Leinster just has too much class
PRO14 SUNDAY WRAP: Scott Penny snapped up two tries during Leinster’s 40-5 win over Cardiff Blues at the RDS.
Penny took his season’s haul to five tries, and fellow replacement Michael Silvester added his first senior score, as Leinster claimed a championship record-equalling seventh successive bonus-point victory.
* In other Sunday action Ulster pipped Scarlets 26-24 at Kingspan Stadium as their unbeaten start to the season continued.
Connacht bounced back from last week’s narrow defeat by Scarlets with a comfortable 47-12 win at Zebre.
Ospreys overturned a 15-point deficit to record a 24-22 victory over Benetton at St Helen’s in Swansea.
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Ospreys 24-22 Benetton
A last-gasp try from Dewi Lake gave 14-man Ospreys a priceless 24-22 victory over Benetton to put an end to their three match losing streak.
A hat-trick from Hame Faiva looked to have given Benetton a first Pro14 victory of the season, but the Welsh side rallied late on to grab a priceless victory in Swansea.
Ifan Phillips got the first try of the game within the opening three minutes at St Helen’s, as he latched onto the back of a maul to touch down, before Faiva took centre stage.
The hooker crossed the try line to level the scores in the first period, before two tries in the second stanza helped saw the Italians ran their first win of the new campaign at the fifth time of asking.
Gareth Evans was shown the red card midway through the second-half as the game looked out of reach for the home side, only for Shaun Venter and Lake to cross late on to secure the dramatic late victory.
The hosts wasted no time in getting the scoring underway in Swansea, with George North breaking within the opening two minutes, only for full back Jayden Hayward to interfere with the ball, with the 33-year-old shown the yellow card.
And Ospreys made their man advantage count almost immediately, as they capitalised on Benetton’s vulnerability at the maul, with Phillips the man to put the ball down over the tryline.
But the visitors responded to the early setback admirably, with Faiva touching down to bring the scores level after a spell of pressure on the home side’s try line.
And that was the way it stayed until seconds before the half time whistle, as Myler slotted a kick through the posts to give Ospreys a 10-7 advantage heading into the break,
The Italians seemed to come out of the dressing rooms for the second-half inspired, and forced an early yellow card for Will Griffiths for collapsing a maul.
And just seconds after the sin-binning the visitors took the lead for the first time, as another powerful maul surged over the try line, as Faiva grabbed his second of the game.
Ian Keatley missed the following conversion, but grabbed a three-pointer minutes later to extend the lead to five, as the confidence started to ooze through the Benetton side.
The temporary man advantage soon became permanent, as Evans was shown the red card for a reckless entry to the breakdown, causing a head collision with Cherif Traore.
And from that point the visitors looked to take advantage, with Faiva scoring his third midway through the second half, as he burrowed over from close range.
But the home side continued to pressure despite being a man light, with Venter crossing to close the gap, before Lake grabbed the winner in the dying stages after another maul steamrolled the visiting defence, with Myler adding the extras to seal the deal.
Player of the Match
This couldn’t go to anyone else could it? The New Zealander was instrumental in all of his side’s attacking play in Swansea, as well as getting three tries to his name.
The hooker led by example throughout the 80 minutes, and powered over to level the scores when Benetton were down to 14 men, which was a real momentum changer after Ospreys took an early lead.
The strength of the 33-year-old really paid off for the Italians, as the home side’s defence couldn’t deal with his penetrating drives close to the try line.
Play of the Day
It may have been a mere consolation for the hosts, but the best score of the day was left until last in Swansea, as Venter crossed to narrow the gap late on.
In their desperation to claw something from the game, Ospreys played fast and loose with the ball, and hit Benetton on the counter with ten minutes remaining.
Quick ball and deft hands saw them carve an opening on the left hand side, with the visiting defence left grasping at thin air, before Venter was leaved with the easiest of tries as he ran in unopposed.
Tries: Phillips, Venter, Lake
Cons: Myler 3
Tries: Faiva 3
Cons: Keatley 2
Ospreys: 15 Mat Protheroe, 14 George North, 13 Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Luke Morgan, 10 Stephen Myler, 9 Reuben Morgan-Williams, 8 Gareth Evans, 7 Dan Lydiate (captain), 6 Will Griffiths, 5 Rhys Davies, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Tom Botha, 2 Ifan Phillips, 1 Gareth Thomas.
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Ma’afu Fia, 19 Lloyd Ashley, 20 Olly Cracknell, 21 Sam Cross, 22 Shaun Venter, 23 Josh Thomas.
