Carbery stars as Munster races further clear
PRO14 WRAP: Joey Carbery looks to be finding form at just the right time after impressing in Munster’s 28-10 bonus-point win over Scarlets at Thomond Park.
Carbery’s comeback from injury continued with his first start since January 2020 and the Ireland flyhalf caught the eye just a fortnight out from the Pro14 final.
* Meanwhile in other Friday action Dave Kearney scored a hat-trick of tries as Leinster recorded a 48-31 victory over Zebre in Parma.
* Sharpshooter Ross Thompson fired 15 points to keep Glasgow Warriors’ Champions Cup hopes alive as they edged out Ospreys 30-25 at Scotstoun.
All the Friday action!
Zebre 31-48 Leinster
Dave Kearney scored a hat-trick of tries as Leinster recorded a 48-31 victory over Zebre in Parma.
Leo Cullen’s men clinched a place in the Pro14 final by beating Ulster last weekend and maintained the momentum in their penultimate match of the regular season.
Dan Sheehan, Cian Kelleher, Luke McGrath and Kearney all went over in the first half as the defending champions raced to a bonus point despite losing Alex Soroka to the sin bin for 10 minutes.
Giovanni D’Onofrio touched down for Zebre early in the second half, but a Pierre Bruno yellow card proved costly as Sheehan immediately added his second try before Kearney went over twice more to complete his treble.
Eduardo Bello and Niccolo Taddia crossed for the battling hosts in the closing stages, but there was no way back by that point.
Leinster host the Ospreys next Friday before taking on Munster in the final on March 27.
Zebre – missing 15 of their Italy internationals – opened up a 6-0 lead as Antonio Rizzi split the posts with a pair of early penalties, but Leinster soon had their noses in front when Sheehan plucked the ball from the back of a ruck and stretched for the line under the posts, with Harry Byrne adding the extras.
Byrne was on target again to kick Leinster into a 10-6 advantage, but the visitors then came under pressure from some neat Zebre build-up play – a period that ended with Soroka in the bin for a high tackle and Rizzi reducing the arrears to one.
Leinster looked the more dangerous despite being a man light and crossed for their second try when Kelleher went over in the corner, with Byrne making it 17-9 from a challenging position.
The Leinster penalty count was keeping Zebre in touch, with Rizzi adding another, but the visitors surged clear before the interval.
McGrath reaped the rewards of his own charge-down to score before Kearney brushed off challenges on the left wing to go over for the bonus point as Byrne stayed perfect from the tee.
The second half got off to a promising start for Zebre, who registered their first try of the match when D’Onofrio collected Jamie Elliott’s excellent pass to run for the line, and Pizzi’s conversion made it 31-19.
However, Bruno saw yellow for a deliberate knock-on soon after and the indiscretion was swiftly and severely punished, with Sheehan burrowing over for his second before Kearney doubled his own tally by leaping for the left corner, with Hugh O’Sullivan converting the latter.
Kearney wriggled in off the left wing for his third try to make it 48-19 after 64 minutes, the 31-year-old wing standing out in an otherwise youthful Leinster side.
Bello and Taddia touched down with time running out, but the damage had already been done by Leinster.
Play of the match
There was plenty to enjoy about Leinster’s performance, but McGrath caught the eye with his quick thinking for the visitors’ third try.
He showed great pace to charge down a clearance deep in Zebre territory before reacting quickly to pounce on the loose ball and dot down before the dead-ball line.
Player of the match
Kearney may emerge with the headlines after his three-try showing, but it was team-mate Rory O’Loughlin who scooped the Guinness Player of the Match prize.
The centre racked up 18 tackles and five defenders beaten – more than any other player on both counts.
