it wasn't long before Glasgow's ill discipline really began to cost them.
In the 36th minute the Warriors found themselves reduced to 13 men as first Rob Harley and then Ryan Wilson both saw yellow for separate incidents, Harley involved in an off-the-ball altercation and Wilson pinged for not releasing.
But despite their numerical disadvantage it looked like the Warriors might hold on until half-time but the Scarlets had other ideas and on the stroke of the whistle Davies snuck over to make it 16-8.
The pressure continued after the interval as the home side looked to make their extra numbers count but some stout defending from Glasgow kept them at bay, and the Warriors actually reduced their arrears on 44 minutes when Wight slotted a penalty from near the halfway line to make it 16-11.
Wight then missed with a simpler effort just before the hour mark as the visitors, restored to 15 men, pressed in search of a way back into the game.
The Scarlets had their chances as well and Calum Forrester had to be at his very best to deny Jonathan Davies a try with a last-gasp tackle to keep the score at 16-11.
Wight then reduced the Scottish outfit's arrears further with a penalty with 15 minutes to go but try as they might the Warriors could not find that final breakthrough and Nigel Davies' men held out for what could prove to be a crucial victory.
T: G Davies C: Priestland P: Priestland (3)
T: Low P: Jackson, Wight (2) Harley, Wilson
MUNSTER 29 - 11 TREVISO
THOMOND PARK STADIUM - 07 January 2012
KO: 20:15 HT: Att: 16,816
IT was Treviso who came out of the blocks the quicker with Kris Burton, the architect of last week's win over Aironi, slotting the first points after 10 minutes.
Ronan O'Gara evened things up with a penalty of his own midway through the half before Niall Ronan dived over for the game's opening try 5 minutes later.
O'Gara added the conversion but missing a penalty shot soon after, with a second Burton penalty making it a four-point game at the interval.
The home side scored their second try 10 minutes into the second half when Earls pushed his claim for the Ireland outside centre jersey in the absence of Brian O'Driscoll by going over, O'Gara's conversion making it 17-6.
Treviso responded immediately through Manoa Vosawai although Burton was this time off target with the conversion.
And with 17 minutes remaining Coughlan sealed the win with Munster's third try, O'Gara's conversion putting the home side out of sight.
Treviso had no answer and Zebo was then able to add the icing on the cake with his score closing the gap to the second-placed Ospreys to just a point in the RaboDirect PRO12 table.
T: Ronan, Earls, Coughlan, Zebo C: O'Gara (3) P: O'Gara
T: Vosawai P: Burton (2) Picone
DRAGONS 6 - 10 SCARLETS
RODNEY PARADE - 30 December 2011
FORMER Newport Gwent Dragon Aled Thomas returned to haunt his old employers by kicking the decisive penalty as the Scarlets piled more misery on the strugglers.
The no score deadlock was broken in the 18th minute when a flowing move, involving both props, saw Newton give the decisive pass to Edwards and the flanker gleefully went over. Newton added the extras to make it 7-0 but the Dragons got to within 4 points when Tovey knocked over a penalty on 24 minutes.
However despite their best efforts, the home side did end the half on a high when Tovey kicked a penalty following Kieran Murphy's obstruction and the No. 8 was sin-binned for the offence.
Some Scarlets nous saw them survive the 10 minutes with their one point advantage intact without Murphy and the No.8 and five other fresh faces, including teen wing sensation George North, joined the fray at the 50 minute mark.
Their arrival gave Nigel Davies' side a chance to make it 10-6 in the form of a penalty but a bad night for the place-kickers of both sides continued when Newton's effort slid wide.
A night to forget continued for Robling continued with 10 minutes remaining when he missed the easiest penalty of the evening, having missed three already.
And their wastefulness was exacerbated when former Dragon Thomas stepped up to kick an impressive penalty to settle it and pile more misery on the struggling Dragons who have just two league wins to their name.
P: Tovey (2)
T: J Edwards C: Newton P: A Thomas Kieran Murphy
ULSTER 33 - 17 MUNSTER
RAVENHILL - 30 December 2011
STEFAN TERBLANCHE rolled back the years to deliver a try-scoring display on his first Ulster start and inspire his new side to a bonus-point 33-17 victory over Munster. The 37-year-old former South Africa wing joined the Irish province on a short-term deal after Jared Payne was ruled out for the season and used all his experience to create one try and score another.
Munster had led 7-3 early on thanks to Luke O'Dea's try but Ulster hit back with scores of their own from Terblanche, John Afoa, Ian Humphreys and Ruan Pienaar to stun the defending champions.
After Lifeimi Mafi was caught offside chasing Ian Keatley's kick on 7 minutes Humphreys was presented with the chance to kick Ulster into the lead and the former Leicester fly-half made no mistake. Undeterred by Mafi's early error, Keatley continued to try his luck with the boot and following strong Munster pressure the fly-half fired the ball out to the right wing where O'Dea collected and squeezed over in the corner. Keatley converted to hand Munster a four-point lead only for Humphreys to respond with a penalty of his own.
The home side took the lead when Munster full-back Denis Hurley was turned over in midfield and the ball was switched wide through the hands of Pienaar and Darren Cave to the left wing where veteran Terblanche raced over for his first Ulster try. Humphreys converted to the delight of the sell-out Ravenhill crowd and after Keatley spurned the chance to level with a penalty in front of the posts, Afoa followed in Terblanche's footsteps by claiming his first Ulster try after the ex-Springbok had again made headway down the left.
Humphreys converted once more to leave Munster, who only moments earlier looked like heading in at half-time level, trailing by 10 points and having lost both Tommy O'Donnell and Tom Gleeson after a bruising 40 minutes.
Needing to strike first in the second-half to drag themselves back into the contest, Munster shot themselves in the foot when Duncan Williams failed to collect the ball at the back of the scrum and Humphreys kicked, chased and collected the loose ball to score beneath the posts. The fly-half spurned the extras and missed a 50th minute penalty but it was of little concern to the rampant hosts who took advantage of another Munster error at the scrum 7 minutes later to release Pienaar who raced clear to secure the bonus point.
Johne Murphy finally crossed for a consolation score on 77 minutes which Keatley converted but it was too little, too late for the visitors.
T: Terblanche, Afoa, Humphreys, Pienaar C: Humphreys (2) P: Humphreys (2), Pienaar
T: O'Dea, Murphy C: Keatley (2) P: Keatley
BENETTON TREVISO 37 - 14 AIRONI
STADIO DI MONIGO - 31 December 2011
THE boot of Kris Burton eased Treviso to a comfortable bonus-point victory over Italian rivals Aironi and avenged last Friday's 27-13 defeat at the hands of their compatriots. The Italian fly-half kicked 17 points and was instrumental in much of Treviso's play as they ran in four tries in a fiercely contested derby.
Aironi fly-half Luciano Orquera, who set a new record for RaboDirect PRO12 kicking nine penalties from nine attempts in last Friday's 27-13 win, set the ball rolling with similar precision on 7 minutes.
Not to be outdone, Burton levelled the scores on 10 minutes with a three-pointer of his own, despite hitting the post with an earlier attempt, before the two again exchanged penalties bring the score to 6-6 after 14 minutes.
Tobias Botes scrambled over the first try of the game from close range before Alessandro Zanni gleefully went over after collecting from the back of a Sbaraglini line-out on 28 minutes. Burton unsurprisingly added the extras for both.
3 minutes later Orquera made it three penalties from three to reduce Aironi's arrears to 20-9 but Burton's third penalty of the half sent Treviso in at half time 23-6 in front.
In a feisty second period, Sbaraglini extended the hosts’ advantage when he powered his way over on 51 minutes - with Burton adding the 2 points - before full-back Andreas Masi compounded Aironi's misery when he was sin-binned for a clash with Botes 5 minutes later.
A penalty try and subsequent conversion from Burton on 63 minutes sealed the game for Treviso but to their credit, Aironi didn't throw in the towel. The visitors spent the next 10 minutes camped in Treviso territory, and their pressure paid off when Luke McLean was sin-binned for holding in the tackle and a superb breakaway try from Gabriel Pizarro in the final minute of the game provided a small dose of consolation.
T: Botes, Zanni, Sbaraglini, Penalty Try C: Burton (4) P: Burton (3) Luke McLean, Tommaso Benvenuti
T: Pizarro P: Orquera (3) Andrea Masi
CONNACHT 13 - 15 LEINSTER
SPORTSGROUND - 01 January 2012
ISA NACEWA literally didn't put a foot wrong as leaders Leinster held off a spirited second half Connacht fight back to win 15-13. Nacewa recorded all of Leinster's points at the Sportsground slotting five penalties from five - three of which came in the first half as the visitors opened up a 9-3 lead.
Connacht dominated the early exchanges but had neither a try nor a penalty to show for their efforts with Matthew Jarvis particularly wasteful in front of the posts. He sunk a penalty from just outside the 22 to give Connacht a 3-0 lead and, while it took time for Jarvis to find his kicking boots, Nacewa wasted little for Leinster, pulling Leinster level on the 12th minute with a penalty of his own and then put them ahead moments later with an almost exact effort, and finished the first half with a third despite the strong wind.
Nacewa picked up where he left off after the restart with a fourth successive penalty to extend Leinster's lead to 9 points.
Just as Connacht heads started to drop they were presented with a perfect opportunity to get back into the game with 55 minutes on the clock. Leinster scrum-half Boss was shown a yellow card for impeding opposite number Frank Murphy - and Connacht quickly made the most of the one man advantage. O'Halloran sold Leinster's outside backs a dummy and stormed home for the first try of the game in the 58th minute but Jarvis couldn't convert.
Leinster maintained their composure pressing Connacht and earning a reward in the form of Nacewa's fifth penalty from five attempts moments later.
But no sooner were they back to full strength, Leinster were a man down again - Cullen this time going into the referee's bad books with a yellow card in the 70th minute. Connacht responded immediately and scored their second try through Reynecke, but Miah Nikora, taking over kicking duties from Jarvis, could not convert as they trailed 15-13. That set up a frantic final few minutes culminating in a Nikora drop goal that fell agonisingly short as Leinster held on for a vital victory against their Irish rivals.
T: O'Halloran, Reynecke P: Jarvis
P: Nacewa (5) Isaac Boss, Leo Cullen
GLASGOW 17 - 12 EDINBURGH
FIRHILL - 01 January 2012
GLASGOW prop Moray Low scored the only try of the game as the Warriors earned the RaboDirect PRO12 and 1872 Cup bragging rights with a 17-12 win over Edinburgh.
After failing to be separated in the first 1872 Cup clash, which ended 23-23 on Boxing Day, Low's second-half score proved decisive as Glasgow edged out their Scottish rivals to retain the crown.
Weir drew first blood for Glasgow after 2 minutes with a penalty from 30 metres out while Godman missed with an effort of his own to draw the scores level moments later. Weir then followed Edinburgh fly-half Godman's lead by failing with a second penalty attempt in the 16th minute before his cross-kick found Alastair Kellock who was denied a try by a great tackle from Lee Jones.