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Joaquin Riera, 12 Tommaso Benvenuti, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Marco Barbini, 7 Michele Lamaro, 6 Giovanni Pettinelli, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Hame Faiva, 1 Cherif Traore.
Replacements: 16 Tomas Baravalle, 17 Thomas Gallo, 18 Filippo Alongi, 19 Riccardo Favretto, 20 Alberto Sgarbi, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Luca Petrozzi, 23 Leonardo Sarto.
Referee: Andrew Brace
Assistant Referees: Aled Evans, Ben Breakspear
TMO: Sean Brickell
Zebre 12-47 Connacht
Sean O’Brien’s try on his first start for two years kick-started a roaring Connacht comeback as Andy Friend’s side waltzed to an emphatic victory over 14-man Zebre in Parma.
Tommaso Boni had given the hosts an early lead before first-half scores from O’Brien, and then two from Alex Wootton, opened up an advantage at the break.
Sammy Arnold, a penalty try and a Tom Daly double extended their lead in the second period and while Marco Manfredi scored for Zebre, Isaiah Papali’i was sent off and Connacht moved up to second in Conference B.
The hosts got off to a flyer at a sun-baked Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi as an early try from outside centre Boni gave them a rapid advantage.
The Italy star received an offload from midfield partner and captain Giulio Bisegni before dotting down under the posts, with No.10 Antonio Rizzi doing the rest from the tee.
That proved the wake-up call Friend’s side needed, however, as six points from the clinical boot of Jack Carty helped narrow the deficit to 7-6.
Lock Gavin Thornbury was proving a giant in the line-out and the Irish side gradually began to find their feet in Italy, with O’Brien’s try turning the tables after 20 minutes.
The experienced flanker, making his maiden start for two years, finished a spell of patient build-up from the visitors and powerfully bundled over to hand Friend’s side the advantage.
Carty’s conversion struck the post but the Connacht comeback was well underway, with Wootton crossing for the first of his two first-half scores just five minutes before the interval.
It was made by the work of Colm Reilly, John Porch and Carty before the wide man received possession and augmented Connacht’s lead.
And the winger’s second followed shortly afterwards as he intercepted a Zebre pass to race clear and score on the stroke of half time.
The break came at a good time for Michael Bradley’s side but they could do little to prevent Connacht continuing their resurgence, as Wootton’s fellow wing Arnold went over in the corner for the all-important bonus point.
Ultan Dillane was soon introduced for his 100th Connacht appearance and he was able to celebrate with his team in style as brilliant work from Daly saw him score his side’s fifth.
The hosts then went down to 14 as Papali’i was sent off but they did notch a consolation as Manfredi went over with 20 minutes to go.
But Connacht soon regained their four-score advantage as they were awarded a penalty try after a powerful rolling maul reached the line.
Connacht continued to push for another and it was seven heaven on the stroke of the final whistle as Daly collected Conor Fitzgerald’s kick to go over.
Zebre defended resiliently throughout the second half but the away side held on for a hard-fought victory on the continent to ascend the standings in Conference B.
Play of the day
It could only be Wootton’s first of the day that marked the game’s standout moment.
The speedy Connacht wing capitalised on some fine play from Reilly, Porch and Carty to dot down out wide just before the break and help open up a comfortable half-time advantage.
Man of the match
Connacht scrum-half Reilly was influential throughout, helping set up that brilliant first Wootton try and continually pulling the strings.
Friend’s omnipresent No.9 was at the heart of all his side did as Connacht delivered an imperious display of their credentials and scooped their third win of the Guinness PRO14 season.
Tries: Boni, Manfred
Tries: O’Brien, Wootton 2, Arnold, Daly 2, Penalty try
Cons: Carty, Fitzgerald, try does not require a conversion
Pens: Carty 2
Zebre: 15 Junior Laloifi, 14 Giovanni D’Onofrio, 13 Giulio Bisegni (captain), 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Gabriele Di Giulio, 10 Antonio Rizzi, 9 Joshua Renton, 8 David Sisi, 7 Renato Giammarioli, 6 Lorenzo Masselli, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Leonard Krumov, 3 Eduardo Bello, 2 Marco Manfredi, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Oliviero Fabiani, 17 Alexandru Tarus, 18 Matteo Nocera, 19 Massimo Ceciliani, 20 Nicolò Casilio, 21 Paolo Pescetto, 22 Michelangelo Biondelli.
Connacht: 15 John Porch, 14 Sammy Arnold, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Alex Wootton, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Colm Reilly, 8 Jarrad Butler (captain), 7 Sean Masterson, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Eoghan Masterson, 3 Jack Aungier, 2 Shane Delahunt, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Jonny Murphy, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Abraham Papali’i, 21 Stephen Kerins, 22 Conor Fitzgerald, 23 Peter Sullivan.
