Ludik lifts Ulster to the top
The victory moved the Irish province to move top of the Pro12 standings.
* In other Friday encounters Cardiff Blues maintained their dream start to the Pro12 season ,as they edged a thriller against Glasgow Warriors 23-19 at Cardiff Arms Park.
* Isa Nacewa scored a try on his 150th Leinster appearance as the Irish side put in a stellar first-half performance in their 30-23 victory away at Edinburgh.
We look at the Friday matches!
CARDIFF BLUES 23-19 GLASGOW WARRIORS
Cardiff Blues maintained their dream start to the Pro12 season as they edged a thriller against Glasgow Warriors 23-19 at Cardiff Arms Park.
First-half tries from Alex Cuthbert and Rey Lee-Lo got them on their way, and despite huge pressure from the Warriors, who scored three tries of their own through Stuart Hogg, Peter Horne and Ali Price, Danny Wilson's men held on.
The win allows the Blues to maintain a start which has seen them beat Edinburgh and Munster already, and they carried that form into this clash with a blistering opening in the Welsh capital.
Lee-Lo is a key carrier in their midfield and it was on one such burst that the Blues took the lead, with Gordon Reid penalised for not rolling away and Gareth Anscombe slotting three points after just two minutes.
Glasgow, meanwhile, had in-form Tommy Seymour struggling with a knock early after a big tackle from Lee-Lo, and Cardiff had soon doubled their lead.
Again it came from Warriors indiscipline at the breakdown, Ryan Wilson pinged after a prolonged spell of pressure.
Then on 25 minutes the try finally came, with Cuthbert getting his first of the season. After a few charges from the forwards, the home team spread the ball and Anscombe's pass in behind Lee-Lo sent Cuthbert straight through for the easy finish.
With Anscombe's conversion the lead was 13-0 and Glasgow looked to be in real trouble, but they hit back immediately.
They had barely been in Cardiff territory, but when they got the opportunity, they pounced with Hogg getting on the end of an inside ball after some quick hands in the Warriors backline.
Rory Clegg converted and Glasgow should have taken the lead five minutes later when they worked a massive overlap, but Hogg's wide pass was dropped by Wilson and the home side got away with it.
It was only a temporary respite for the Blues though, with the visitors pouncing on an error from Josh Navidi. As the No.8 carried from the base of the scrum he knocked it on allowing Clegg to regain possession. The ball was shifted to Horne, who showed his power to get over, wriggling out of one tackle before crossing. Clegg converted to give Glasgow the lead for the first time.
However right on the stroke of half-time, the home side got back in front thanks to some quick-thinking from Anscombe.
Seemingly about to kick the ball out for a penalty, he instead tapped and went and put Tom James away. A few phases later and it was Lee-Lo who crossed after good work by Navidi to feed him. Anscombe nailed the conversion to make it 20-14 at the break.
Cardiff started the second half well, with a searing break from James, but the Glasgow defence got back in time to avert the danger.
And it was the visitors who got back to within a point on 50 minutes. Lee Jones got away down the wing and after the ball was recycled quickly, Price decided to go himself and wormed his way past Nick Williams and over. Clegg couldn't convert so Glasgow still trailed by one.
Cardiff could have killed off the game when Steven Shingler sliced through, but he couldn't find his support with just one man to beat.
They did however stretch the lead to four points with a penalty from Shingler, Josh Turnbull having been taken out at a line-out.
And although Glasgow reclaimed the ball from the restart, they couldn't find a way through and the Blues hung on.