However, they were back on the scoreboard shortly after as Weir kicked his second penalty with Godman hitting back for Edinburgh with his first successful penalty in the 23rd minute. But it was the Warriors who went into the break further ahead as Weir kicked his third penalty of the game to make it 9-3.
Edinburgh struck first after the restart through another Godman penalty but his up and down night with the boot was to continue as he missed with an attempt to pull the scores level soon after. He did get another chance in the 58th minute and this time took full advantage but the visitors were soon dealt a killer blow.
Matt Scott was sent to the sin bin for a dangerous tackle on lock Robert Harley with Low credited with a try almost immediately afterwards. Replacement Wight missed the conversion but he didn't fail with a penalty 2 minutes later in the 71st minute making it 17-9 which it remained until the death.
Wight missed another penalty and Edinburgh rallied enough for Godman to kick a last-minute drop goal for a losing bonus point and at least something from the defeat.
T: Low P: Weir (3), Wight
P: Godman (3) DG: Godman Matthew Scott
OSPREYS 17 - 12 CARDIFF BLUES
LIBERTY STADIUM - 01 January 2012
TOMMY BOWE scored a second-half try and Dan Biggar kicked two late penalties as the Ospreys saw off Welsh rivals Cardiff 17-12 in their clash at the Liberty Stadium.
The Ospreys stated their intent from almost the first whistle with teenage fly-half Morgan kicking two penalties before 5 minutes were even on the clock. However, that was to be it for the Ospreys in the first half as they failed to record a single point in the next 35 minutes with Cardiff fighting their way back into the game. Morgan missed a third penalty attempt in the 19th minute and Blues wing Halfpenny slotted two in the space of 5 minutes to make it 6-6 at the break.
The Ospreys had the perfect chance to retake the lead at the start of the second half but Morgan missed a second successive penalty however they didn't have to wait long to take charge. And it came in the form of a Bowe try in the 51st minute - the Irish international rounding off a sweeping Ospreys move and touching down in the corner.
Morgan couldn't convert and 11-6 soon became 12-11 to Cardiff as Halfpenny sunk a well-taken penalty and replacement Parks slotted a drop goal. It was the first time the Blues had been in front but it didn't last long with fly-half Biggar firing the hosts back in front with an easy penalty with 8 minutes left to play.
The Ospreys took control but had to wait until the last kick of the game to make the result safe - replacement Biggar adding the finishing touch with a penalty.
T: Bowe P: Morgan (2), Biggar (2)
P: Halfpenny (3) DG: Parks
AIRONI 27 - 13 BENETTON TREVISO
STADIO ZAFFANELLA - 23 December 2011
MAURO BERGAMASCO marked his first game for Aironi with only their second win of the season 27-13 against Italian rivals Benetton Treviso. The Italy international signed for the club at the start of the month but has spent the last few weeks returning to fitness after spending a month without a club after the World Cup.
And while the curly-haired flanker made little impact, coming off the bench with 9 minutes remaining, it was his Azzurri colleague Luciano Orquera who orchestrated the win. The fly-half was flawless from the kicking tee slotting nine penalties from as many attempts to hand the bottom side a first success since beating Edinburgh in September.
Aironi made the quicker start and took an early lead as Orquera slotted over a second-minute penalty. That was cancelled out on the quarter hour by Willem de Waal as Treviso looked to be edging their way back into the game only to concede another penalty, expertly converted by Orquera to allow Aironi to retake the lead.
When Italy full-back Andrea Masi was sin-binned for a dangerous tackle on Gonzalo Padrò half an hour into the encounter, de Waal missed the chance to level things up, but he made amends 2 minutes later. However, in the last 8 minutes of the first half Aironi took control of the game with three penalties from Orquera giving them a 15-6 lead at the break.
Things didn't improve for the visitors in the second half as Orquera added three more penalties to stretch Aironi into an 18-point lead after an hour.
Former Italy captain Marco Bortolami was also sent to the bin with 15 minutes remaining and Treviso looked like they might mount a comeback when they were awarded a penalty try at the next scrum. But that was as good as it got for Treviso with Orquera adding another penalty just for good measure to seal the win.
P: Orquera (9) Andrea Masi, Marco Bortolami
T: Penalty Try C: di Bernardo
CARDIFF BLUES 28 - 9 DRAGONS
CARDIFF CITY STADIUM - 23 December 2011
GAVIN HENSON made a winning return to rugby on his Cardiff Blues debut, but he was overshadowed by Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny in 28-9 win over the Dragons at the Cardiff City Stadium.
The Blues missed an early chance to take the lead as Halfpenny fluffed his first penalty attempt, but Jason Tovey missed an easy opportunity of his own to keep the game scoreless in the first quarter.
That changed when Cuthbert went over for the first try after a fantastic offload from kiwi centre Casey Laulala left him with a free run to the line. Halfpenny converted before adding a penalty to give the home side a 10-0 lead after half an hour.
Tovey pulled 3 points back for the visitors but on the stroke of half-time Wales international, Davies barged his way over after a period of relentless pressure from the home side eventually caused the Dragons defence to crack. The visiting side defended valiantly against wave after wave of Blues pressure but the try had an air of inevitability about it as Davies went over, Halfpenny's conversion making it 17-3 at the break.
Tovey and Halfpenny exchanged penalties at the start of the second half, adding 6 points each to make it 23-9 with a quarter of an hour remaining.
And after playing a major part with the boot, Halfpenny showed his great pace and vision to tear through the Dragons defensive line before offloading for Cuthbert to race over for his second, Halfpenny's conversion finding the post.
T: Cuthbert (2), Davies C: Halfpenny (2) P: Halfpenny (3)
P: Tovey (3)
SCARLETS 22 - 14 OSPREYS
PARC Y SCARLETS - 26 December 2011
RHYS PRIESTLAND did his best to ruin Adam Jones' 150th game for the Ospreys as he kicked Scarlets to a 22-14 victory at Parc y Scarlets.
The Scarlets hadn't beaten Ospreys since December 27th 2007 but after 15 minutes found themselves 6-0 ahead thanks to two Priestland penalties.
It took the visitors until the 28th minute to get on the scoresheet, thanks to a Biggar penalty, but Tommy Bowe wasted a glorious chance to score the first try of the game when he knocked on with the touchline just metres ahead on the right.
Instead that honour went to Scarlets' Thomas who barged his way over following a scrum after two Kahn Fotuali'i kicks were charged down. Priestland added the extras and kicked another penalty before the interval for a comfortable lead, the Scarlets looking to extend their impressive run against Welsh rivals, having not lost in their last four derby clashes.
The Ospreys on the other hand hadn't won in their last four games against Welsh teams but did their best to turn things around as they came flying out of the blocks in the second-half and reduced the deficit through two Biggar penalties. And on 55 minutes the Scarlets' lead was reduced to just 2 points as full-back Davies went over in the right corner, Biggar unable to make the conversion.
On the hour mark Priestland missed an opportunity to extend the lead when he missed a penalty, but made no mistake with his next two efforts to help the majority of the home crowd to relax, and his 17-point haul was instrumental in a first Scarlets win over the Ospreys in nearly four years.
T: Thomas C: Priestland P: Priestland (5)
T: BJ Davies P: Biggar (3)
LEINSTER 42 - 13 ULSTER
RDS - 26 December 2011
LEINSTER opened up a six-point lead at the top of the table with a bonus point 42-13 win over Irish rivals Ulster on Saturday night.
Tries from Fionn Carr, Sean Cronin and Leo Auva'a, who was named man of the match, put Leinster 21-6 up at half-time but Ulster replied with a try from debutant winger Chris Cochrane in the 48th minute.
However, Leinster's dominance in the latter stages was rewarded with three more tries in the form of a penalty try and further touchdowns from Ian Madigan and Jamie Hagan.
And despite two penalties from Ulster's James McKinney, Leinster effectively sealed the win when Auva'a barrelled over from a scrum on the stroke of half-time.
Fergus McFadden converted all six tries for Joe Schmidt's men who profited from Ospreys' defeat to Scarlets to stretch their lead at the top of the table.
T: Carr, Cronin, Auva'a, Penalty Try, Madigan, Hagan C: McFadden (6)
T: Cochrane C: McKinney P: McKinney (2)
EDINBURGH 23 - 23 GLASGOW
MURRAYFIELD - 26 December 2011
SCOTTISH bragging rights will have to be put on hold for another week as Ruaridh Jackson profited from Lee Jones' mistake to earn Glasgow Warriors a thrilling 23-23 draw with Edinburgh.
However the Scotland fly-half, on as a second-half replacement, missed two opportunities to seal a second Warriors win in three years on Murrayfield as he hit the post with his conversion before missing a last-minute penalty.
Two tries in the space of 2 second-half minutes from deadly wing Tim Visser had given Edinburgh control at 23-13 up but Colin Shaw crossed for the visitors before Jones failed to deal with Chris Cusiter's Garryowen allowing Jackson to ground the ball on 77 minutes.
It means the 1872 Cup will rest on the outcome of New Year's Day return fixture at Firhill but the occasion was dampened by a serious-looking injury to new Warriors signing Rory Lamont who had to be stretched off before halftime.
T: Rennie, Visser (2) C: Laidlaw P: Laidlaw (2)
T: Kellock, Shaw, Jackson C: Weir P: Weir (2) Pat MacArthur
MUNSTER 24 - 9 CONNACHT
THOMOND PARK - 26 December 2011
MUNSTER fly-half Ian Keatley came back to haunt his former club as he finished with a personal haul of 14 points in their 24-9 win over Connacht at Thomond Park.
Full-back Sean Scanlon and Tomas O'Leary both crossed in 5 first-half minutes to give the home side a comfortable 18-3 lead at half-time.
Niall O'Connor managed three penalties for the visitors but missed the same number as Connacht missed out on the chance of a losing bonus point.
And two more second-half penalties from Keatley were enough to keep the visitors at a distance.
Keatley put two early penalty misses behind him as he slotted penalties on 17 and 24 minutes to give Munster a 6-0 lead.
O'Connor halved the deficit with a penalty of his own just before the half hour but that was as close as it got for the Galway outfit.
Scanlon, on his RaboDirect PRO12 debut at full-back, grabbed the game's opening try 2 minutes later, with Keatley converting to make it 13-3. And 5 minutes later O'Leary stretched the lead further as he went over, Keatley's missed conversion emulated by O'Connor with a penalty attempt 2 minutes later.
The visitors made the brighter start to the second half but O'Connor and Keatley traded two penalties apiece to make it 24-9 just before the hour.
Munster will be disappointed with their inability to cross the tryline in the second half, missing the opportunity to draw level on points with the Ospreys as they claimed 4 points which was enough to jump back into third ahead of Glasgow.
