Bok in imperious form for unbeaten Ulster
PRO14 MONDAY WRAP: Seasoned Springbok Marcell Coetzee was in imperious form for his Irish Province Ulster on Monday.
Coetzee celebrated his 50th Ulster appearance in style with four tries – including a first-half hat-trick – as the Irish province beat Zebre 57-14 for their sixth consecutive Pro14 win.
* In other Monday matches a scintillating try from Owen Lane helped Cardiff Blues defeat Benetton 22-5, as the Italian side’s losing run was extended to four games at Rodney Parade.
* And Leinster maintained their 100 percent start to their title defence with their sixth consecutive bonus-point win as they ran in eight tries against Edinburgh at the RDS Arena.
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Zebre 14-57 Ulster
Marcell Coetzee celebrated his 50th Ulster appearance in style with four tries – including a first-half hat-trick – as the Irish province beat Zebre 57-14 for their sixth consecutive Pro14 win.
Last season’s runners-up took an early lead when Coetzee crashed over for his first but Zebre, who have just one victory to their name, replied with a brilliant Pierre Bruno score.
However, Ulster continued to chip away at Zebre’s resistance and two more tries from Coetzee, either side of Stewart Moore’s score, saw the visitors storm into a 26-7 lead at the break.
Further tries from Bill Johnston, Luke Marshall, Coetzee again, debutant Ethan McIlroy and David Shanahan saw Ulster romp to victory in the second half, with Zebre grabbing a consolation through Niccolo Casilio.
The visitors set the tone early on in Parma as a barrage of white shirts hammered away at the Zebre defence before Coetzee crashed over for the opening try on five minutes.
Zebre responded almost immediately with a spectacular try after Antonio Rizzi, with a penalty advantage, chipped the ball forward for Enrico Lucchin to compete in the air.
The ball went backwards and Bruno gathered magnificently with one hand before pirouetting and managing to touch down – much to the surprise of Ben Whitehouse and the TMO.
Rizzi stepped up to add the extras, matching his opposite number Johnston minutes earlier, but it was not long before Ulster were back on the offence in search of the lead again.
Dan McFarland’s men looked to overpower their hosts, only for Zebre to stop their maul in its tracks on 15 minutes before earning another turnover penalty when Ulster were within inches of the tryline.
Having already declined two opportunities to kick at goal, the Irish province back themselves once again on 23 minutes as they opted to go for the corner again from a Zebre infringement.
This time the Ulster maul broke down Zebre’s defence, rumbling towards the line before Coetzee stuck his arm through the mass of bodies to score his second, with Johnston converting.
Ulster struck again on the half hour mark thanks to the hard work of Michael Lowry, who charged down Rizzi’s clearing kick before gathering the ball and storming towards the tryline.
He was brought down by Bruno just short of the whitewash but not before he was able to get his pass away to Moore, who – despite Rizzi’s attempted intercept – was able to dot down.
The visitors then secured the try bonus-point on the cusp of half time, with Coetzee completing his treble after spotting a gap in Zebre’s defence to walk through untouched.
Ulster started the second half much like they ended the first, with Johnston crossing the whitewash just seven minutes after the restart following Alby Mathewson’s break down the blindside.
Marshall made it six moments later after Coetzee secured turnover ball on the Zebre 22, allowing Moore to carry forward before recycling the ball back to the centre to finish.
With the game already won, Ulster’s concentration slipped on 56 minutes as Casilio took a quick penalty before shrugging off two white shirts to go over the tryline, with Paolo Pescetto converting.
Yet it was just a blip on an evening to remember for Ulster and especially Coetzee, who benefitted from another powerful driving maul to score his fourth try just before the hour.
And there was still time for academy player McIlroy to score on his debut before Shanahan rounded off the scoring with the clock in the red.
Player of the Match
It can only be one man – the imperious Marcell Coetzee.
The South African marked his 50th appearance for the Irish province with a commanding performance, scoring a first-half hat-trick to put the result beyond doubt at the break.
Coetzee also had a hand in his side’s sixth try in Parma, winning the turnover in the build-up to Luke Marshall’s score, before capping his evening with his fourth try.
