Munster, Connacht the big winners
PRO 14 CONFERENCE B WRAP: Edinburgh’s Champions Cup bid suffered another blow as they were overpowered 22-10 by Munster at Murrayfield on Saturday.
* Meanwhile Connacht ended a run of three successive Pro14 home defeats with a 32-17 bonus point win over Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground.
We look at the Conference B matches!
Connacht 32-17 Cardiff
Connacht ended a run of three successive Pro14 home defeats with a 32-17 bonus-point win over Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground.
Rhys Carre’s first try for Cardiff looked an important score until Alex Wootton’s quickfire brace just before half-time handed the hosts a 20-10 lead.
Corey Domachowski became the second Cardiff prop to touch down in the 64th minute but Connacht captain Jarrad Butler and replacement Abraham Papali’i sewed up the result with final-quarter tries.
Cardiff controlled the early possession and Lloyd Williams’ snipe and a forward-looking pass set up Aled Summerhill for a massive surge downfield.
The hosts leaked a penalty close to their own line and after a 10th-minute maul drew the Blues closer, Carre was well supported by Liam Belcher as he drove over for Jason Tovey to convert.
A Jack Carty penalty opened Connacht’s account soon after and he landed a second kick in the 21st minute to make it a one-point game.
Connacht had blown an overlap before that, though, and Cardiff hit back through Tovey’s right boot for a 10-6 lead, following a no-clear release penalty against Dave Heffernan.
However, wing Wootton’s six minutes of magic before the interval really lifted Connacht. He surged in between Mason Grady and Belcher, past the visitors’ 10-metre line, and evaded Matthew Morgan’s tackle to finish to the left of the posts.
With the clock in the red, the 26-year-old showed great feet again to score at the end of 16 phases and stun what had been a reliable Blues defence for the opening 35 minutes.
Carty tagged on both conversions for a 14-point swing and after Tovey hit the post with an early second-half penalty, Connacht had the better of the play up to the hour mark.
They turned down a kickable penalty but emerged scoreless and their own indiscipline allowed the Blues to bite back.
Ellis Jenkins increased his influence at the breakdown before replacement Domachowski burrowed over.
Fullback Morgan’s conversion made it 20-17 but it was then Cardiff’s turn to fall foul of referee Andrew Brace’s whistle.
It gave Connacht prime maul position and Butler was quickly bundled over for an unconverted score.
An unlikely bonus point was the westerners’ reward late on, with big back row forward Papali’i – backed up by Ultan Dillane – powering over in the 77th minute for his third try in five appearances.
Play of the match
Wootton took his Pro14 try haul for 2020/21 to nine and his first score was a real beauty. The flying Connacht wing sliced in between two defenders and then evaded Morgan’s tackle on a slaloming 50-metre run.
Player of the match
Cardiff flank Jenkins marked his first competitive game in over two years with an excellent performance. However, the official player of the match award deservedly went to two-try hero Wootton, who turned the game in Connacht’s favour approaching half-time.
Tries: Wootton 2, Butler, Papalii
Cons: Carty 3
Pens: Carty 2
For Cardiff Blues
Tries: Carre, Domachowski
Cons: Tovey, M Morgan
Connacht: 15 John Porch, 14 Alex Wootton, 13 Tom Daly, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Gavin Thornbury, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 Jordan Duggan
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Jack Aungier, 19 Oisin Dowling, 20 Abraham Papali’i, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Sean O’Brien, 23 Tiernan O’Halloran
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Owen Lane, 13 Mason Grady, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Josh Turnbull (captain), 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Shane Lewis-Hughes, 5 Rory Thornton, 4 Seb Davies, 3 Dmitri Arhip, 2 Liam Belcher, 1 Rhys Carré
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Keiron Assiratti, 19 Ben Murphy, 20 Gwilym Bradley, 21 Jamie Hill, 22 Ben Thomas, 23 Harri Millard
Referee: Andrew Brace
Assistant referees: Chris Busby, Peter Martin
TMO: Frank Murphy
Edinburgh 10-22 Munster
Edinburgh’s Champions Cup bid suffered another blow as they were overpowered 22-10 by Munster at Murrayfield.
