Van Graan's Munster book final spot
PRO14 FRIDAY WRAP: Alex McHenry, Keynan Knox, Roman Salanoa and Ben Healy all collected their first senior tries in Munster’s 31-17 bonus-point win over Benetton in the final round of the PRO14 at Thomond Park.
Benetton’s hopes of avoiding a winless PRO14 campaign were raised by captain Dewaldt Duvenage’s superbly-created 22nd-minute try but the Conference B winners hit back on the stroke of half-time through McHenry to lead 10-7.
Elsewhere, Josh Thomas’ late charge-down try guided Ospreys to a sensational 24-19 comeback win over PRO14 giants Leinster at the RDS.
With replacement Andrew Smith sin-binned, Leinster lost their grip on a 19-3 lead as Ospreys ruthlessly reeled off converted scores from Olly Cracknell, Owen Watkin and Thomas.
While Ulster finished their PRO14 season by running in seven tries in a 49-3 victory over a battling Zebre at the Kingspan Stadium.
The Irish province, already guaranteed second place in Conference A, will have seen this encounter as a valuable outing ahead of Easter Sunday’s Challenge Cup last-16 game at Harlequins.
The Friday action!
Munster 31-17 Benetton
Much-changed ahead of next week’s PRO14 final against Leinster, Munster then raced clear courtesy of scores from props Knox and Salanoa.
Benetton can be proud of their finish, though, as they sandwiched Healy’s 73rd-minute effort with well-taken tries from Corniel Els and Giovanni Pettinelli.
History was made in Limerick as the referee and TMO roles were filled by female officials – Hollie Davidson and Joy Neville respectively – for the first time in a top-tier men’s professional club rugby game.
Play was condensed between both 22s before Benetton burst into life, winning a scrum against the head and showing clever use of a penalty advantage.
Angelo Esposito gobbled up Tommaso Allan’s pass over the top and beat his man, linking inside with Joaquin Riera who offloaded invitingly out of a tackle and Pettinelli did likewise, allowing scrum-half Duvenage to flop over from a metre out.
Allan’s conversion from out wide was cancelled out by a JJ Hanrahan penalty and the former flicked a penalty wide in the 29th minute.
Despite losing lively scrum-half Paddy Patterson to injury, the hosts got the try they craved late on in the first half.
Rory Scannell’s slick offload took out two defenders and put centre McHenry in behind the posts for Hanrahan to convert.
A Chris Cloete steal had Munster hunting down a second score on the resumption and six minutes in, 21-year-old Knox lunged over with support from Jack O’Donoghue. Hanrahan’s conversion opened up a 10-point gap.
The Benetton defence was worn down through 12 phases for Hawaiian-born replacement Salanoa to drive in underneath the posts in the 58th minute. Hanrahan converted with his final kick to make it 24-7.
Crossing prevented the Italians from responding initially but they deservedly clawed back five points via a 70th-minute maul and replacement Els’ grounding.
Munster soon exploited space out wide when replacement Healy fed Liam Coombes and took a return pass to score and convert.
Benetton number eight Pettinelli had the final say, charging through a defensive gap with two minutes left.
Tries: McHenry, Knox, Salanoa, Healy
Cons: Hanrahan 3, Healy
Tries: Duvenage, Els, Pettinelli
Munster: 15 Jake Flannery, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Alex McHenry, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Liam Coombes, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Paddy Patterson, 8 Jack O’Sullivan, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Jack O’Donoghue (captain), 5 Thomas Ahern, 4 Cian Hurley, 3 Keynan Knox, 2 Diarmuid Barron, 1 Liam O’Connor
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Roman Salanoa, 19 Jack Daly, 20 Tommy O’Donnell, 21 Nick McCarthy, 22 Ben Healy, 23 Matt Gallagher
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Joaquin Riera, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 Tommaso Allan, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage (captain), 8 Giovanni Pettinelli, 7 Manuel Zuliani, 6 Alberto Sgarbi, 5 Eli Snyman, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Filippo Alongi, 2 Tomas Baravalle, 1 Nicola Quaglio
Replacements: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Thomas Gallo, 18 Tiziano Pasquali, 19 Nicola Piantella, 20 Marco Barbini, 21 Luca Petrozzi, 22 Tommaso Benvenuti, 23 Leonardo Sarto
Referee: Hollie Davidson
Assistant referees: Frank Murphy, Rob O’Sullivan
TMO: Joy Neville
Ulster 49-3 Zebre
Skipper Jordi Murphy scored twice as Ulster racked up a second successive bonus-point win, although the complexion of the game was changed by the first-half sending off of Zebre’s replacement hooker Marco Manfredi which reduced the Italians to 13 men for the remainder of the game.