For Cardiff Blues:
Cons: Anscombe 2
Pens: Anscombe 2, Shingler
Tries:Hogg, Horne, Price
Cons: Clegg 2
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Navidi, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Josh Turnbull, 4 George Earle, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Blaine Scully.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Peter Horne, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Rory Clegg, 9 Ali Price, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Ryan Wilson, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Jonny Gray (captain), 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Sila Puafisi, 19 Greg Peterson, 20 Lewis Wynne, 21 Grayson Hart, 22 Mark Bennett, 23 Rory Hughes.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Gary Conway (Ireland), Simon Rees (Wales)
ULSTER 19-8 SCARLETS
Louis Ludik and Iain Henderson grabbed the tries as Ulster beat Scarlets 19-8 on Friday night at the Kingspan Stadium to move top of the Pro12 standings.
The men from Belfast have now won three from three to kick off the new campaign – the first time they have done that since the 2013/13 season.
By contrast the Scarlets have now slipped to three defeats on the spin to kick off the new campaign but they can take plenty of credit from a resilient defensive display in Belfast.
Ludik's first-half score after a fine team counter attack opened out a lead that Paddy Jackson added to with two first-half penalties.
But Liam Williams produced an astonishing try saving tackle on Craig Gilroy in the first half while in the second Ulster were time and again rebuffed on the try-line by fine team defence.
A third penalty from Jackson meant victory looked fairly certain for the hosts but Rhys Patchell kicked one of his own before Will Boyde burrowed over in the right corner for the visitors.
That looked like it had secured a losing bonus point for Scarlets – their first point of the season – but in the final play of the game replacement Henderson smashed his way over from close range after a driving maul to deny them.
The game started brightly with both sides showing characteristic ambition with ball in hand on a clear evening.
It was the visitors who spurned the first chance for points – Patchell pulling a fifth-minute penalty horribly wide.
And Jackson showed him how it was down moments later and the hosts were in front and starting to settle – Stuart Olding and Charles Piutau looking dangerous with ball in hand and Jackson kicking from hand with great accuracy.
A second Jackson penalty – the Ulster scrum getting some early dominance – doubled the lead to 6-0. And in the 20th minute the dominant hosts grabbed the game's first try with a fantastic counter attack.
Jonathan Davies' clearing kick was fielded by Gilroy but spread left immediately and first Olding and then Stuart McCloskey made inroads to put Ludik over for a superb score.
Jackson missed with the conversion and at 11-0 the Scarlets were still in contention.
An absolutely magnificent covering tackle from Liam Williams then denied Gilroy a second Ulster try after another Ludik break and the Welsh region were barely hanging on.
Jake Ball didn't make life much easier for the visitors when his continued ill-discipline earned him a yellow card but at the interval they were still in touch only 11 points down.
Les Kiss will have told his Ulster side to be more clinical with their chances in the second half to put the game to bed but twice Piutau and Ludik failed to link up with the try line gaping.
And the Scarlets – now restored to their full complement after Ball's return – made them pay soon after as Patchell kicked the Scarlets' first points of the game to trim the lead to 11-3.
Scott Williams was then introduced for the away side but Ulster continued to dictate affairs – Gilroy and Ruan Pienaar both denied from short range by fantastic last-ditch defence from the visitors.
The hour mark came and went and still Ulster battered against an unbreakable Welsh wall.
And the visitors then wasted a golden chance to bring themselves right back into the game, Steff Evans and Scott Williams combined to put Aled Davies clear but the replacement scrumhalf opted to pass when he should have just gone for the line and Piutau gambled correctly to pick off the pass and race up the other end.
Ulster then opted for a late kick at the posts from Jackson to make it 14-3 and effectively seal the win.
But the visitors fought hard for a losing bonus point and they looked to have got it when Boyde collected Scott Williams' pass on the overlap down the right to score only the region's second try of the season.
But Henderson denied them with the last play of the game to move Ulster top of the standings.
Tries: Ludick, Henderson
Pens: Jackson 3
Yellow card: Jake Ball (Scarlets, 35)
Ulster: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Stuart Olding, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Robbie Diack, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Clive Ross, 5 Alan O'Connor, 4 Pete Browne, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Rob Herring (captain), 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Franco van der Merwe, 20 Iain Henderson, 21 Angus Lloyd, 22 Luke Marshall, 23 Rob Lyttle.