Richard Cockerill has refused to give up hope his capital outfit can clinch one of the three European places on offer from Conference B of the Pro14.
But time is running out for second-bottom Edinburgh to rescue the situation after their seventh defeat of a miserable campaign.
Munster’s Jack O’Donoghue and Craig Casey gave the conference leaders a deserved half-time lead and while Bill Mata struck back for the Scots just after the break, it was the visitors who proved the more clinical as they added a third score through Gavin Coombes.
Edinburgh still has five games left to play but sit 11 points behind Scarlets in third, who have played two games more than Cockerill’s side.
Munster coughed up four penalties inside the opening nine minutes but all Edinburgh could muster from those gifts was a solitary Jaco van Der Walt penalty which was soon cancelled out by JJ Hanrahan at the other end.
The story of Edinburgh’s season has been costly missed chances and yet again a bout of white-line fever left Cockerill feeling sick.
They were handed a golden opportunity by Andrew Conway’s knock-on 10 metres from the Munster line.
Eroni Sau led the charge before Andrew Davidson tried to bulldoze his way in to score – only to met by a wall of seven red jerseys who simply refused to buckle.
Gavin Coombes was also held up mere inches from the line for the visitors but the difference was Munster had the perseverance to go again, with O’Donoghue bending his body one way then the other as he rolled over Dave Cherry to dot down the opening score after 30 minutes.
Van Der Walt overcooked the kick-off as Edinburgh followed up one mistake with another to find themselves immediately back under pressure.
Chris Cloete opted for the sneak attack with a tap and go. He was held up, O’Donoghue too but scrum-half Casey was small enough to fit through a chink in the Edinburgh line as he gave the Irishmen a 14-point lead at the break.
But it took just six minutes for the capital club to hit back after the restart.
Henry Pyrgos gained Cockerill’s team some much-needed territory with a brilliant low kick to touch. Munster choked on the exit and ended up handing back seven points to the hosts as Mata eventually barged over.
But those Edinburgh gains were soon wiped out. A big scrum shunt saw the hosts pinned back into their own 22. Casey’s snipe was caught just before the line but Coombes had the power to crash over for Munster’s third try on 57 minutes.
All hope for the Murrayfield men was lost as they saw five minutes of grunting come to nothing as they failed to convert from five yards out after a series of huge collisions and collapsed scrums.
There was a worrying sight before the final whistle as Davidson had to be taken off the field on a stretcher wearing a neck brace.
Play of the match
Munster proved the more clinical of the two teams but it might have been a different story had they allowed Edinburgh’s Davidson to score the opener on 17 minutes. However, the big lock found himself with nowhere to go as seven red jerseys formed an impassable wall.
Player of the match
Captain Billy Holland marked his 240th appearance for the club in style by producing a man-of-the-match performance. The 35-year-old used all of his experience to help Munster to a hard-fought victory.
Con: Van der Walt
Pen: Van der Walt
Tries: O’Donoghue, Casey, Coombes
Cons: Hanrahan 2
Pen: Hanrahan 2
Edinburgh: 15 Damien Hoyland, 14 Jack Blain, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 Chris Dean, 11 Eroni Sau, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Nick Haining, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Andrew Davidson, 3 Lee-Roy Atalifo, 2 David Cherry, 1 Pierre Schoeman
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Magnus Bradbury, 20 Ally Miller, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Nathan Chamberlain, 23 Matt Currie
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Shane Daly, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Craig Casey, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Fineen Wycherley, 20 Jack O’Sullivan, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Ben Healy, 23 Rory Scannell
Referee: Mike Adamson
Assistant referees: Sam Grove-White, David Sutherland
TMO: Neil Paterson