Tries: D’Onofrio, Bello, Taddia
Cons: Rizzi 2
Tries: Sheehan 2, Kelleher, McGrath, D Kearney 3
Cons: Byrne 4, O’Sullivan
Zebre: 15 Gabriele Di Giulio, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Jamie Elliott, 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Giovanni D’Onofrio, 10 Antonio Rizzi, 9 Joshua Renton, 8 Renato Giammarioli, 7 Potu Junior Leavasa, 6 Iacopo Bianchi, 5 Ian Nagle (captain), 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Matteo Nocera, 2 Massimo Ceciliani, 1 Paolo Buonfiglio
Replacements: 16 Niccolò Taddia, 17 Alexandru Tarus, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Samuel Ortis, 20 Leonard Krumov, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Guglielmo Palazzani, 23 Lorenzo Masselli
Leinster: 15 Max O’Reilly, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Jimmy O’Brien, 12 Rory O’Loughlin, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Luke McGrath (captain), 8 Alex Soroka, 7 Scott Penny, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Jack Dunne, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Thomas Clarkson, 2 Dan Sheehan, 1 Peter Dooley
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Marcus Hanan, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Seán O’Brien, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Tim Corkery, 23 Jamie Osborne
Referee: Marius Mitrea
Assistant referees: Manuel Bottino, Riccardo Angelucci
TMO: Stefano Roscini
Glasgow Warriors 35-25 Ospreys
Sharpshooter Ross Thompson fired 15 points to keep Glasgow Warriors’ Champions Cup hopes alive as they edged out Ospreys 30-25 at Scotstoun.
The Welsh region started the night 10 points ahead of Danny Wilson’s team but Warriors will cling to the hope they can still hunt their third-placed rivals down after slashing their lead by three, with a top-three finish expected to be enough to qualify.
Toby Booth’s Swansea-based outfit now round off the regular season with a trip to Dublin to face reigning Pro14 champions Leinster.
Glasgow still has to play both Dragons and Benetton but know two victories may still not be enough.
Thompson was the coolest man on the pitch as he fired three penalties and a hat-trick of conversions in another hugely impressive display from the 21-year-old.
Lee Jones, Rufus McLean and Aki Seiuli also crossed the try-line for Glasgow, with Ospreys responding through Morgan Morris and Gareth Evans either side of a penalty try.
But it is the losing bonus point that could yet come in most handy for Booth’s side.
Ospreys’ only previous Scotstoun win was back in November 2016 and it looked like they were on course for another four minutes in as they won the first penalty, booted to the corner then launched a savage maul attack, with Morris smashing his way over.
Worse was to come for Glasgow on the quarter-hour mark as they found themselves overstretched again, with referee Sam Grove-White producing a double whammy as he awarded a penalty try as well as sin-binning Ollie Smith for a deliberate knock-on as Dewi Cross threatened in the far corner.
With his side 12 points down, Wilson could only shake his head in disbelief. But three Thompson penalties – countered by a solitary Luke Price kick – ensured Glasgow went in just six points down at the interval.
And they were in front within four minutes of the restart as Smith made amends for his earlier mistake to put in a vital tackle as Dan Evans looked primed to burst clear.
With the ball dislodged from the full-back’s grasp, Ospreys were left defenceless as Jones pinned his ears back and darted the length of the field to score a sensational solo effort, with Thompson’s conversion nudging Wilson’s team ahead.
The lead lasted just four minutes as Gareth Evans powered off the base of the scrum before shunting over for a third Ospreys try.
But Thompson produced another moment of magic in the 51st minute as he measured a sublime grubber through for McLean to score before adding the extras from out wide with another effortless swing of his boot.
Seiuli then crashed through for Warriors’ third try on 62 minutes as the Ospreys maul defence splintered, with another Thompson beauty sealing the conversion and an eight-point lead.
It looked like there might by late drama as TJ Ioane was yellow-carded to leave Glasgow playing out the final stages a man light, but Ospreys could only muster a Price penalty as Glasgow claimed a vital win.
Play of the match
Thompson had only a fraction of a second and 10 yards of grass to work with as he measured his grubber through for McLean, but it was inch perfect as he put his wing in to score a sensational try.
Player of the match
Warriors flyhalf Thompson is only 21 but he has maturity beyond his years, ice in his veins and a little gold dust in his boots.
Glasgow will have Duncan Weir and Argentine Domingo Miotti competing for the 10 jersey next season, but do not be surprised if Thompson is the first pick.
Tries: L Jones, McLean, Seiuli
Cons: Thompson 3
Pens: Thompson 3
Tries: Ashley, Evans, Penalty try
Cons: Price, penalty try does not require a conversion
Pens: Price 2
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Ollie Smith, 14 Rufus McLean, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Robbie Fergusson, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Ross Thompson, 9 Sean Kennedy, 8 Ryan Wilson (captain), 7 Thomas Gordon, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 James Scott, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Grant Stewart, 1 Aki Seiuli
Replacements: 16 Johnny Matthews, 17 Dylan Evans, 18 D’arcy Rae, 19 Kiran McDonald, 20 TJ Ioane, 21 Jamie Dobie, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Ratu Tagive
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans (captain), 14 Dewi Cross, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Joe Hawkins, 11 Keelan Giles, 10 Luke Price, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Morgan Morris, 6 Will Griffiths, 5 Rhys Davies, 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Ma’afu Fia, 2 Ifan Phillips, 1 Garyn Phillips
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Rhys Henry, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Olly Cracknell, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Josh Thomas, 23 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler
Referee: Sam Grove-White
Assistant referees: Fin Brown, David Sutherland
TMO: Ben Blain
Munster 28-10 Scarlets
Joey Carbery looks to be finding form at just the right time after impressing in Munster’s 28-10 bonus-point win over Scarlets at Thomond Park.