T: Scanlon, O'Leary C: Keatley P: Keatley (4) Donncha O'Callaghan
P: N O'Connor (3)
ULSTER 24 - 17 SCARLETS
RAVENHILL - 02 December 2011
ULSTER will be hoping that they have finally kick-started their RaboDirect PRO12 charge as Stephen Ferris led a clinical fightback to see off Scarlets 24-17 at Ravenhill.
Brian McLaughlin's side went into this game having won just one of their last six league games and quickly found themselves 10-0 down as Sean Lamont and Viliame Iongi crossed for the visiting Welsh side.
Ulster got off to the worst possible start when straight from the kick-off the returning Ferris passed the ball straight to wing Lamont who couldn't believe his luck before running in for an easy try in the left corner.
And they were made to rue a missed opportunity as on 19 minutes Scarlets' Tongan international Iongi demonstrated speed and power to cross in the right corner, Jones wayward again with his conversion attempt.
Just 2 minutes later Humphreys did get the Ravenhill faithful off their feet as he reduced the Scarlets lead to just 7 points with a penalty.
The Scarlets were reduced to 14 men just after the half-hour mark when full-back Dan Evans was sent to the sin-bin for deliberate offside, and they were made to pay for it just 2 minutes later as Ulster grabbed their first try of the game.
Starting in their own half the ball found its way to scrum-half Paul Marshall who gathered his own chip forward before Ulster worked the ball from right to left for Ferris to atone for his earlier mistake and barge his way over for a try, Humphreys wide with his extras attempt.
But Ulster recovered and scored 24 unanswered points through two Ferris tries and the boot of fly-half Ian Humphreys to inflict a first defeat for Scarlets in nine games in all competitions, despite a late Kieran Murphy try.
T: Ferris (2) C: Humphreys P: Humphreys (4) Adam Macklin
CONNACHT 13 - 15 TREVISO
SPORTSGROUND - 02 December 2011
DAVE McSHARRY'S first try in a Connacht shirt was in vain as the Irish side's poor form continued with a 15-13 defeat to Benetton Treviso at the Sportsground.
The Italians themselves were looking to stem a mini-slump of two straight league defeats and quickly build up a comfortable lead thanks to tries from Brendan Williams and Tommaso Iannone, Willem De Waal kicking the remaining points.
And although centre McSharry and Niall O'Connor's boot pulled the hosts back into contention, they ran out of time and had to settle for a losing bonus point.
Connacht were looking to arrest a slide of seven straight defeats in all competitions and started the game with some great attacking intent. They looked like the more likely side to get on the scoreboard first, but on 11 minutes Treviso were awarded a penalty for a ruck infringement and De Waal made no mistake with his kick.
And it got worse just 4 minutes later as early of Connacht's early promise was blown away as Brendan Williams touched down for the Italians after good support work by Ludovicio Nitoglia , De Waal converting for a 10-0 lead. But the mood around the Sportsground worsened after 23 minutes as wing Iannone went over for a try after winning a footrace to a loose ball, this time De Waal missing the conversion.
With Treviso scrum-half Fabio Semenzato in the sin-bin, the Irish side soon made the most of their man advantage with their only try of the game from McSharry, and O'Connor this time successful with his kick.
Connacht were made to wait until the 57 minute to get on the scoreboard again, Treviso flanker Monoa Vasawai sent to the sin bin and O'Connor making no mistake from the resulting penalty to bring them to within 5 points of their Italian visitors.
Connacht were doing their best to cross for their second try of the game but just as it looked as though captain John Muldoon would find his way over, the referee blew for a penalty and they had to settle for an O'Connor penalty and defeat.
T: McSharry C: O'Connor P: O'Connor (2)
EDINBURGH 50 - 10 AIRONI
MURRAYFIELD - 02 December 2011
EDINBURGH exacted revenge on Aironi for their September loss as they hammered the Italians at Murrayfield 50-10.
Michael Bradley's side now boast a record of seven wins from their nine home matches this season, which include a thrilling 48-47 win over Racing Métro in the Heineken Cup last month.
Edinburgh welcomed back international front-row trio of Allan Jacobsen, Ross Ford and Geoff Cross and the stability upfront seemed to work wonders as the Scots raced into a 21-0 lead after just 17 minutes.
After missing an early strike at goal through Greig Laidlaw - three tries in 9 minutes from David Denton and a double from Tim Visser effectively ended the contest before a quarter of the game had even elapsed.
Aironi briefly looked as though they would get a foothold in the game as Scotland-born George Biagi charged down a kick and scored under the post but normal service was shortly after for Edinburgh.
Just 5 minutes later Laidlaw extended Edinburgh's lead to 24-5 with a penalty, before De Luca added his side's fourth try of the evening under the posts, finishing off a fine move following lovely hands by Sean Cox.
Despite the withdrawal of the impressive De Luca at the break - Edinburgh dominated the early exchanges of the second-half, dominating territory. And on 52 minutes they won a scrum against the head and after recycling the ball, it was worked out to Visser who darted over for his third try of the game.
Lee Jones was the next man to go for Edinburgh, collecting a perfectly weighted kick from Phil Godman to go over - unfortunately the latter couldn't add the extras. Chris Leck brought up the half century with Edinburgh's seventh score of the night, while Aironi added a late consolation score from Filippo Ferrarini but it was a chastening experience for the visitors.
T: Denton, Visser (3), de Luca, Jones, Leck C: Laidlaw (5), Godman P: Laidlaw Esteban Lozada, David Denton
LEINSTER 52 - 9 CARDIFF BLUES
RDS - 02 December 2011
HIGH-FLYING Leinster mastered the difficult conditions as they downed a severely under-strength Cardiff 52-9 thanks largely to the boot of centre Fergus McFadden.
In gusty conditions McFadden kicked 18 points as Cardiff, missing a host of internationals due to Saturday's clash with Australia, struggled to get a foothold in this clash. Despite playing in the wind in the first-half, Leinster found themselves 13-9 up at the break as McFadden kicked 8 points and Isaac Boss rumbled over for a try.
Ceri Sweeney ensured Cardiff stayed within touching distance at the break, kicking three penalties but with eight Blues on international duty and Chris Czekaj and replacement scrum-half Lewis Jones dropping out late through injury and illness - Leinster never looked in trouble.
3 minutes after the break McFadden nudged Leinster further in front with a well-taken penalty but just 2 minutes later the game was effectively sealed for the Irish team. Fionn Carr was the architect of the score, breaking from deep and Nathan White was in support to charge over from close range for a popular score - McFadden again added the extras.
McFadden ensured the scoreboard kept ticking over as he landed a drop goal just before the hour to extend Leinster's score to 26-9.
It got worse for the Blues on 63 minutes as Ian Madigan scored Leinster's next try, crashing over, with the ever reliable McFadden adding the extras. Leinster wrapped up the bonus point win as Irish international Jonathan Sexton stepped off the bench for the final quarter.
First his kick through was picked up for David Kearney to score on 68 minutes and just minutes later the duo were at it again as Sexton once again set up his team-mate for a try. And Leinster brought up their half century in the final minutes as Leo Auva'a went over from a tap penalty after Cardiff were penalised at scrum time.
T: Boss, White, Madigan, D Kearney (2), Auva'a C: McFadden (3), Sexton (2) P: McFadden (3) DG: McFadden Leo Cullen
P: Sweeney (3) Richie Rees
OSPREYS 19 - 13 MUNSTER
LIBERTY STADIUM - 03 December 2011
A superb second-half defensive effort earned an under strength Ospreys side a 19-13 win over defending champions Munster that cemented their spot in second in the table. Second-half scores from Richard Fussell and Rhys Webb earned them a famous victory.
The wayward boot of fly-half Ian Keatley missed two penalties in the first 10 minutes. Not long after, Munster lost hooker Damian Varley to the sin bin and on 22 minutes Ospreys hit the front when stand-in fly half Matthew Morgan slotted over a penalty.
But 3 minutes later, having been restored to their full compliment, Munster were level as Keatley's misfiring boot finally honed in on its target to make it 3-3.
Just before the half hour Munster were in front as Doug Howlett glided over for the first try of the game, Keatley adding the extras to put the Red Army in a strong position to avenge their defeat from back in October. A second penalty from Matthew Morgan reduced Ospreys' arrears to 10-6 at the break and they came firing out of the blocks after the interval in a 5 minute spell that effectively sealed the win.
Richard Fussell piled over in the 45th minute to put the Ospreys 11-10 ahead while Morgan failed to add the extras and then scrum-half Rhys Webb, making his 50th career appearance for the Ospreys, darted over, Morgan again failing with the conversion.
That flurry forced McGahan's hand and the cavalry soon arrived in the form of O'Connell, Murray and O'Gara and the fly-half added a penalty in the 63rd minute to reduce their arrears to 16-13. But Morgan then added a penalty of his own to push the lead back out to 6 points in the 67th minute before Munster set up camp in the Ospreys half in search of a winning try, but it never came.
T: Fussell, Webb P: Morgan (3)
T: Howlett C: Keatley P: Keatley, O'Gara Damien Varley
DRAGONS 14 - 14 GLASGOW
RODNEY PARADE - 04 December 2011
A last-gasp penalty from replacement Jason Tovey earned the Dragons a 14-14 draw against Glasgow, preserving their unbeaten home record in the in the process.
It was the away side who took the lead early on when Ruaridh Jackson, making his first Glasgow appearance of the campaign, having recovered from the hamstring injury he sustained against England at the Rugby World Cup, slotted over a penalty in the 5th minute. But missed penalties from both teams saw the Warriors go in 3-0 up at the break.
After half-time, the game really came to life as Jackson slotted over his second penalty on 43 minutes to put Sean Lineen's men 6 points in front. Jones finally found the target with a penalty of his own to reduce the deficit to 3. But Jackson continued to make them pay for their indiscipline and he stretched the lead back out to two scores with his third penalty of the night in the 58th minute.
Jones was then relieved of the kicking duties as Tovey, on for the ineffectual Tonderai Chavhanga, made his first penalty to make it only 9-6 to the Scottish outfit with a quarter of an hour remaining.
10 minutes to go and the Dragons were in front for the first time in the match as a concerted period of possession in the Glasgow half saw Riley dart over in the corner. After lengthy deliberation from the television referee the outside centre was adjudged to have grounded the ball in the corner before being bundled into touch but Tovey struck the post with his conversion to make it 11-9 to the hosts.
Dragons winger Adam Hughes was then denied a try for a double movement in the closing stages but they would have sealed the win regardless if not for a moment of madness from flanker Lewis Evans.
With 5 minutes remaining a speculative chip forward from Wight, only recently on as a replacement for the Warriors, was shepherded over the try line by Evans but he dallied before touching down and Wight dove over to score.
The replacement fly-half then struck the post with his own conversion attempt meaning the away side only led by 14-11 with 5 minutes remaining, setting the stage for Tovey's stoppage time heroics.
