Cheetahs fall short against Scarlets
PRO14 WRAP: Scarlets bounced back from last weekend’s disappointment at Edinburgh to battle past a defiant Cheetahs and continue their impressive start to the PRO14 season.
Connacht extended their unbeaten run to four matches to strengthen their PRO14 credentials by battling to a scrappy win over Conference A strugglers Ospreys in Swansea.
Benetton’s superb home record remained intact after they produced their second win.
While, Munster boosted their Conference B credentials by battling past a determined Cardiff Blues side to claim their fourth win in five and go top.
Scarlets 17-13 Cheetahs
It was at times a war of attrition in Llanelli in what were unfavourable rugby conditions, with the visitors taking the lead through a well-worked Tian Meyer effort.
But Brad Mooar’s side rallied, drawing the scores level with a Steff Evans try before Kieran Hardy put them ahead just before half-time.
And after a rain-soaked second period in which both sides struggled for cohesion, it was Scarlets who held on to extend their formidable record at Parc y Scarlets, where they have now won 29 of their last 32 encounters.
As expected, it was a closely-contested opening to the game between two sides who have enjoyed promising starts to their PRO14 seasons.
But it was Cheetahs who struck first in south Wales, demonstrating why they were the only side in the competition to score at least three tries in their opening four games as a turnover at the ruck paved the way for an innovative attacking move.
The hosts were profligate in possession at the breakdown, as outside centre Benhard Janse van Rensburg released Meyer with an intelligent grubber kick for him to touch down in the corner.
But parity was soon restored as the hosts – who have lost just once at Parc y Scarlets since the beginning of the year – were brought level by Evans, going over from close range after an extended period of pressure.
The opening period progressed into a kicking-heavy contest, with both sides playing some impressive football and exchanging high balls.
And Mooar’s side soon went ahead, after a brilliant turnover from Steff Hughes led to a Johnny McNicholl – who qualifies for Welsh residency tomorrow – break through the Cheetahs defence.
And enterprising scrum-half Hardy was there to capitalise after the full-back was stopped just short of the line, cleverly spotting space on the blindside to dot down in the corner.
The second half remained a largely football-dominated affair in what developed into relentlessly wet conditions, as Tian Schoeman kicked a penalty to reduce Cheetahs’ deficit to three.
Experienced replacement Ruan Pienaar was introduced on the hour mark, making an immediate impact as his penalty made the score 14-13.
But Scarlets hit back with a rapid three points themselves, regaining their four-point lead thanks to the boot of Jones after some impressive work from flanker Josh Macleod over the ball resulted in a penalty.
And despite an extended spell of Cheetahs pressure in the final ten minutes, the Scarlets defence held strong to clinch what may prove to be a crucial PRO14 win on home soil.
Tries: Evans, Hardy
Cons: Jones 2
Pens: Schoeman, Pienaar
Scarlets: 15 Johnny McNicholl, 14 Ryan Conbeer, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Steff Hughes (captain), 11 Steff Evans; 10 Dan Jones, 9 Kieran Hardy, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Josh Macleod, 6 Ed Kennedy, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Lewis Rawlins, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Marc Jones, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Taylor Davies, 17 Phil Price, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Juandre Kruger, 20 Dan Davis, 21 Dane Blacker, 22 Angus O’Brien, 23 Corey Baldwin.
Cheetahs: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Louis Fouche, 11 Clayton Blommetjies, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer (captain), 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Sias Koen, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Aranos Coetzee, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Boan Venter
Replacements: 16 Wilmar Arnoldi, 17 Luan de Bruin, 18 Erich de Jager, 19 Walt Steenkamp, 20 Gerhard Olivier, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 George Whitehead, 23 Anthony Volmink
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: David Sutherland (Scotland, Simon Rees (Wales)
TMO: Neil Patterson (Scotland)
Ospreys 10-20 Connacht
First-half tries from Niyi Adeolokun and Peter Robb put the visitors in charge, and despite Ospreys hitting back through a Sam Parry score, the Irishmen clung on for the win.
The victory sees Connacht triumph at the Liberty Stadium for just the second time in 14 visits, while the Welshmen slump to their fourth defeat in five to mark a disappointing start to the fresh campaign.
The hosts had won their last three games at the Liberty and Luke Price took his chance to kick his side in front in the early stages after a period of good ball retention.
But Connacht responded almost instantly with their first sniff of an attack, Adeolokun completing a fabulous kick-and-chase after good hands from Tom Farrell to give the Irishmen the lead.
Conor Fitzgerald extended the visitors’ advantage with his boot after Ospreys fell the wrong side of a couple of contentious penalty decisions, and after Dan Lydiate was sent to the sin bin, Robb found a gap and went over for his side’s second try.
The hosts enjoyed a sustained period of possession around the half-hour mark without reward, but the remaining 10 minutes of the first period stayed scoreless, giving Connacht a slender 17-3 advantage at the break.
The caginess continued in the opening stages of the second half with neither team able to truly gain control of the game.
But Ospreys kept plugging away and a dominant driving maul saw Parry bulldoze over in the corner to reduce the deficit with 25 minutes to go.
A Fitzgerald penalty after an hour restored Connacht’s lead to 10 points, and despite a determined defensive effort from the Welsh region, the match remained in the balance for its remainder and the advantage stayed with Connacht.