Carbery’s comeback from injury continued with his first start since January 2020, and the Ireland fly-half caught the eye just a fortnight out from the Pro14 final.
Munster booked their final place last week and confidently built a 21-3 half-time lead here thanks to tries from Gavin Coombes, Shane Daly and Niall Scannell.
Angus O’Brien kicked a lone penalty for Scarlets, who had come in search of a win to all but guarantee a top-three finish and an expected place in the Champions Cup for next season.
A yellow card for Scarlets replacement Tevita Ratuva preceded Kevin O’Byrne’s 58th-minute bonus-point effort. There were 82 minutes on the clock when Steff Evans scored the visitors’ consolation try.
Munster were first to threaten in wet and windy conditions, although Johnny McNicholl was alert to the dangerous kick from Nick McCarthy.
Dane Blacker’s brilliant sidestepping run promised much, yet Scarlets’ follow-up was foiled by a turnover penalty won by James Cronin.
The breakthrough came in the 19th minute when Coombes powered over for his ninth try of the season having shown terrific hands from the initial scrum.
Carbery’s conversion was soon followed by a penalty from O’Brien, punishing a block by Daly to make it 7-3.
The Munster winger made amends just a few minutes later, trailing Carbery’s silky run from a kick return and evading Tyler Morgan’s tackle to score.
A worrying injury for Fineen Wycherley, who was stretchered off, brought Academy back rower Alex Kendellen on for his Munster debut.
Scarlets paid the price for a series of penalties when the returning Aaron Shingler was sin-binned for an early challenge on a line-out lifter.
In the Wales international’s absence, Munster hooker Scannell plunged over from a dominant maul just before the break. Carbery expertly converted from out wide.
Current Wales centre Johnny Williams replaced the injured McNicholl, and in a scrappy third quarter, Scarlets’ set-piece struggles continued with Munster winning a scrum against the head.
Ratuva then saw yellow for collapsing a Munster maul, with the subsequent drive putting O’Byrne over. The conversion followed from Carbery, who was replaced on the hour mark with his night’s work finished.
Although frustrated by Munster’s maul defence, Scarlets were able to profit from Cronin’s late sin-binning. Evans tidied up a loose pass and took a return offload from Sam Lousi to go over. O’Brien converted from the left touchline.
Play of the match
Carbery put his injury woes behind him with a sensational assist for Munster’s second try, 25 minutes in.
The Ireland star sliced open the visitors’ defence from halfway, bursting through from a kick return and supplying a timely pass for Daly to finish off.
Player of the match
The Munster pack were in workhorse mode, rock solid on their own scrum and line-out and also pinching some of the visitors’ throws, with Billy Holland deserving plaudits for his leadership and unseen work up front.
But it is difficult to look beyond Carbery for the individual honour following his overall contribution to the Munster display.
Tries: Coombes, Daly, N Scannell, O’Byrne
Cons: Carbery 4
Try: S Evans
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Damian de Allende, 12 JJ Hanrahan, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Nick McCarthy, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Jack O’Sullivan, 6 Fineen Wycherley, 5 Billy Holland (c), 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 John Ryan, 19 Thomas Ahern, 20 Alex Kendellen, 21 Paddy Patterson, 22 Jack Crowley, 23 Darren Sweetnam
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Steff Hughes (c), 11 Steff Evans, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Dane Blacker, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Sam Lousi, 4 Morgan Jones, 3 Pieter Scholtz, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Steffan Thomas
Replacements: 16 Taylor Davies, 17 Kemsley Mathias, 18 Alex Jeffries, 19 Tevita Ratuva, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Will Homer, 22 Paul Asquith, 23 Johnny Williams
Referee: Seán Gallagher
Assistant referees: Robert O’Sullivan, Peter Martin
TMO: Brian MacNeice