Cardiff Blues stun Edinburgh
PRO14 WRAP: Jason Harries returned to haunt his former side as Cardiff Blues staged a remarkable second-half comeback to defeat Edinburgh 19-17 at BT Murrayfield.
The former Edinburgh man started on the bench for the visitors but was introduced after the restart and grabbed a brace to down Richard Cockerill’s men.
Benetton hit 50 as they ran in nine tries to topple the Dragons on home soil.
While, Three tries for Rob Herring set up a ruthless performance from Ulster as they surged past Zebre with a 54-7 win at the Kingspan.
Benetton 57-7 Dragons
Antonio Rizzi notched 15 points – 10 with the boot – and Luca Sperandio crossed twice in a game that was dominated by the pace, power and trickery of the Benetton backs.
The Dragons struggled to keep their opponents in check, and a Jared Rosser score proved the only impression that they could make on the score-board.
The hosts raced into an early lead, and had the vision of Dewaldt Duvenage to thank for their opening score.
The South African skipped two Benetton men with an incisive pass to give Rizzi an easy score after the hosts had set up shop on the Dragons line.
They made it two in spectacular fashion when Alberto Sgarbi found Iliesa Ratuva Tavuyara out wide, whose deft grubber to himself meant a desperate chase for the line.
And it was the Fijian flyer who got there first, diving to grab the ball at full length and slam it down in the corner, the score confirmed by referee Quinton Immelman after a look at the TMO.
Tavuyara turned provider for Benetton’s third as he improvised an offload to Sperandio just metres out for the youngster to crash over despite the attentions of Will Talbot Davies and Rhodri Williams.
He sealed the bonus point for the hosts inside the half hour as Benetton continued to dominate down the right, this time Sgarbi – skipper on the day – timed his pass perfectly to give Sperandio a free run in to score.
The hosts had their fifth in a truly relentless first-half display, Rizzi looping a long pass out wide to Monty Ioane, who wriggled his way through with devilish footwork.
Though the Dragons responded with their first of the contest through a fine burst from the back of the scrum by Williams before Rosser made sure, it was 40 minutes of rugby defined by the clinical nature of the Italians.
And they started the second half in much the same fashion, grabbing a sixth score of the afternoon, this time through a hardy pick-and-go as Tomas Baravalle got the forwards in on the act.
The indefatigable hosts were soon in seventh heaven, Niccolo Cannone putting the finishing touches to a lightning-fast move, before he scored again on the hour from an emphatic drive after a quick line-out to bring up the half-century.
And Robert Barbieri forced his way over for the hosts’ ninth at the death as they capped things off in perfect fashion.
Tries: Rizzi, Ratuva Tavuyara, Sperandio 2, Ioane, Pettinelli, Cannone 2, Barbieri
Cons: Rizzi 6
Benetton: 15 Luca Sperandio, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi (captain), 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Antonio Rizzi, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Giovanni Pettinelli, 6 Marco Lazzaroni, 5 Niccolò Cannone, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Derrick Appiah
Replacements:16 Engjel Makelara, 17 Alberto De Marchi, 18 Giuseppe Di Stefano, 19 Robert Barbieri, 20 Marco Barbini, 21 Giorgio Bronzini, 22 Marco Zanon, 23 Tommaso Iannone
Dragons: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Jared Rosser, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Will Talbot-Davies, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 James Benjamin, 7 Ollie Griffiths, 6 Harri Keddie, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Lewis Evans, 3 Lloyd Fairbrother, 2 Richard Hibbard (captain), 1 Brok Harris
Replacements:16 Rhys Lawrence, 17 Rhys Fawcett, 18 Dan Suter, 19 Joe Davies, 20 Taine Basham, 21 Rhodri Davies, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Adam Warren
Referee: Quinton Immelman (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Andrea Piardi (Italy), Gianlucca Gnecchi (Italy)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)
Edinburgh 17-19 Cardiff Blues
Edinburgh appeared to be coasting at half-time, leading 14-0 thanks to tries from Nathan Fowles and Bill Mata, and they extended their lead with a penalty from Jaco van der Walt.
But the Blues love playing in Edinburgh, winning on six of their last seven visits to the Scottish capital in the Guinness PRO14, and three second-half tries turned the game on its head.
The result was a boost for Cardiff’s Guinness PRO14 Final Series ambitions, moving them level on points with Connacht in Conference A, while Edinburgh slipped to fourth in Conference B.
The hosts got off to a bright start and crossed the whitewash after seven minutes, with David Cherry’s brilliant break and offload setting up Fowles for the opening try.
Van der Walt added the extras and it was not long before Edinburgh were over for a second try, with Mata adding to his points tally for the season with another score.