With 15 successful carries, two turnovers and a 100 per cent tackle success, the 29-year-old was everywhere for Ulster as he took the game by the scruff of the neck for the visitors.
Play of the Day
For all of Marcell Coetzee’s brilliance, his four tries were not the most aesthetically pleasing – unless you are a big fan of driving mauls.
Thankfully, there were 11 tries in total to choose from on a high-scoring start to Monday Night Rugby as both sides attacked with abandon.
And it was actually Zebre who produced the game’s standout moment, with Pierre Bruno’s individual class wowing observers in Parma.
With penalty advantage in their favour, Antonio Rizzi thumped a kick into the heavens and Enrico Lucchin leaped highest to knock the ball backwards.
Bruno then grabbed the loose ball with his left hand and dragged it across his body and over the line to dot down.
Tries: Bruno, Casilio
Cons: Rizzi, Pescetto
Tries: Coetzee 4, Moore, Johnston, Marshall, McIlroy, Shanahan
Cons: Johnston 6
Zebre: 15 Michelangelo Biondelli, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Giulio Bisegni (captain), 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Gabriele Di Giulio, 10 Antonio Rizzi, 9 Joshua Renton, 8 Lorenzo Masselli, 7 Renato Giammarioli, 6 Nardo Casolari, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Leonard Krumov, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Marco Manfredi. 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Massimo Ceciliani, 17 Riccardo Brugnara, 18 Alexandru Tarus, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 Antoine Koffi, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Paolo Pescetto, 23 Junior Laloifi.
Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stewart Moore, 11 Ethan McIlroy, 10 Bill Johnston, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Greg Jones, 5 Sam Carter (captain), 4 Alan O’Connor, 3 Marty Moore, 2 John Andrew, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Gareth Milasinovich, 19 David O’Connor, 20 Sean Reidy, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Rob Lyttle.
Cardiff Blues 22-5 Benetton
A scintillating try from Owen Lane helped Cardiff Blues defeat Benetton 22-5, as the Italian side’s losing run was extended to four games at Rodney Parade.
Jarrod Evans got the first points of the game with a well-struck penalty midway through the first half, as the hosts put an end to their three-game losing run on their own patch.
Rory Thornton then touched down in the corner to extend the lead, before Lane added a fantastic second midway through the second half with the try of the match.
Tomas Barravalle scored a late consolation for Benetton, before Ben Thomas touched down under the sticks to seal the deal in the dying seconds.
Neither side could stamp their authority onto the game in the early stages in the Welsh capital, with the blustery conditions proving difficult for both teams.
Ian Keatley and Evans both missed penalty attempts in the opening minutes, before the latter converted his second go at a three-pointer to give the hosts the advantage.
And that’s the way it stayed until seven minutes before the break, as Thornton was the man to capitalise after a surging Blues maul left the lock with the chance to touch down in the corner.
It turned into a gruelling battle of the forwards for much of the game, with both sides giving their all in the scrum, but neither could further trouble the scoreboard before the interval as the hosts went in 8-0 to the good.
Benetton came out with a vengeance in the second half, and piled the pressure onto John Mulvihill’s side from the off, but couldn’t find a way past the Welsh side’s rearguard.
And after soaking up the Italian’s pressure the Blues hit them with the sucker-punch just after the hour mark, as Lane dazzled his way to the try line.
The wing picked up the ball just outside the Benetton 22, before wrong-footing the entire visiting defence with his fleet-footedness, before using his pace to surge over to score.
Benetton’s efforts were eventually rewarded with ten minutes remaining, as Barravalle latched onto the back of a maul to finally get the Italians on the scoreboard, before Thomas added a third for the Blues seconds before the final whistle.
For Cardiff Blues
Tries: Thornton, Lane, Thomas
Cons: Evans 2
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Jamie Hill, 8 Josh Turnbull, 7 James Botham, 6 Olly Robinson, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Ben Murphy, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Kristian Dacey (captain), 1 Corey Domachowski.
Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 James Ratti, 20 Alun Lawrence, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Ben Thomas, 23 Aled Summerhill.