T: Riley P: S Jones, Tovey (2)
T: Wight P: Jackson (3) Rob Harley
CARDIFF BLUES 38 - 0 AIRONI
CARDIFF CITY STADIUM - 24 November 2011
DAFYDD HEWITT celebrated his 50th league appearance for Cardiff Blues with a fine breakaway try to help his side cruise to a 38-0 victory over woeful Aironi.
The Blues had to rely on the trusty boot of Dan Parks in a lacklustre first half but the floodgates opened after the break as replacement Casey Laulala, Hewitt, Tom James and Marc Breeze all went over to secure the bonus point.
The only downside for the Blues was a neck injury sustained by full-back Chris Czekaj, who was forced off just before the half-time break, as Cardiff Blues coaches Gareth Baber and Justin Burnell saw an already lengthy injury list added to.
The deadlock was broken after just 3 minutes when Parks, instrumental in the Heineken Cup victory over London Irish last time out, knocked over the first of his four first-half penalties.
When Aironi's Samoan centre Sinoti Sinoti was sin binned for an illegal tackle on 43 minutes, the Blues immediately capitalised and after the forwards fell just short of the try-line on the left, a move to the right saw New Zealander Laulala go over for his third try of the season.
Parks missed the relatively easy conversion and that stirred the Italians, who ought to have notched two penalties of their own before Sinoti's return - but for the wayward boot of Naas Olivier.
And Olivier was swiftly punished when Hewitt's incisive break lit up a match threatening to peter out on 59 minutes before James followed suit soon after with Aironi still shellshocked.
Parks notched both conversions to take his tally to 18 before being replaced by Ceri Sweeney, whose first involvement in the game was to convert fellow replacement Breeze's pushover try.
T: Laulala, Hewitt, James, Breeze C: Parks (2), Sweeney P: Parks (4)
Sinoti Sinoti Toomaga
SCARLETS 22 - 12 DRAGONS
PARC Y SCARLETS - 25 November 2011
STEPHEN JONES celebrated his 300th appearance for the Scarlets in style as they clinically saw off the Dragons 22-12 at Parc y Scarlets.
Gavin Thomas was penalised early on for lying on the wrong side allowing Stephen Jones to slot 3 points from the left, but the Dragons responded soon after when Jonathan Edwards was penalised for coming in from the side and Jason Tovey duly converted to make it 3-3.
Aled Brew came close to the first try of the evening as he made the most of Martyn Thomas' quick hands only for Gareth Maule to get back and drag him into touch before he crossed the line. However when Brew came through from the wrong side at a ruck Stephen Jones was able to put the Scarlets back in front. The veteran Welsh international extended the lead to 9-3 after Thomas was again penalised at the breakdown.
The Dragons deservedly got a penalty back after Edwards strayed off side and Tovey wasted no time slotting it to make it 9-6 with 5 minutes to go before half-time. And a stupid block from Ken Owens gave the Dragons the chance to draw level but they instead chose to kick for the corner and go for a try. However the gamble did not pay off as the Scarlets forced them back before turning the ball over and Stephen Jones' delightful crosskick found new signing Viliame Iongi and after he was stopped short of the line, Rhys Thomas barged over for the opening try. Stephen Jones added the conversion for a 16-6 half-time lead.
Jason Tovey brought the Dragons back to within a score with his third penalty but the Dragons struggled to threaten the Scarlets' tryline. With 15 minutes remaining the Dragons were penalised for obstruction but Dan Evans missed the resulting penalty from distance.
However after a good break from Adam Warren, Dragons No.8 Tom Brown killed the ball and was sent to the sin bin, Stephen Jones making the score 19-9 with just over 10 minutes to go. Steffan Jones then added the crucial penalty to put the Dragons back to within seven before Stephen Jones added his final kick of the evening with his Dragons counterpart missing a penalty chance in the dying seconds.
T: RM Thomas C: Jones P: Jones (5)
P: Tovey (3), S Jones Tom Brown
GLASGOW 17 - 9 ULSTER
FIRHILL - 25 November 2011
ULSTER were left to rue a poor kicking display from Ian Humphreys as they slipped to a 17-9 defeat to Glasgow at Firhill.
It was the home side who moved into an early lead as Duncan Weir kicked a penalty from wide on the right after Simon Danielli had been penalised for holding on.
Humphreys brought his side back into it with a penalty but a high tackle from Adam Kyriacou was penalised to give Weir the chance to give Glasgow back the lead which he duly took to make it 6-3. Weir added another penalty from the right to extend the lead but after David Lemi failed to release Adam D'Arcy, Humphreys had the opportunity to get Ulster back into it. However his penalty attempt went well wide to give Glasgow a 9-3 half-time lead.
Ulster came out the quicker in the second half and Humphreys went some way to make amends for his earlier miss with a penalty to bring the visitors back to within 3 points. He again held his nerve 15 minutes into the second half as he slotted another penalty from the right to draw Ulster level at 9-9.
Ulster piled on the pressure but struggled to take advantage with Humphreys missing two more kickable penalties. And Glasgow made him pay as former Connacht centre Nathan crossed after an unexpected turnover. Nathan collected the ball out wide before slipping it to debutant winger David Lemi who fed back inside to his centre to cross and make it 14-9, Weir just missing a tricky conversion attempt.
And having brilliantly got themselves into position, Henry Pyrgos found Weir who slotted the drop goal from in front to make it 17-9 and guarantee the win.
T: Nathan P: Weir (3) DG: Weir
P: Humphreys (3)
TREVISO 20 - 30 LEINSTER
STADIO DI MONIGO - 26 November 2011
LEINSTER gained revenge for last season's shock defeat to Treviso with a 30-20 win at the Stadio di Monigo. Leinster, and Fergus McFadden's 15-point haul, ensured there would be no repeat as they held of a comeback effort in the second half with Heineken Cup hero Eoin O'Malley scoring an important try midway through the second half.
Leinster No.8 Leo Auva'a got the ball rolling early on as he crossed for the first try after just a minute, McFadden adding the conversion. Botes pulled Treviso back with a penalty but Leinster looked to be running away with it when former Connacht flier Fionn Carr raced in for a second try after just 8 minutes, McFadden making it 14-3 with the conversion.
But Treviso showed great spirit to come back into it through two more. 3 minutes later, McFadden extended the lead with another penalty of his own, but Treviso finished the half the stronger with Botes adding another penalty to make it 17-12 at the break.
Botes added another penalty immediately 5 minutes into the second half to put Treviso back within 2 points, only for McFadden to match him 5 minutes later. Italian international replacement Manoa Vosawai crossed after 50 minutes but Botes missed the chance to put his side in front with the conversion.
McFadden made him pay with another penalty to put Leinster back in front before Botes again missed a penalty chance. Ian Madigan, starting instead of the rested Jonathan Sexton, took over the kicking duties for Leinster but he missed his first shot at goal. But it made no difference as O'Malley, the hero against Glasgow a week ago, again got himself on the scoresheet, McFadden adding the extras to make it 30-20.
T: Vosawai P: Botes (5)
T: Auva'a, Carr, O'Malley C: McFadden (3) P: McFadden (3) Shane Jennings
CONNACHT 6 - 17 OSPREYS
SPORTSGROUND - 26 November 2011
OSPREYS fly-half Matthew Morgan was again the hero as the front runners recorded their third away win of the season with a 17-6 success at the Sportsground. The young outside half scored the only try of the first half, as well as adding 7 points with the boot to send the Ospreys back to the top of the table after Leinster's earlier win.
Connacht made the brighter start as Miah Nikora bounced back from missing an early penalty to give Connacht the lead after a quarter of an hour. But Matthew Morgan brought his side level with a penalty of his own 3 minutes later. And Morgan's day got even better on 32 minutes as he went over for the first try of the day which he converted himself to give the Ospreys a 10-3 lead.
Nikora managed to pull one penalty back for the home side before the break as they went in 10-6 down.
But Connacht were not able to take advantage after Ian Gough was sent to the bin in the second half, and the visitors stretched clear on the hour.
Duncan Jones, on his 150th appearance for the Ospreys collected the ball off the back of a line and went on a rampaging run before the ball found its way to Richard Fussell who fed replacement Sonny Parker to stroll over. Morgan added the extras to extend the Ospreys lead to 17-6 with 20 minutes remaining.
The Ospreys should have added to their lead as Morgan scooped up a knock on in his own 22, streaking down the pitch before finding Hanno Dirksen but the replacement winger couldn't break through.
P: Nikora (2)
T: Morgan, Parker C: Morgan (2)P: Morgan Ian Gough
MUNSTER 34 - 17 EDINBURGH
THOMOND PARK - 26 November 2011
THERE were no Ronan O'Gara heroics this time but old fashioned Munster might saw the defending champions get back to winning ways in the RaboDirect PRO12 with a 34-17 bonus point victory over Edinburgh.
It was Munster who drew first blood but not via the boot of Ian Keatley. He was wayward with a relatively straightforward looking effort on 3 minutes but the home crowd didn't have to wait long. A break from full-back Denis Hurley saw space open up down the left and when he found Danny Barnes near the touchline, the 22-year-old had the simplest of chances to touch down.
Keatley found his kicking boots for the conversion but back roared Edinburgh and when Jack Gilding intercepted the ball in his own half on 13 minutes, he found Netani Talei, who freed fly-half Phil Godman - who has already missed a simple penalty - to cross and reduce to arrears to two.
Keatley then had three opportunities to add to his side's lead, two of which he took to give Munster a 13-5 lead at half-time.
The Gunners came out of the blocks the strongest after the break however and wing Tom Brown squeezed over in the left corner before the scrum fiasco ensued and Edinburgh found themselves down to 13 men with Gilding and Kyle Traynor in the bin and 20-10 down after a penalty try was awarded.
With the wind in their sails, Munster quickly added to that and on 66 minutes over went centre Simon Zebo before Keatley again added the extras.
The fire in Edinburgh's bellies had not yet gone out however and Greig Laidlaw - just 3 minutes after replacing Godman - grabbed a try and converted to bring the scores to 27-17.
But as the clock wore down, Munster reasserted their authority as wing Luke O'Dea skidded over in the corner to wrap up the bonus point.
T: Barnes, Penalty Try, Zebo, O'Dea C: Keatley (4) P: Keatley (2)
T: Godman, Brown, Laidlaw C: Laidlaw Kyle Traynor, Jack Gilding
DESPITE the many laboured firework analogies flying around this week, it appeared that this weekend’s RaboDirect Pro12 action was going to be something of a damp squib when the first of round eight’s four derbies, between Newport Gwent Dragons and Cardiff Blues was called off. The promise of the occasion, two rivals meeting with the return of a local hero in the form of Richard Parks and the opening of the new stand was extinguished with flash flooding in the Newport and Bristol area that saw much disruption and an hour of will-they-won’t-they conjecture from the match officials that bordered on the comical. Despite the heroic efforts of the grounds staff and some of the supporters, the match was eventually postponed and will be re-announced shortly.