Tries: Adeolokun, Robb
Cons: Fitzgerald 2
Pens: Fitzgerald 2
Ospreys: 15 Cai Evans, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 11 Tom Williams, 10 Luke Price, 9 Matthew Aubrey, 8 Dan Baker, 7 Olly Cracknell, 6 Dan Lydiate (captain), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Lloyd Ashley, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Rhodri Jones
Replacements: 16 Scott Otten, 17 Gareth Thomas, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Sam Cross, 20 Morgan Morrs, 21 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 22 James Hook, 23 Lesley Klim
Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Peter Robb, 11 John Porch, 10 Conor Fitzgerald, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Joe Maksymiw, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Matthew Burke, 18 Conor Kenny, 19 Cillian Gallagher, 20 Robin Copeland, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Tom Daly, 23 Stephen Fitzgerald
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Craig Evans (Wales), Manuel Bottino (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Pennè (Italy)
Benetton 18-16 Edinburgh
Having lost just twice at Stadio Monigo in any competition in the past year, tries from Jayden Hayward and Tomas Baravalle helped the Treviso side hold off Edinburgh for their second successive victory in this year’s campaign.
Benetton got on the scoresheet early, Jayden Hayward collecting a beautifully weighted dink to touch down within three minutes while Tommaso Allan added the extras.
The sides exchanged penalties before the visitors levelled the score with a try of their own.
Damien Hoyland broke inside Edinburgh’s 22m and the ball eventually found its way to back-rower Luke Crosbie who scored while Jaco van der Walt successfully converted.
With the break approaching, Edinburgh went down to 14-men when Jamie Bhatti was shown a yellow for a tackle off the ball.
Benetton soon capitalised when Tomas Baravalle finished off a drive from a lineout to put his side back in front.
The boot of van der Walt reduced the deficit before the break and four minutes into the second half, he added another penalty to give Edinburgh the lead.
With twenty minutes remaining, Allan put the home side back in front for an 18-16 lead and conditions soon got the better of both teams.
Despite having the opportunity to go in front, Edinburgh were unable to make the most of their chances and Benetton held strong in the closing stages.
Tries: Hayward, Baravalle
Pens: Allan 2
Con: Van der Walt
Pens: Van der Walt 3
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Ignacio Brex, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Tommaso Allan (captain), 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Irnè Herbst, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Federico Zani
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Michele Mancini Parri, 19 Niccolò Cannone, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Giovanni Pettinelli, 22 Tito Tebaldi, 23 Antonio Rizzi
Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Eroni Sau, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Damien Hoyland, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Henry Pyrgos (captain), 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Ally Miller, 5 Lewis Carmichael, 4 Fraser McKenzie, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Jamie Bhatti
Replacements: 16 David Cherry, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Sam Thomson, 20 Viliame Mata, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 George Taylor
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy), Ian Davies (Wales)
TMO: Sean Brickell (Wales)
Cardiff Blues 23-33 Munster
Chris Cloete and Corey Domachowski exchanged tries in a closely-fought first-half, but two scores from Alby Mathewson and one from Calvin Nash in the second put the game beyond doubt, before Nick Williams grabbed a late consolation for the Welshmen.
Victory stretches the Irish side’s record to six wins in seven against Welsh regions, while the Blues fall to their fourth consecutive defeat for the first time in the same season since 2015-16.
Munster had not been victorious at Arms Park since March 2017, and the hosts demonstrated their intention to extend that record in the early stages as Jarrod Evans kicked the first points of the game in the eighth minute.
But – battling against the elements – Munster gradually worked their way into the game and JJ Hanrahan got them back on terms after a darting run from Nash had drawn a penalty deep into home territory.
Evans took his opportunity to restore Cardiff’s lead almost immediately however, and Matthew Morgan then produced a try-saving tackle at the other end after Arno Botha had squeezed through a gap in the home defence.
Johann van Graan had made 11 changes for this fixture and despite his much-changed side failing to find their feet in the initial stages, Cloete bundled over to give his side the lead in the 24th minute after good work from Dan Goggin.
Hanrahan stretched Munster’s advantage to seven points with another penalty eight minutes before the break, but a huge kick from Morgan two minutes before half-time set up a period of sustained Blues pressure and a converted Domachowski score meant the score was 13-13 at the interval.
The Blues started the second half positively and after Fineen Wycherley was penalised for being offside, Evans made sure their pressure was rewarded by restoring their lead with three points.
But just as they had responded to going behind at the start of the first half, Munster hit back, this time through Mathewson after good work from Hanrahan and Sam Arnold.
They were further in front 10 minutes later when clever play from Rory Scannell opened up an opportunity, and Nash evaded a number of Cardiff challenges to go over and make the lead more comfortable.
Mathewson claimed his second try 13 minutes from time to all but seal the win, playing a smart one-two with Goggin before bundling over after Hanrahan had worked himself into some space.
With the clock ticking down, Hanrahan added another penalty, and despite Williams snatching a try in the dying stages, Munster had enough on the board to hold on to the win.
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Domachowski, Williams
Cons: Evans, Tovey
Pens: Evans 3
Tries: Cloete, Mathewson 2, Nash
Cons: Hanrahan 2
Pens: Hanrahan 3
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Jason Harries, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Garyn Smith, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Lloyd Williams (captain), 8 Will Boyde, 7 Olly Robinson, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Josh Turnbull, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Corey Domachowski
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Brad Thyer, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Jason Tovey, 23 Willis Halaholo
Munster: 15 Shane Daly, 14 Calvin Nash, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Jack O’Donoghue (captain), 5 Darren O’Shea, 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Keynan Knox, 2 Kevin O’Byrne, 1 Jeremy Loughman
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Liam O’Connor, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Jed Holloway, 20 Conor Oliver, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Tyler Bleyendaal, 23 Rory Scannell
Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Richard Brace (Wales)
TMO: Tim Hayes (Wales)