Scarlets: 15 Aled Thomas, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Hadleigh Parkes, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 John Barclay, 7 James Davies, 6 Lewis Rawlins, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ken Owens (captain), 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Luke Garrett, 18 Peter Edwards, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Will Boyde, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Scott Williams, 23 Steff Hughes.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Cammy Rudkin (Scotland), Shane Kierans (Ireland)
TMO: Charles Samson (Scotland)
EDINBURGH 20-33 LEINSTER
Isa Nacewa scored a try on his 150th Leinster appearance as the Irish side put in a stellar first-half performance in their 30-23 victory away at Edinburgh.
The wing scored Leinster's third with a simple finish down the right as Leo Cullen's side put Edinburgh to the sword, despite falling behind to an early Mike Allen try.
However, three tries in 12 minutes, followed by a fourth shortly before the break that secured a bonus point, seemingly settled the game at Murrayfield as Leinster's irresistible attacking game fired on all cylinders.
But Edinburgh fought back thanks to second-half tries from Hamish Watson and Magnus Bradbury, but Dan Leavy scored his second try in the dying seconds to see off their threat.
The game started positively for the hosts after prop WP Nel led out his teammates to mark the occasion of his 100th appearance, before a lightning fast start brought them a third-minute try.
Some quick hands saw Edinburgh move Leinster's defence out of position, before Phil Burleigh's clever kick in behind was perfect for rapid wing Allen to score.
Leinster, who had lost just one of the previous five meetings between the sides prior to this match, took a while to settle down, but once they did they took control.
A quick penalty caught Edinburgh cold allowing Dan Leavy to run through following a neat pass, before Garry Ringrose scored their second try six minutes later after Leinster sucked Edinburgh into the breakdown and exploited the space on the right.
Murrayfield lost its vocal edge and six minutes later it fell silent completely as Heaslip and Devin Toner made big carries, hooker Sean Cronin made a neat pass and Nacewa strolled in for his 34th Leinster try.
The Scottish side went close to responding when debutante No.8 Viliami Fihaki used his power and strength to drive forwards, falling inches short, before Leinster regained the ball at their five-metre line.
And they secured the bonus point minutes later as their muscular pack moved Edinburgh backwards inside the 22 and scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park threw a neat dummy and scrambled over the line from two yards out for his first Leinster try.
Edinburgh's comeback hopes were dealt a blow just before the break as lock Grant Gilchrist was shown a yellow card for collapsing a maul, but Leinster evened up the numbers just after half time as Leavy was punished for a high tackle.
Edinburgh seized the momentum and got back into the match thanks to a powerful finish from Watson, who showed determination to hold off two tackles and touch the ball over the line to reduce the gap to 11 points.
And they almost got the Murrayfield crowd on their feet minutes later as Glenn Bryce dived over in the corner, only for the TMO to bring it back for a foot in touch.
Leinster sat back in the half and focused on seeing the game out, but this only encouraged the rejuvenated hosts to pile forward and they set up a tense finale when Bradbury crashed through Leinster's defence to score.
However, Cullen's men went up the other end and wrapped it up as Leavy powered over.
Tries: Allen, Watson, Bradbury
Tries: Leavy 2, Nacewa, Ringrose 2
Cons: Nacewa 4
Yellow cards: Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh, 40), Dan Leavy (Leinster, 45)
Edinburgh: 15 Glenn Bryce, 14 Michael Allen, 13 Sasa Tofilau, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Nathan Fowles, 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist (captain), 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Kevin Bryce, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Blair Kinghorn, 23 Solomoni Rasolea.
Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Isa Nacewa (captain), 13 Garry Ringrose, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Jordi Murphy, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Cathal Marsh, 23 Rory O'Loughlin.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Emanuele Tomo (Italy), Bob Nevins (Scotland)
TMO: Carlo Damasco (Italy)