The second derby had -if possible- even more hype, as Leinster hosted Munster in what they dubbed ‘The Fever in the Aviva’. Despite the only try of the game coming from a penalty late in the second half, the game was not without its excitement as a war of attrition between Ireland’s fly halves took place on its biggest stage for a 24-19 home victory. It was Jonny Sexton who emerged the victor with 21 of Leinster’s 24 points compared to Ronan O’Gara’s 17, as the home side capitalised on Munster’s indiscipline and enforced pressure on a side that still perceive Lansdowne road as a fortress.
Munster did make a concerted effort at fighting back in the second half, reciprocating the pressure to allow O’Gara to narrow the gulf in points, and ensuring the referee had no choice but to allow a penalty try while Leinster were down to 14 men after Denis Leamy was punished for persistent infringement despite their own loss of Jamie Heaslip earlier in the half. However, their attempt at playing catch up was not enough, and the strong work of the Leinster defence as well as a drop goal from Rob Kearney kept the wolf from the door.
Duncan Weir continued to impress this week as he kicked Glasgow Warriors to victory over Aironi. Securing man of the match as well as all 18 of Glasgow’s points, the fly half also helped keep opposite number Naas Olivier at bay. Despite getting off to a promising start, Aironi got all of their point scoring out of the way in the opening half, with Naas Olivier’s penalties limping between the bars. Weir’s shining moment came at the end of the first half, redeeming himself for an earlier failed drop goal attempt with a perfectly executed kick that came just as the clock turned red. This commitment to notching up points when it counted meant that all that was needed was composure and discipline to ease past the misfiring Aironi side to close out at 6-18.
Edinburgh put some of their demons to bed with their first away win of the season against Benetton Treviso at the Stadio Monigo. Harry Leonard was keen to show that the return of the Scottish internationals was no threat to him kicking 17 of the visitors 22 points, with Ross Rennie putting the icing on the cake with a try late in the game which they closed out with an 11-22 victory. For Treviso, their promising start appeared to be continuing; Ludovico Nitoglia once again impressed with his third try of the competition before the break, but team mate Lorenzo Cittadini let the side down with a yellow card shortly after, allowing Leonard to reinstate Edinburgh’s lead. Rennie’s late try saw some resurgence for the Venetians but it was too little too late, and they were not able to breach the whitewash for a second time.
Ulster returned to their winning ways at Ravenhill as Ian Humphreys and Rory Best put in impressive performances for the hosts in their 22-3 victory against Connacht. Despite a strong start from the Galwaymen, Humphreys’ 12 point haul for Ulster was joined by three blistering tries in what was arguably the match of the weekend. After a slow start to the game, Tom Court was the first to cross the whitewash before the break, but soon after the whistle blew, Craig Gilroy followed suit, kicking off a scrappy second half that saw both sides attempt to pressurise each other. Humphreys, however, was clearly a man on a mission and after a 30 metre break, he dotted the ball down and drop kicked his conversion to end the game once and for all. In a week of damp squibs, yellow cards and pre-Europe tension, this was the game that put a little style into the pro12.
From the sublime...to the Liberty Stadium. In what was billed as the most exciting clash of the weekend, if not the season, the West Wales Derby brought together two sworn enemies in Ospreys and Scarlets. Just 12 miles, one bridge and not a single point separated the Jacks and the Turks by the end of the night, their 9-9 draw showing a distinct lack of spark. Quite apart from some frankly bizarre refereeing decisions from Mathieu Raynal, both teams took away yellow cards (Stephen Jones for a tip tackle, Justin Tipuric for a dubious ruck offence) and 3 points from penalties. As James Hook wowed his critics over in Perpignan, Dan Biggar had to rely on the visitors’ lack of cohesion matching his own side’s in order to overtake his points record with his three penalties, even as superstar reinforcements came off both benches.
It was the 10 minutes when the Ospreys were a man down that saw some of the most promising play of the game. Cornered, the homeside fought back and even managed to cross the line twice only for perceived handling errors to give possession back to the Scarlets. It was not until the dying minutes when the Llanelli side attempted a similar feat, but their visit to the Ospreys 22 ended only in the equalising penalty.
DRAGONS vs CARDIFF BLUES
Rodney Parade - POSTPONED
LEINSTER 24 - 19 MUNSTER
AVIVA STADIUM - Friday 4th November 2011
HT: 15-9 Att: 48,365
Leinster P: Sexton (7) DG: Kearney Heaslip
Munster T: Penalty C: O’Gara P: O’Gara Leamy
Man of the Match: Jonathan Sexton
AIRONI 6 - 18 GLASGOW WARRIORS
STADIO ZAFFENELLA - Saturday 5th November 2011
HT: 6-12 Att: 2,200
Aironi P: Olivier (2)
Glasgow Warriors P: Weir (5) DG: Weir
Man of the Match: Duncan Weir
TREVISO 11 - 22 EDINBURGH
STADIO MONIGO - Saturday 5th November 2011
HT: 8-9 Att: 3,500
Benetton Treviso T: Nitoglia P: Burton DG: Burton Cittadini
Edinburgh T: Rennie C: Leonard P: Leonard (5) De Luca
Man of the Match: Harry Leonard
ULSTER 22 - 3 CONNACHT
Ravenhill - Saturday 4th November 2011
HT: 8-3 Att: 6,887
Ulster T: Humphreys, Court, Gilroy C: Humphreys (2) P: Humphreys
Connacht P: Nikora
Man of the Match: Rory Best
OSPREYS 9 - 9 SCARLETS
Liberty Stadium - Saturday 4th November 2011
HT: 6-0 Att: 12,332
Ospreys P: Biggar (3) Tipuric
Scarlets P: S. Jones (3) S. Jones
Man of the Match: Kahn Fotuali’i
AFTER a two week break, this slight return for Celtic and Italian Rugby kicked off on Friday night with Glasgow Warriors ending the Ospreys unbeaten run in the competition. After a scrappy first half in which only Ospreys youngster Matthew Morgan’s impressive long range kicking raised anybody’s interest, Glasgow Warriors came back from the break aiming to ruffle Osprey feathers. It may not have been a pretty battle, but the Warriors took full advantage of the visitors’ indiscipline, maintaining territory until some tenacious work from Chris Cusiter and a late tackle from Richard Hibbard gave them the advantage they needed to send Richie Gray over the line. They continued to turn the screw and managed to gain an unscalable advantage largely through the boot of Duncan Wier that meant Matthew Morgan’s last minute try was merely conciliatory. A noisy home crowd were delighted to see Morgan’s conversion go wide to seal their victory at 28-17.
Tim Visser’s two-try performance may have been the star of the show for Edinburgh, but it was Leinster who took the spoils of their encounter after Jonny Sexton kicked 23 points in their 28 - 36 victory at Murrayfield. The host’s early lead was quickly extinguished by a Leinster squad strengthened by their returning Irish Internationals and complimented by the stalwarts of the season so far. Isaac Boss and Leo Auva’a shone, taking training ground manœuvres and turning them into solid tries. A late try for Edinburgh’s Matt Scott almost saw the hosts take a losing bonus point, but their composure was lost in the fray, allowing Fergus McFadden to deny them that comfort.
Ronan O’Gara kicked last season’s champions Munster to an unconvincing victory against bottom of the table Aironi at Musgrave Park in the last of Friday evening’s games. The completely tryless encounter saw Aironi defend their borders to the hilt and only their failure to attack in return and the unreliability of Luciano Orquera’s goal kicking separated them from success in this encounter. Munster were not so unlucky, and O’Gara took full advantage of all but one of the opportunities posited to him to give the hosts the rather flattering result of 18 - 6.
Benetton Treviso continued to lay their claim to success in the Pro12 by putting a full 50 points past struggling Newport Gwent Dragons. They took full advantage of the return of their Azzurri within minutes of kick off as Alessandro Zanni made his presence felt with the first of seven tries for the hosts. Brendan Williams celebrated his 200th appearance for the Venetians with a brace of his own as his team ran amok, leaving the Dragons chasing their tails despite an impressive two-try performance for newcomer Tonderai Chavhanga and a last gasp effort for Steffan Jones. In the end, those efforts may not have saved the day but they did prevent an all out rout as Treviso took their 24 point lead in the first half and added further tries from Ludovico Nitoglia, Robert Barbieri, Paul Derbyshire and Tobias Botes. If anyone doubted that the Italians had arrived in the League, their ascendance to 5th place at this stage of the tournament proves they are here to stay.
Despite the return of the World Cup stars, Ulster fell at the swords of the Scarlets in dismal Llanelli conditions. Though Ruan Pienaar, Andrew Trimble and Ian Humphreys all put in note worthy performances including a blistering second half try, they failed to ward off the damp or the merry band of Scarlets youngsters. Solid handling of a slippery ball made all the difference and Adam Warren and Liam Williams saw their patience bear fruit with a try in each half. The biggest cheer of the 24 - 17 victory, however came not for those sterling efforts but for the return of injured skipper Matthew Rees, a welcome sight with just a week ahead of the hotly contested West Wales Derby.
After a week of tabloid headlines, it was the return of the reliable boot of Dan Parks, coupled with the creativity of Casey Laulala that brought Cardiff Blues back to their winning ways against Connacht in Galway in the last game of the weekend. Despite an early lead from Connacht after Mike McCarthy and Tiernan O’Halloran crossed the whitewash, the second half saw the visitors get the it between their teeth. Casey Laulala was instrumental in both tries, going over himself before setting Alex Cuthbert up for the second, and despite a spell in the sin bin for captain Paul Tito, the boot of Dan Parks did the rest. The late levelling kick from Nikora - the gift from Tito’s spell in the bin was the only score from the hosts in the second half, and with 14 men and 15 minutes to go, Parks saw his moment to shine and put the Blues back on track.
GLASGOW WARRIORS 28 - 17 OSPREYS
FIRHILL - Friday 28th October 2011
HT: 6 - 12 Att: 3,443
Glasgow T: Gray C: Weir P: Wier (7)
Ospreys T: M Morgan P: M Morgan (4) Hibbard
EDINBURGH RUGBY 28 - 36 LEINSTER
MURRAYFIELD - Friday 28th October 2011
HT: 13 - 19 Att: 3,580
Edinburgh T: Visser (2), Scott C: Laidlaw (2) P: Laidlaw (3)
Leinster T: Boss, Auva’a C: Sexton P: Sexton (6), McFadden DG: Sexton
MUNSTER 18 - 6 AIRONI
MUSGRAVE PARK - Friday 28th October 2011
HT: 9 - 3 Att: 7,000
Munster P: O’Gara (6)
Aironi P: Orquera (2) Staibano
TREVISO 50 - 24 DRAGONS
STADIO MONIGO - Saturday 29th October 2011
HT: 24- 3 Att: TBC
Benetton Treviso T: Barbieri, Botes, Derbyshire, Nitoglia, Williams (2), Zanni P: Burton C: Burton (5), Botes
Newport Gwent Dragons T: Tonderai Chavhanga (2), Jones C: Tovey (3) P: Tovey
SCARLETS 24 - 17 ULSTER RUGBY
PARC Y SCARLETS - Saturday 29th October 2011
HT: 13 - 3 Att: TBC
Scarlets T: Warren, Williams C: Thomas P: Thomas (3), Newton
Ulster T: Trimble P: Humphreys (4)
CONNACHT 20 - 26 CARDIFF BLUES
SPORTSGROUND - Saturday 29th October 2011
HT 17 - 3 Att: TBC
Connacht T: McCarthy, O’Halloran C: O’Connor (2) P: O’Connor, Nikora
Cardiff Blues T: Laulala, Cuthbert C: Parks (2) P: Parks (3) DG: Parks Tito
JUST as the RaboDirect Pro12 seemed to be settling in nicely, it is time to take a breather and make way for the LV=. End of term-itis, however, was not an issue in the final round before the three week break and this weekend saw some fantastic clashes and a few upsets.