The Fijian ran at the Cardiff defence before being brought down, but Fowles gathered the ball and found a gap in the visitors’ line before whipping the ball back to the No.8 to dot down.
Van der Walt converted once again to double Edinburgh’s lead, before Mata came to the fore at the other end of the pitch with a try-saving tackle to deny Lloyd Williams.
The hosts maintained their 14-0 lead going into the break, leaving the Blues with a mountain to climb in the second half to get themselves back into the game.
And their task was made even harder when van der Walt slotted a penalty seven minutes after the restart, with the Blues penalised for an infringement right in front of the posts.
The visitors had to score next and they did just that moments later when Ollie Robinson put Harries through the hole, with the latter offloading to Williams to finish the move off.
Jarrod Evans converted and suddenly Blues had their tails up. A second try soon followed just after the hour mark, with Harries this time crossing against his former team.
While Evans was unable to convert, Cardiff made the most of their momentum to grab the lead for the first time as Aled Summerhill put Harries away for his second try of the game.
A fine conversion from the touchline from Evans put the Blues two points ahead with less than ten minutes on the clock and they held on to claim a memorable victory.
Tries: Fowel, Mata
Cons: Van der WAlt 2
Pen: van der Walt
Tries: Williams, Harries 2
Cons: Evans 2
Edinburgh: 15 Dougie Fife, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 James Johnstone, 12 Juan Pablo Socino, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Nathan Fowles, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Ally Miller, 5 Callum Hunter-Hill, 4 Fraser McKenzie (captain), 3 Pietro Ceccarell, 2 David Cherry, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Rory Sutherland, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Jamie Hodgson, 20 Senitiki Nayalo, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 Mark Bennett
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams (captain), 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 George Earle, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Rhys Carré
Replacements:16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Alun Lawrence, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Steven Shingler, 23 Jason Harries
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Keith Allen (Scotland), Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland)
TMO: Andrew McMenemy (Scotland)
Ulster 54-7 Zebre
Rob Lyttle, Robert Baloucoune and Peter Nelson all added scores either side of half time, with the Italians only managing a penalty try as they returned home empty handed.
Herring plundered over the line from a driving maul line-out to open the scoring, after Zebre had gone a man down when James Brown was sent to the bin.
The hooker then repeated the trick just five minutes later, Ulster capitalising on the extra man in the pack to power Zebre back and Herring dived over from close range.
Lyttle converted this one however, leaving it 12-0 after 20 minutes at the Kingspan.
But the hosts were also reduced to 14 when Louis Ludik deliberately knocked on to prevent Zebre scoring in the corner, meaning a yellow card and a penalty try.
Herring then completed his hat-trick on the half-hour mark biding his time at the back of the driving maul line-out to pounce as soon as he was within reach of the line for a mirror-image third.
Lyttle added to Zebre’s woes on the stroke of half time, diving over in the corner after quick hands put him in.
The winger converted his own score to make it 26-7 at the break.
Ulster continued the second half in much the same way, their strength up front proving too much in the rolling maul and referee Mike Adamson awarded a penalty try as Zebre illegally brought it down.
Ludik made up for his error earlier in the game when he broke through a gap in the Italians’ defence and dived over for Ulster’s sixth score.
The extras were added by Lyttle making it 40-7 with around half an hour left.
Ulster then hit seventh heaven with some lightning-fast hands putting Baloucoune in space on the wing to trot over, with Lyttle once more converting.
Nelson put the cherry on the top with a powerful run, shaking of multiple defenders to crash over and take Ulster over the 50-point mark.
Tries: Herring 3, Lyttle, Ludik, Baloucoune, Nelson, Penatly try
Cons: Lyttle 6
Try: Penalty try
Yellow card: Ludik (Ulster, 24), Brown (Zebre, 14), Tenga (Zebre,57)
Ulster: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Rob Lyttle, 10 Peter Nelson, 9 Dave Shanahan, 8 Nick Timoney, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Clive Ross, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 John Andrew, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Ross Kane, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Greg Jones, 21 Jonny Stewart, 22 Johnny McPhillips, 23 James Hume
Zebre: 15 Francois Brummer, 14 Paula Balekana, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Nicolas De Battista, 11 James Elliott, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Joshua Renton, 8 Jacopo Bianchi, 7 James Brown, 6 Apisai Tauyavuca, 5 George Biagi (captain), 4 Leonard Krumov, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Daniele Rimpelli
Replacements: 16 Luhandre Luus, 17 Danilo Fischetti, 18 Roberto Tenga, 19 Lorenzo Masselli, 20 Alessandro Mordacci, 21 Riccardo Raffaele, 22 Maicol Azzolini, 23 Giovanbattista Venditti
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Dewi Phillips (Wales), Gareth Newman (Wales)
TMO: Ken Henley-Willis (Ireland)