Referee: Dan Jones
Assistant Referees: Marius Mitrea, Matteo Liperini
TMO: Stefano Penne
Leinster 40-5 Cardiff Blues
Triple-defending champions Leinster equalled the Championship record of seven five-point victories in succession with a hard-fought 40-5 win over Cardiff Blues at the RDS Arena.
Dave Kearney opened the scoring with less than a minute gone to signal the intentions of Leo Cullen’s men, and Jimmy O’Brien and James Tracy also went over in the first half either side of Aled Summerhill’s reply for Blues.
Cardiff had further chances in the second period while also producing a determined defensive display, but Scott Penny got the all-important fourth try before he and Michael Silvester added further scores late on.
While Leinster celebrate their 15th successive Championship win over Blues, the Welshmen fall to their fourth defeat in five, and remain with just one away win in 2020.
The hosts got off to a flying start with the match’s opening try barely 40 seconds after kick-off, Kearney getting his second score in as many weeks in the corner after smart footwork from Ciaran Frawley.
Fly-half Harry Byrne added the extras to signal the worst possible start for John Mulvihill and his men, and Dan Leavy and Peter Dooley made further inroads towards the Blues try-line, before an infringement from Tracy momentarily quelled the danger.
Having turned the ball over following a Cardiff line-out, Leinster quickly turned defence into attack and neat handling from Liam Turner unleashed Cian Kelleher, who charged deep into away territory before his pass to Frawley fell just short.
But Leinster did have their second try of the day before the 15-minute mark, O’Brien chipping the ball over opposite number Matthew Morgan and collecting ahead of Jason Tovey to go over for his fifth Leinster score in style.
Blues responded in the best possible way, though, spreading the ball out wide following a line-out maul and winger Summerhill finishing off in the corner to gain the Welshmen a foothold in the game.
Having got on the scoreboard, the visitors gradually increased their influence on the match, but the Leinster defence held firm as Ben Thomas and Garyn Smith looked to steer Blues to a second try close to the half-hour.
Ethan Lewis profited from a fortunate ricochet but couldn’t quite latch onto the loose ball as he kicked towards the posts, but Leinster had the last say of the half as Tracy bundled over for his third try of the season to stretch the Dubliners’ lead.
Summerhill started the second half brightly and instigated an attack down the left flank in the 47th minute before Tomos Williams’ ambitious pass couldn’t quite find Smith.
Mulvihill’s charges then showcased their defensive discipline as Leinster’s forward pack went in search of the bonus point, but the hosts’ stubbornness was eventually rewarded as Penny bulldozed over in the 67th minute.
Penny put further gloss on the scoreline in the game’s late stages with another powerful charge over the try-line, and Silvester had the last say of the day with Leinster’s sixth after a neat kick from Byrne.
PLAYER OF THE MATCH
There were plenty of players across the park who put their hands up for the Player of the Match plaudits, but Leinster scrum-half Luke McGrath stood out with an accomplished all-round display.
The 27-year-old stood up defensively and looked sharp at the breakdown, continuing his fine form of late with Jamison Gibson-Park away on Ireland duty.
PLAY OF THE DAY
Leinster burst out of the blocks at the RDS Arena, and Jimmy O’Brien’s stylish score – the hosts’ second with less than quarter-of-an-hour on the clock – suggested it could be a long evening for Blues.
Following a break down the left, the 23-year-old chipped the ball over Matthew Morgan and successfully recovered it to touch down and add to his team’s lead.
Tries: Kearney, O’Brien, Tracy, Penny 2, Silvester
Cons: Byrne 5
For Cardiff Blues
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 Dan Leavy, 6 Josh Murphy, 5 Ryan Baird, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Bent, 2 James Tracy, 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Tom Clarkson, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Jack Dunne, 21 Rowan Osborne, 22 Michael Silvester, 23 Scott Penny.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Garyn Smith, 12 Ben Thomas, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Jarrod Evans, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Josh Turnbull, 7 Alun Lawrence, 6 James Ratti, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Ben Murphy, 3 Dimitri Arhip, 2 Ethan Lewis, 1 Corey Domachowski.
Replacements: 16 Iestyn Harris, 17 Brad Theyer, 18 Kieron Assiratti, 19 Teddy Williams, 20 Gwilym Bradley, 21 Jamie Hill, 22 Max Llewellyn, 23 Hallam Amos.