First up on the chopping block was Ulster who, after having a four week run of victory have stalled in recent weeks. This week the Northern Irish side fell at the sword of Benetton Treviso, who are now coming into their stride to secure their longest succession of wins to date.
The only disappointment of Kris Burton’s season so far is that the Italy selectors may have been distracted from watching him with another competition going on over at the other side of the planet. He not only continued but built upon his success this weekend, putting 18 of Treviso’s 23 points on the board as if he were playing bingo. With the only other points coming from a (controversial) penalty try, the Venetian supporters will barely be missing the international players that will return come October.
Burton’s incredible form was not enough to stop Ulster mounting a comeback campaign that saw Pedrie Wannenburg crossing twice within the last 15 minutes, but it was enough to force a penalty that allowed them to take a 12 – 23 victory away from Ravenhill.
Both Glasgow Warriors and Newport Gwent Dragons have had a shaky season so far. Moments of glory have met some dismal results for both sides, but this weekend it was the Warriors who put the only dent in Wales’ ‘perfect weekend’ with a 24 – 19 victory over the Dragons, who have yet to secure a win away from their fortress Rodney Parade.
With the star of last week’s victory over Ulster, Jason Tovey, on the bench, the Dragons attempted to ring the changes, and with Martyn Thomas claiming the game’s only try early on, it looked set to pay off. However, an error strewn performance from there on in allowed Warriors’ Duncan Weir to kick 8 penalties which was enough to give them the all important ‘W’.
Both sides have been occupying the middle of the table for some time now, which sounds like a recipe for average rugby but both teams have the potential to be the dark horse of the season.
Like the Warriors and Dragons, Scarlets have had as depressing a start to their season as the weather at Parc Y Scarlets on Friday night. However, a sterling performance from late replacement Adam Warren and a well timed loan of London Welsh’s Aled Thomas saw the Llanelli outfit ratchet up their first bonus point performance of the season against fellow strugglers Edinburgh.
Far from missing their stars, the Scarlets seemed to be inspired by their boys’ success down under, and within a few minutes of kick off it was clear which team would emerge victorious. Warren, obviously keen to impress, went over for a brace of classy tries, followed by both Richie Pugh and in the dying moments, Rhys Thomas.
Edinburgh’s Tim Visser also impressed, doing all he could to keep the score close until the surge of scarlet later in the game following John Houston’s visit to the sin bin. Even then, Richie Pugh’s try was quickly followed by one for Edinburgh’s Lee Jones barely a minute later to close the gap.
The rift was soon widened, however, as only a few minutes after his try, Lee Jones made a costly error gifting the hosts another penalty and vigour renewed enough to spark the last wave of attack.
Edinburgh seem to be suffering more than most from the absence of some of their key players but it is the Scarlets who will have to cope a little longer with Wales’ extended stay in New Zealand. They may have had a depressing start to the season, but with the likes of George North and Jonathan Davies still to be unleashed on the RaboDirect Pro12, Scarlets could be the ones to watch.
Cardiff Blues added to the feeling of a good weekend for anyone west of Newport with a bonus point win against an Aironi side whose table placing is becoming increasingly incongruous to the performances they are putting in. The days when a visit to the Stadio Zafanella all but guaranteed a soft success seem to be coming to an end, and this clash saw both teams claim a four try bonus point, but Naas Olivier’s issues converting for the Italians meant the difference between hard graft and results.
This was one of the most competitive and fast paced games we have seen yet in the Pro12, with end to end running rugby transferring from cliché to the pitch as the teams played tit for tat on every level. No try went unreturned, nor did any penalty go unpunished, and taking into account that Olivier’s missed kicks accounted for 11 points, it is clear how evenly matched this meeting really was.
The scoring got underway after 2 minutes when Sinoti Sinoti crashed over only to have the favour returned by Dafydd Hewitt just 3 minutes later. From then on, there was but an arm wrestle and a few well placed kicks from Ceri Sweeney that kept the scoreboard ticking over until Gilberto Pavan and a brace for Nick Williams got the attack back under way for the hosts. The Blues fought back with two from Chris Czekaj, the second being the last move of the match, and a stormer from Xavier Rush was all that was needed to clinch the Blues’ third bonus point win of the season.
Leinster are another side having a shaky start to their season, if held to their own high standards. With so many of the side over in New Zealand until now, it is understandable that even European Champions would find steering their ship a little difficult. However, they remain in the higher echelons of the table and this weekend put 30 points past Connacht’s 20.
Connacht secured themselves a comfortable 20-8 lead before the break thanks to the boot of Niall O’Connor and tries from Ray Ofisa Treviranus and Brian Tuhoy. Devin Toner’s try indicated the fightback would come, but it was not until after the break that Isa Nacewa and Ian Madigan got to work on closing the gap before Fitzgerald took them ahead with a try in the 65th minute.
Man of the Match, Nacewa cemented his place in the hearts of Leinster supporters putting in another stellar performance that complimented the tries from Fitzgerald and Toner. No doubt Connacht were clearly hoping this was to be another to add to their list of close victories, but their composure was shot as Leinster wore them down, and their fightback gave rise only to a drop goal from Ian Madigan to deepen their woes.
Sean Holley hinted that the best is yet to come from the Ospreys even as they shored up their place at the top of the table this week by continuing their perfect run. Following Wales defeat over Ireland in the world cup, the Welsh side broke Irish hearts for the second time in 12 hours.
The last time Munster were beaten at homein the league was in April 2010, and it was the Ospreys that breached the battlements back then, creating one of the least friendly rivalries in the competition. This time around, Dan Biggar continued his incredible form to put 17 points over Munster’s 13 as he controlled a scrappy and tight clash that saw each side match everything the other threw at them, including yellow cards.
Munster appeared to have what passed for an upper hand for much of the game, as despite the Ospreys maintaining much of the possession and territory, it was Danny Barnes who managed to breech the black wall early in the first half. Tight defences from both sides meant that Dan Biggar and Ian Keatley were left to keep the points board moving with penalties for much of the game.
This all came to a head at the 45 minute mark as Stephen Archer’s scrum infringements left Munster a man down. Biggar’s penalty bounced off the upright meaning the visitors failed to capitalise on the advantage. This was soon compounded by Ospreys skipper Justin Tipuric finding himself joining the prop in the sin bin. Munster, thinking they had their eye on the prize, surged through the Ospreys 22 while they were wounded, but an intercept from Barry Davies saw him run 80 metres before a dummy pass to Hanno Dirksen lead to Rhys Webb dotting down the try that took the visitors into the lead. All that was left was a last moment penalty that saw Dan Biggar end the game just 8 away from breaking the Ospreys points record, and well on the way to topping the league’s points haul for a second year.
The Ospreys of October 2011 are a far cry from what was seen in 2010. This team are closer, more grounded and though there is still room for improvement.
ULSTER 12 - 23 BENETTON TREVISO
RAVENHILL – Friday 7th October 2011
HT: 0-10 Att: 7,372
Ulster T: Wannenburg (2) C: Humphreys Fitzpatrick
Benetton Treviso T: Burton, Penalty C: Burton (2) P: Burton (3)
GLASGOW 24 - 19 DRAGONS
FIRHILL – Friday 7th October 2011
HT: 12-16 Att: 2,705
Glasgow Warriors P: Weir (8)
Newport Gwent Dragons T: Thomas C: Jones P: Jones (3), Tovey
SCARLETS 33 - 17 EDINBURGH
PARC Y SCARLETS – Friday 7th October 2011
HT: 13-10 Att: 6,188
Scarlets T: Thomas, Pugh, Warren (2) C: Thomas (2) P: Thomas (3)
Edinburgh T: Jones, Visser C: Laidlaw (2) P: Laidlaw Houston
AIRONI 26 - 37 CARDIFF BLUES
STADIO ZAFANELLA – Saturday 8th October 2011
HT: 10 – 6 Att: 16,599
Aironi T: Pavan, Sinoti, Williams (2) P: Olivier (2)
Cardiff Blues T: Czekaj (2), Hewitt, Rush C: Sweeney (4) P: Sweeney (3)
LEINSTER 30 - 20 CONNACHT
ROYAL DUBLIN SOCIETY – Saturday 8th October 2011
HT: 10 – 6 Att: 16,599
Leinster T: Fitzgerald, Toner C: Nacewa P: Nacewa (4), Madigan DG: Madigan
Connacht T: Treviranus, Tuhoy C: O’Connor (2) P: O’Connor (2) Rogers
MUNSTER 13 - 17 OSPREYS
THOMOND PARK – Saturday 8th October 2011
HT: 10 – 6 Att: 16,599
Munster T: Barnes C: Keatley P: Keatley (2) Archer
Ospreys T: Webb P: Biggar (4) Tipuric
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS continued in their mission to make the new look Rodney Parade their fortress on Friday night with a blistering debut outing for new star signing, Tonderai Chavhanga. However, it was fly half Jason Tovey who was the real star of the show as he notched up 17 points of his own and prevented visitors Ulster breaching their defences. For their part, Ulster failed to regain the momentum of the earlier part of the season, and had to rely on the boot and the initiative of Paddy Jackson for both their points and the final quarter fightback that proved that little bit too late and left them hanging on 22 – 9 for the worse.
Munster’s unbeaten run was brought to a close on Friday night at the hand of Edinburgh, who have hitherto been floundering around the lower echelons of the table. A delighted Murrayfield saw the hosts storm to a 29 – 14 victory over the visitors just a week after their humiliation in Italy. Matthew Scott and Stephen Lawrie did the honours, ensuring the hosts were comfortably in the lead with only a quarter of the clock ticked through. Munster attempted to go for broke in the second half but the Gunners defence held firm and an unconverted try in the dying minutes was all they could muster.
Newcomer Hanno Dirksen continued to impress the Ospreys faithful with a well fought try in their fifth successive victory against Connacht on Friday. Despite an uninspiring start for the hosts, they held on thanks to some creativity from the new signing, along with Barry Davies and the increasingly reliable boot of Dan Biggar. James Hook may not yet have finished packing for his move to France, but Biggar has already emerged from his shadow, putting in sterling performances week on week. Visitors Connacht did not go down without a fight and ensured that the hosts were under pressure throughout, meaning they still secured a bonus point from the 26 – 21 loss thanks to two tries from Gavin Duffy.