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Joaquin Riera, 12 Nacho Brex, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Callum Braley, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli (captain), 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Federico Ruzza, 3 Filippo Alongi, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Replacements: 16 Tomas Baravalle, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Irné Herbst, 20 Michele Lamaro, 21 Marco Barbini, Luca Petrozzi, 23 Angelo Esposito.
Leinster 50-10 Edinburgh
Leinster maintained their 100 percent start to their title defence with their sixth consecutive bonus-point win as they ran in eight tries against Edinburgh at the RDS Arena.
The champions, unbeaten in the Pro14 since April 2019, wrapped up the bonus point before the break with a Luke McGrath brace and tries from Dave Kearney and Peter Dooley.
Dan Leavy also scored on his return to the starting line-up before Cian Kelleher scored a hat-trick to complete another dominant performance from the blue machine in Dublin.
Edinburgh, last season’s Conference B winners and semifinalists, grabbed a consolation through Nic Groom while Nathan Chamberlain kicked five points but it was ultimately a night to forget for the visitors.
There was little to choose between the two sides – who finished top of Conference A and B last season – in the opening stages during a physical opening to the contest in Dublin.
But it was the hosts who eventually landed the first blow, pouncing on a loose pass to break from one end to the other before Jimmy O’Brien’s grubber was touched down by Kearney.
Edinburgh looked for an immediate response and pushed forward into the Leinster 22 but they could find no way past the blue wall as the hosts cleared their lines from a scrum penalty.
The visitors were punished again on 21 minutes as Kearney turned provider, working a clever exchange down the blindside before finding McGrath on his inside for the No.9 to run in.
Ciaran Frawley made up for his earlier miss by adding the extras with his second attempt and it was not long before Leinster were surging forward again as the hosts kicked for territory.
Edinburgh’s defence withstood the pressure this time around, though, forcing a Leinster knock-on as Richard Cockerill’s side were able to clear their lines as the half-hour approached.
Encouraged by their resilient defending, the Scottish side were able to exert some pressure of their own and a Leinster infringement allowed Chamberlain to cut the gap from the tee.
However, Leinster turned the screw as half-time approached and scored their third try as Dooley burrowed over from close range, with Frawley adding the extras once again.
And the bonus-point arrived on the cusp of the interval as a brilliant offload from Frawley found McGrath and the scrumhalf darted through the white shirts for his second of the game.
The champions continued to put their foot down after the restart, with Leavy marking his first start since March 2019 with a try of his own on 42 minutes, converted by Frawley.
Edinburgh’s night then went from bad to worse six minutes later when they were reduced to 14 men as Eroni Say was shown a yellow card for a deliberate knock-on.
His absence soon resulted in Leinster’s sixth try, Kelleher putting the finishing touches to a clever chip into the corner from Harry Byrne to extend the hosts’ lead to 38-3.
And Kelleher’s second try arrived before the hour mark after a well-worked backline move from the Irish province, with Frawley adding to Edinburgh’s pain from the tee.
The visitors refused to back down, however, and were rewarded for their efforts on 68 minutes when replacement Groom sniped his way over the whitewash, converted by Chamberlain.
But it was Leinster who had the final say as the hosts brought up the half-century of points with Kelleher’s hat-trick try on 75 minutes.
Tries: Kearney, McGrath, Dooley, McGrath, Leavy, Kelleher 3
Cons: Frawley 5
Leinster: 15 Jimmy O’Brien, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Liam Turner, 12 Ciarán Frawley, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Rhys Ruddock (captain), 7 Scott Penny, 6 Dan Leavy, 5 Scott Fardy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Michael Bent, 2 James Tracy, 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Ciarán Parker, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Josh Murphy, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 David Hawkshaw, 23 Ryan Baird.
Edinburgh: 15 Jack Blain, 14 Eroni Sau, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Jamie Farndale, 10 Nathan Chamberlain, 9 Henry Pyrgos (captain) 8 Ally Miller, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Magnus Bradbury, 5 Andrew Davidson, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Lee-Roy Atalifo, 2 David Cherry, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Sam Grahamslaw, 18 Dan Gamble, 19 Jamie Hodgson, 20 Rory Darge, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Charlie Shiel, 23 James Johnstone.