Referee: Mike Adamson
Assistant Referees: George Clancy, Peter Martin
TMO: Ollie Hodges
Ulster 26-24 Scarlets
Ulster pipped Scarlets 26-24 at Kingspan Stadium as their unbeaten start to the season continued.
The hosts ran out 29-5 winners the last time these sides met but had to work much harder this time around against Glenn Delaney’s resolute outfit, tries from Rob Lyttle, Stewart Moore, Sean Reidy and Kieran Treadwell just about ensuring the win.
The visitors crossed four times themselves through Paul Asquith, Ryan Conbeer, Steff Evans and Phil Price but left it too little too late to come back.
Ultimately though Scarlets may rue letting ten points go abegging from penalty and conversion kicks as they move second in Conference B, while Ulster keep pace with triple-defending champions Leinster at the top of Conference A.
The two sides were greeted by 1,000 supporters and, having scored four tries last time out, Ulster’s Marcell Coetzee almost gave them something to shout about straight away as picked up exactly where he left off by nearly dotting down within minutes only to be held up just over the line.
But, the hosts then scored the first try of the game in style through Lyttle as he danced inside his man beautifully to grab his first score of the season, having been released by Matt Faddes following a no-look pass from John Cooney.
Despite that, Scarlets grew into the game and earned two quickfire penalties but Dan Jones could not convert either – kicking the first wide and hitting the outside of the near post with the second.
That, though, did not stop the visitors from continuing to build their momentum.
And Scarlets got their reward when, with the hosts down to 14 with lock Treadwell sin-binned for a high challenge, Asquith crossed the whitewash and Angus O’Brien converted to put the visitors ahead.
The away side were now on top, especially in the scrum, but fell behind once more to a fantastic interception try by Moore who sensed an opportunity, took it and ran with it quite literally to dot down.
Cooney added the extras to put the hosts 12-7 ahead and now the momentum had swung Ulster’s way with a big push at the end of the first half resulting in another try which came when flanker Reidy powered his way over.
Scarlets took just 90 seconds to issue a perfect response after the break, Steffan Hughes delivering a perfectly pinpoint accurate kick after a scrum to find Conbeer on the wing who dotted down.
The home side then received their second yellow of the contest, Faddes entering the bin for a high tackle, and Scarlets looked to take advantage of their numerical advantage instantly again but Cooney superbly held the ball up on the line to deny the visitors.
In the 55th minute though the Welsh side narrowed the gap to two points when replacement Tyler Morgan released Evans to score with an inch perfect pass, but another conversion went abegging.
All their hard work went by the wayside 15 minutes from time though when Dane Blacker’s inadvertent knock-on presented Ulster with the perfect opportunity to score their bonus-point try, which they did through Treadwell.
Scarlets set up a grandstand finish late on though when Price crossed and O’Brien converted to trail by just two points but they ran out of time to pull of a sensational comeback.
Player of the Match
It has been a fantastic campaign in the number seven jersey for Reidy and he earned his third Player of the Match award this season with another great showing.
A try capped his evening but his performance was far more than that, with energy, creativity and drive all on show.
Play of the Day
It worked so well that it looked rehearsed, Moore’s interception try was a thing of beauty.
With perfect vision the Ulster centre plucked out an errant Scarlets pass from just outside his own 22 before getting the afterburners on to evade all captors and score in sensational fashion.
Tries: Lyttle, Moore, Reidy, Treadwell
Cons: Cooney 2, Johnston
Tries: Asquith, Conbeer, S Evans, Price
Cons: O’Brien 2
Ulster: 15 Michael Lowry, 14 Matt Faddes, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Stewart Moore, 11 Rob Lyttle, 10 Bill Johnston, 9 John Cooney, 8 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Sean Reidy, 6 Matty Rea, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Alan O’Connor (captain), 3 Marty Moore, 2 John Andrew, 1 Eric O’Sullivan.
Replacements: 16 Adam McBurney, 17 Kyle McCall, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 David O’Connor, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Scarlets: 15 Angus O’Brien, 14 Ryan Conbeer, 13 Steff Hughes (captain), 12 Paul Asquith, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Jones, 9 Dane Blacker, 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 7 Jac Morgan, 6 Ed Kennedy, 5 Danny Drake, 4 Sam Lousi, 3 Javan Sebastian, 2 Taylor Davies, 1 Rob Evans.
Replacements: 16 Daf Hughes, 17 Phil Price, 18 Werner Kruger, 19 Jac Price, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Will Homer, 22 Sam Costelow, 23 Tyler Morgan.
Referee: Andrea Piardi
Assistant Referees: Sean Gallagher, Chris Busby
TMO: Brian MacNeice