Scarlets continued their run of misfortune against a buoyant Benetton Treviso side on Saturday conceding 20 points to their 10 at the Stadio Di Monigo. Wounded by the loss of flanker Josh Turnbull (shoulder), and providing the stars of the world cup that are shining particularly brightly (George North, Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams for starters), there’s a slight sense of deflation around the Llanelli side over the last few weeks that they are paying the price for Wales’ fortunes and have to wait to make their mark in this year’s tournament. They faced an uncharacteristically ruthless Treviso who answered every point and then some, with tries from Ludovico Nitoglia and Brendan Williams sealing the victory for the hosts whilst the only Scarlet to smudge the whitewash was Liam Williams. While Treviso are riding high, Scarlet hearts are surely hoping this is the calm before the storm.
Luke Fitzgerald inspired Leinster’s second half comeback against an on-the-rise Aironi at the RDS on Saturday. The Italian side, who achieved only their second ever Celtic League win the week before, looked like there were about to cause another upset as a try from Nick Williams and the boot of Tito Tebaldi saw them lead against the Heineken Cup champions before the break. Their solid defence could only hold so long, however, and when Ian Madigan breached at the 48 minute mark he opened the floodgates for Isa Nacewa, Luke Fitzgerald and as the clock ran down, Rhys Ruddock. For Aironi the battle was lost, but they look set to fight valiantly as the war rattles on.
Cardiff Blues shaky start to the season took another blow on Saturday evening as Glasgow Warriors finally found their feet to win 13 – 34. The Scots claimed first blood less than 20 minutes in when Colin Gregor began his campaign for Man of the Match with a try in the corner. A penalty for Ceri Sweeney and a try for Casey Laulala were swift replies for the hosts, but James Eddie soon proved the traffic was mostly going one way with the visitors’ second of four tries before half time. The second half saw the Blues scramble desperately to play catch up, but Mike Paterson’s try was answered by returns from Tommy Seymour and Rufus Hogg that ensured there was no coming back.
DRAGONS 22 - 9 ULSTER
RODNEY PARADE - Friday 30th September 2011
HT: 19-6 Att: 4,554
Newport Gwent Dragons T: Riley C: Tovey P: Tovey (5)
Ulster P: Jackson (3) Spence
EDINBURGH 29 - 14 MUNSTER
MURRAYFIELD - Friday 30th September
HT: 16-9 Att: 3.467
Edinburgh T: Lawrie, Scott C: Laidlaw (2) P: Laidlaw (5)
Munster T: Barnes P: Keatley (3)
OSPREYS 26 - 21 CONNACHT
LIBERTY STADIUM - Friday 30th September 2011
HT: 17-10 Att: 5,726
Ospreys T: Davies, Dirksen C: Biggar (2) P: Biggar (4) Gough
Connacht T: Duffy (2) C: O’Connor P: O’Connor (2) DG: O’Connor
TREVISO 20 - 10 SCARLETS
STADIO DI MONIGO - Saturday 1st October 2011
HT: 10-3 ATT: 3,200
Benetton Treviso T: Nitoglia, Williams C: Burton (2) P: Burton (2)
Scarlets T: Li. Williams C: Newton P: Newton Thomas
LEINSTER 26 - 7 AIRONI
ROYAL DUBLIN SOCIETY - Saturday 1st October 2011
HT: 0-7 Att: 14,920
Leinster T: Nacewa, Fitzgerald, Ruddock, Madigan C: Nacewa (3)
Aironi T: Williams C: Tebaldi Toomaga
CARDIFF BLUES 13 - 34 GLASGOW
CARDIFF CITY STADIUM - Saturday 1st October 2011
HT: 8-17 Att: 8,198
Cardiff Blues T: Laulala, Paterson P: Sweeney Jones
Glasgow T: Gregor, Eddie, Seymour, Hogg C: Gregor, Weir (3) P: Weir (2)
WEEK Four of the RaboDirect Pro12 was the week where the Italian sides put themselves on the map and the pool of undefeated teams was reduced to two.
The action got underway at the Sportsground where Connacht got back to their pleasing start to the season with a 17-13 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons. Kings of the narrow victory, Connacht, though they have rarely spent much time in the top 5 of the table, cemented their record against the Dragons who they have now beaten 8 times in a row with tries from Gavin Duffy and Eoin Griffin after a little bit of magic from Tiernan O’Halloran.
Up at Firhill, Benetton Treviso added to Glasgow Warriors’ woes and notched up their first victory of the season simply by capitalising on Munster’s indiscipline with the boot of Kris Burton. Glasgow struggled throughout, and despite an early try from Weir and a last gasp penalty attempt, were defeated 13-15.
Munster continued their perfect run on Friday despite a mistake strewn performance that saw hosts Cardiff Blues hold the lion’s share of territory and possession. The visitors managed to hold off the Blues by holding their composure and allowing Ian Keatley’s boot to do the scoring, whilst Blues’ spirit was tested to the full in the clash which closed out at 13-18.
Fly half Naas Olivier orchestrated Aironi’s first win of the season against struggling Edinburgh at the Stadio Zaffanella on Saturday. Olivier scored points like he was playing bingo and earned a much deserved win for the up and coming side at 25-19.
Isa Nacewa crashed the Scarlets’ party at Parc Y Scarlets this Saturday, amassing Leinster’s 15 points alone on the occasion of the Llanelli side’s 5,000th fixture. In a game dotted with infringements and sloppy mistakes both teams were unconvincing, the only try coming from Scarlet Lee Williams in their 10-15 defeat.
The battle of the as-yet-unbeaten proved a strange one for Ospreys and Ulster, with tries attributed to ‘penalty’ on both score sheets. Ulster, who had so impressed against Cardiff Blues last week, appeared to have crumbled under the pressure; other than a blistering try within the first two minutes, played extremely sloppily (with disastrous scrummaging) to allow Dan Biggar to kick 20 of the Ospreys’ 34 points to 14.
CARDIFF BLUES 13 - 18 MUNSTER
CARDIFF CITY STADIUM - Friday 23rd September 2011
HT: 3-12 Att: 5,466
Cardiff Blues T: Cuthbert C: Sweeney P: Sweeney (2)
Munster P: Keatley (6) YC Ian Keatley
CONNACHT 17 - 13 DRAGONS
THE SPORTSGROUND - Friday 23rd September
HT: 3-13 Att: 3,706
Connacht T: Duffy, Griffin C: Jarvis (2), P: Jarvis
Newport Gwent Dragons T: Williams C: Tovey P: Tovey (2)
GLASGOW 13 - 15 TREVISO
FIRHILL - Friday 23rd September 2011
HT: 7-9 Att: 2,864
Glasgow Warriors T: Weir C: Weir P: Weir, Wight YC Pat MacArthur
Benetton Treviso P: Kris Burton (4) DG: Burton YC Antonio Pavanello
AIRONI RUGBY 25 - 19 EDINBURGH
STADIO ZAFFANELLA - Saturday 24th September 2011
HT: 12-8 Att: 2,500
Aironi T: Olivier, Tebaldi, Williams C: Olivier (2) P: Olivier DG: Olivier
Edinburgh T: Traynor, Visser P: Laidlaw, Leonard (2)
SCARLETS 10 - 15 LEINSTER
PARC Y SCARLETS - Saturday 24th September 2011
HT: 3-6 Att: 8,823
Scarlets T: Williams C: Newton P: Newton YC Rob McCusker
Leinster P: Nacewa (5)
OSPREYS 32 - 14 ULSTER
LIBERTY STADIUM - Sunday 25th September 2011
HT: 12-7 Att: 5,590
Ospreys T: Fussell, PT C: Morgan, Biggar P: Biggar (6) YC Richard Hibbard
Ulster T: Jackson, PT C: McKinney, Jackson YC Robbie Diack
WEEK Three of the RaboDirect Pro12 was a bit of a game changer. Winning runs were called to a halt, major scalps were claimed and workmen downed tools to allow the table to have its first major switch around.
Cardiff Blues were the first giant to be felled as Ulster’s winning streak proved to be the stronger. In a wet and windy Ravenhill, the Blues were a shadow of their past selves with an error strewn performance while Ulster capitalised on their errors, and a brace of tries for Darren Cave meant they beat the visitors 20-3.
Edinburgh came back from last week’s heartbreaking loss by putting a halt to Connacht’s winning ways at Murrayfield. Teenager Gregor Hunter was the stand out of the match, powering over the whitewash to seal the hosts’ 19-14 victory.
Benetton Treviso almost overpowered the Ospreys at the Stadio Monigo in a game of penalty tit for tat that was finally closed off with a try for Ospreys’ rising Star Tom Isaacs. Treviso’s Morisi did claim some honour with a first half try that left the Ospreys trailing into the second half, before Dan Biggar’s steely composure and the leadership of Justin Tipuric ensured they overtook just in time to take a 32-27 victory.
If there was an award for upset of the week, it would surely go to Glasgow Warriors 19-23 victory over Leinster, in their own back yard. Ending their own long run of disappointment as well as the Royal Dublin Society’s fortress status, Glasgow fought off any Irish cheer from their World Cup win after claiming the lead after half an hour, and batting away Leinster’s counter attack to keep it until the last.
This weekend also saw the Newport Gwent Dragons return both to their revamped home ground Rodney (Dave) Parade but also their winning ways. Opponents Aironi made things difficult for them despite the fact they were no longer dodging workmen à la last season, though they are yet to achieve the scorelines their hearty performances have warranted so far, and the 23-14 result was perhaps a little flattering to the Dragons.
Munster ensured they stole the top position on the Pro12 league table by utterly dominating the Scarlets at home. After a scrappy first half, Munster asserted their supremacy with a bonus point winning four tries, with Doug Howlett’s at 63 minutes sealing the Scarlet’s fate to a 35-12 loss.
ULSTER 20 - 3 CARDIFF BLUES
RAVENHILL - Friday 16th September 2011
HT: 17-0 Att: 6,555
Ulster T: Cave (2) C: Humphreys (2) P: Humphreys, Jackson
Cardiff Blues P: Sweeney
EDINBURGH RUGBY 19 - 14 CONNACHT
MURRAYFIELD - Friday 16th September 2011
HT: 6-0 Att: 2,364
Edinburgh T: Hunter C: Laidlaw P: Laidlaw (4)
Connacht T: O’Connor P: O’Connor, Jarvis (2)
BENETTON TREVISO 27 - 32 OSPREYS
STADIO DI MONIGO- Saturday 17th September
HT: 18 – 16 Att: 3,600
Benetton Treviso T: Vermaak, Morisi C: Burton P: Burton (2) De Waal (3)
Ospreys T Isaacs, Smith C: Biggar (2) P: Biggar (4) DG: Biggar
LEINSTER 19 - 23 GLASGOW WARRIORS
ROYAL DUBLIN SOCIETY - Saturday 17th September 2011
HT: 13 – 10 Att: 14,686
Leinster T: Madigan C: Nacewa P: Nacewa (4)
Glasgow Warriors T: Horne, Campbell C: Weir, Wight P: Weir (2) Wight (1)
DRAGONS 23 - 14 AIRONI
RODNEY PARADE - Saturday 17th September
HT: 13- 3 Att: 4,197
Newport Gwent Dragons T: Coombs, Riley C: Tovey (2) P: M Jones, Tovey (2)
Aironi T: Furno P: Olivier (3)
MUNSTER 35 - 12 SCARLETS
MUSGRAVE PARK - Saturday 17th September 2011
HT: 20 -9 Att: 7,526
Munster T: Howlett, Williams, O’Donnell, PT C: Keatley (3) P: Keatley (3)
Scarlets P: Ford, Newton (3)
WEEK TWO of the Rabodirect Pro12 was one of close encounters and stretched muscles as all 12 teams settled in to their season and set their stores. The weekend kicked off with Munster adding to Glasgow Warriors woes in their own back yard at Firhill. Though the hosts put paid to Munster’s ambitions of walking off with a bonus point win, they were overpowered for large portions of what was a very scrappy game, claiming their 12 points through penalties as Munster racked up 23 points thanks to tries from Niall Ronan and Simon Zebo.
Saturday saw the war wounded Leinster tame the Newport Gwent Dragons before the biggest crowd of the weekend at the Royal Dublin Society. New signing Fionn Carr was the star of the show after a blistering, try scoring performance despite a sluggish start. Only the sterling defences of the Dragons in the face of adversity in the final quarter kept the hosts from a bonus point try, though few in Dublin will be disappointed with the 31 – 10 end result.
Aironi’s first home game of the new season may not have seen them soar, but the green shoots are starting to show as after last week’s fierce performance in Llanelli, they ran visitors Ulster close, taking advantage of their indiscipline to ensure only a 6 point deficit despite a 1-3 try ratio. The stalwart Northern Ireland-side seemed to have taken their opponents for granted at times, and were lucky that the Herons left it late to swoop so were unable to close up their 19-25 lead.
Connacht took some time out to show their supporters that they are very much taking advantage of their slight advantage by overcoming the Scarlets at the Sportsground. Despite the visitors seemingly having the upper hand for the lion’s share of the game, a penalty at the 69th minute saw Connacht take a 13 – 11 lead that the Scarlets were unable to shake.
The Ospreys left it late to seal their 26 – 19 victory over Edinburgh at the Liberty stadium after an error strewn yet ferocious performance from both sides kept the two sides tightly matched right up until the clock turned red, and caretaker captain Justin Tipuric crossed the whitewash. Both sides managed to keep up their defences and their intensity for the whole game, something that both sets of supporters will find heartening, once those hearts have stopped pounding.
Cardiff Blues secured their place at the top of the table after clinching a bonus point victory against Benetton Treviso with a little help from their stalwart flanker Martyn Williams on Sunday. Far from letting the ‘World Cup Snub’ get in the way of his class, the Nugget put an end to a promising performance by the visitors with his try at the beginning of the first half which, when joined by tries from Hewitt, James and Cuthbert secured a 33-18 victory.
GLASGOW WARRIORS 12 - 23 MUNSTER
FIRHILL - Friday 9th September 2011
HT: 6-16 Att: 2,914
Glasgow P: Weir (4)
Munster T: Ronan, Zebo C: Keatley (2) P: Keatley (3)
LEINSTER 31 - 10 DRAGONS
ROYAL DUBLIN SOCIETY - Friday 9th September 2011
HT: 6-3 Att: 14,362
Leinster T: Carr, Madigan, Macken C: Isa Nacewa (2) P: Isa Nacewa (4)
Newport Gwent Dragons T: Tovey C: Tovey P: Tovey
AIRONI 19 - 25 ULSTER
STADIO ZAFFANELLA - Saturday 10th September 2011
HT: 13-15 Att: 3,000
Aironi T: Williams C: Olivier P: Olivier (4)
Ulster T: Tuohy, Whitten, Gilroy C: Humphreys (2) P: Humphreys (2)
CONNACHT 13 - 11 SCARLETS
THE SPORTSGROUND - Saturday 10th September 2011
HT: 3-6 Att: 3,408
Connacht T: McCrea C: Jarvis P: Jarvis, O’Connor
Scarlets T: Shingler P: Newton (2)
OSPREYS v EDINBURGH
LIBERTY STADIUM - Saturday 10th September 2011
HT: 13-13 Att: 5,179
Ospreys T: Webb, Tipuric C: Biggar (2) P: Biggar (4)
Edinburgh T: Visser C: Laidlaw P: Laidlaw (4)
CARDIFF BLUES 33 - 18 TREVISO
CARDIFF CITY STADIUM - Sunday 11th September 2011
HT: 21-18 Att: 4,847
Blues T: M Williams, Hewitt, T James, Cuthbert C: Sweeney, Davies P: Davies (3)
Benetton Treviso P: Burton (4) DG: Burton (2)
THE RaboDirect Pro12 officially kicked off in Swansea this weekend, as Ospreys served Heineken Cup holders Leinster the dish of revenge in the form of a 27-3 victory. With both teams suffering heavy losses at the start of this campaign, Ospreys had clearly used their young guns’ youth and enthusiasm to galvanise a first half performance that left Leinster reeling and put three tries in the bank, including one from newcomer Hanno Dirksen. Unfortunately, the exuberance of the first half melted away after the break, making way for a scrappy second half with neither side taking ownership of much possession or any points.
Ulster claimed their first scalp at Ravenhill, playing host to Glasgow Warriors, the Northern Irish side showed their experience in a 28-14 victory despite an early try for Glasgow’s Troy Nathan. Though the visitors battled valiantly to ensure only a bonus point defeat, the Ulster side were too strong to the last.
The most exciting clash of the weekend came to Murrayfield as Edinburgh had to settle for a home defeat to the re-tooled Cardiff Blues in a game that saw the lead exchanged numerous sides before a flurry of tries in the second half clinched a convincing 15-38 victory for the visitors.
Benetton Treviso had their first disappointment of the season at home to Connacht in a tight game that looked to be for the taking right up to the last. Though the venetian attack was strong, the Galway side, who were out for a scalp after their defeat at Stadio Monigo last year, were taking no prisoners and the final whistle closed a tight 9-11 defeat for the home side.
Munster started their campaign strongly at home to Newport Gwent Dragons on Saturday evening in a dominating yet dirty battle. The visitors took all their points from penalties and in the end it was the bullish Munster determination that saw Barnes and Mafi over the whitewash to finish 20-12 in credit.
The clash between Scarlets and Aironi seemed to be missing a frenetic piano accompaniment for much of the game as adverse weather made for slapstick rugby as balls were spilled and players failed to get a grip either on the ball or the game for most of the first half. The second half saw the hosts show their experience in wet Welsh weather and they went on to beat a scrappy Aironi 32-9.
OSPREYS 27 - 3 LEINSTER
LIBERTY STADIUM - Friday 2nd September 2011
HT: 27-3 Att: 5,434
OSPREYS T: Webb, Dirksen, Tipuric C: Biggar (3) P: Biggar DG: Biggar
Leinster P: Berquist
ULSTER 28 - 14 GLASGOW WARRIORS
RAVENHILL - Friday 2nd September 2011
HT: 15-8 Att: 6,296
Ulster T: Cave, Henry, Marshall C: Humphreys (2) P: Humphreys (3)
Glasgow Warriors T: Nathan P: Weir (3)
EDINBURGH 15 - 38 CARDIFF BLUES
MURRAYFIELD - Friday 2nd September 2011
HT: 9-11 Att: 2,431
Edinburgh P: Laidlaw (5)
Cardiff Blues T: Hobbs (2), Pretorius, James. C: Sweeney (3) P: Sweeney (4)
BENETTON TREVISO 9 - 11 CONNACHT
STADIO DI MONIGO - Saturday 3rd September 2011
HT: 3-8 ATT: 3100
Treviso P: Willem De Waal (3)
Connacht T: Rodney Ah You P: Matthew Jarvis (2)
MUNSTER 20 - 12 DRAGONS
MUSGRAVE PARK - Saturday 3rd September 2011
HT: 17–6 Att: 7252
Munster T: Barnes, Mafi C: Keatley (2) P: Keatley (2)
Dragons P: Jones, Tovey (2)
SCARLETS 32 - 9 AIRONI
PARC Y SCARLETS - Sunday 4th September 2011
HT: 9-6 Att: 6493
Scarlets T: R Thomas, Fenby, C: Newton (2) P: Newton (3,) R Jones
Aironi P: Olivier (3)
by Lauren Murphy
THE new look RaboDirect Pro12 kicks off in fine style this weekend with a Friday night triple bill. After two seasons of experimentation with the addition of the play-offs in 09-10 and the two Italian teams in 10-11, it was time to move away from the Celtic League and give it a spruce up with a new sponsor and a new trophy, which means that we go into this season in the strange position of having a fresh competition with a rich history.
There is a feeling of seachange around the whole competition this year, as not only has the league becomes the Pro12, but each team has had its own challenge since they last met. As well as the inevitable transfers and contract renewals during off-season, many of the clubs will be missing vast swathes of their first team to the Rugby World Cup.
This means that many of the teams will be blooding their young in the opening weeks of the competition, and so there will be a chance for the future of all four nations to start making themselves known, as players previously on the fringes get their day in the sun.
The competition gets under way on Friday 2nd September when Ospreys will take on 2010-11 finalists Leinster at the Liberty Stadium. Both sides will be hoping to start their seasons with a bang.
Ulster will be hosting Glasgow Warriors at Ravenhill, with the visitors trying to blow away some cobwebs after a season to forget last time out. Ulster, meanwhile will be trying to build on their recent success.
Edinburgh will be hoping to continue their streak of home victories that ended their decidedly average season on a positive note against Cardiff Blues at Murrayfield. The two sides have had a rocky history against each other, neither seeming to be able to beat the other away, so Cardiff Blues will be out for blood as they make their debut outing under new management.
The most close run clash this weekend is likely to be Benetton Treviso v Connacht at Stadio Monigo. With both teams finishing in the lower rungs of the table, each will be hoping to capitalise on their relatively low losses to International duty or injury.
The relative fortress of Musgrave Park may prove an early casualty in the ongoing rise of the Newport Gwent Dragons as they visit last year’s winners Munster.With the Rodney Parade outfit going from strength to strength over the last 18 months and claiming some high profile scalps, the incumbents would be foolish to let the silverware go to their heads.
To round off the opening weekend, Parc Y Scarlets will play host to Aironi on Sunday, which the Scarlets must surely be seeing as an easy victory after last season’s competition saw them narrowly miss out on the play-off stage, while their opponents have yet to win an away game in any competition.