John Andrew, Michael Lowry, Robert Baloucoune, Rob Lyttle and Bradley Roberts also crossed for Ulster, with John Cooney kicking four conversions and Lowry landing three.
Paolo Pescetto’s first-half penalty was all Zebre could manage in response.
Ulster took the lead in the 12th minute when hooker Andrew got over for his seventh score of the season from a lineout maul which Cooney converted.
A poor kick-off reception led to an immediate response from Michael Bradley’s side, with Pescetto slotting over the resulting penalty.
Despite Ulster coming close, they were unable to score again and Zebre applied some pressure on the home side.
However, Manfredi was shown a red card by referee Andrew Brace in the 34th minute after following through with an elbow onto Cooney’s face which led to uncontested scrums and the Italians reduced to 13 men.
The half ended with Ulster’s second try when they switched the ball wide before Lowry finished off a move from which he handled three times. Cooney’s conversion took Ulster 14-3 in front at the break.
That became 21-3 two minutes after the restart when Baloucoune trotted over and the bonus point was secured when Murphy eased his way over for another converted try.
Despite Zebre’s brave efforts and determination not to completely fold, another Ulster score was inevitable and Murphy grabbed it off a lineout maul with Lowry converting.
Lyttle got over from Lowry’s cross-kick after 66 minutes to increase Ulter’s lead further, with Lowry again adding the extras.
Zebre, to their credit, finished the stronger but were held up twice – with the floodlights failing on the first occasion – before replacement hooker Roberts got over for Ulster’s seventh and final try as the home side broke downfield after lifting the late Italian siege.
Tries: Andrew, Lowry, Baloucoune, Murphy 2, Lyttle, Roberts
Cons: Cooney 4, Lowry 3
Ulster: 15 Ethan McIlroy, 14 Robert Baloucoune, 13 James Hume, 12 Stewart Moore, 11 Rob Lyttle, 10 Michael Lowry, 9 John Cooney, 8 David McCann, 7 Jordy Murphy (captain), 6 Sean Reidy, 5 Kieran Treadwell, 4 Cormac Izuchukwu, 3 Marty Moore, 2 John Andrew, 1 Eric O’Sullivan
Replacements: 16 Brad Roberts, 17 Callum Reid, 18 Tom O’Toole, 19 Alan O’Connor, 20 Matty Rea, 21 David Shanahan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Ben Moxham
Zebre: 15 Gabriele Di Giulio, 14 Pierre Bruno, 13 Tommaso Boni (captain), 12 Enrico Lucchin, 11 Jamie Elliott, 10 Paolo Pescetto, 9 Joshua Renton, 8 Potu Junior Leavasa, 7 Lorenzo Masselli, 6 Iacopo Bianchi, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Matteo Nocera, 2 Massimo Ceciliani, 1 Paolo Buonfiglio
Replacements: 16 Marco Manfredi, 17 Daniele Rimpelli, 18 Eduardo Bello, 19 Leonard Krumov, 20 Charles Alaimalo, 21 Nicolò Casilio, 22 Guglielmo Palazzani, 23 Antonio Rizzi
Referee: Andrew Brace
Assistant referees: Eoghan Cross, Peter Martin
TMO: Brian MacNeice
Leinster 19-24 Ospreys
It was a season-defining result for Toby Booth’s men as it guarantees them a third-place finish in Conference A and Champions Cup rugby for next season.
The defeat will certainly sharpen Leinster minds ahead of next week’s PRO14 final against Munster.
Tries from Harry Byrne and Jamie Osborne, on his second start, had them 12-3 ahead at half-time.
Flyhalf Byrne bagged a brace but it went downhill for the defending champions during the final quarter.
Thomas blocked a Byrne kick to score, adding his third conversion to seal Ospreys’ first victory in Dublin since their 2012 final triumph.
Frustrated by a trio of recent defeats, Ospreys went very close to an early try but Reuben Morgan-Williams was instead whistled for a knock-on.
Once Leinster exerted pressure in the right areas, the visitors struggled and lost prop Ma’afu Fia to the bin in the 19th minute.
A neat move off a scrum, combined with centre Osborne’s dummy run, played in Byrne for his 21st-minute converted try.
Luke Price responded with a penalty, only for Will Griffiths to fumble Byrne’s skyscraper restart. Osborne pounced on the loose ball and dived over for five more points in the right corner.
Price hit the post with a subsequent penalty and Ospreys failed to profit from two late penetrating runs by Morgan Morris, the Guinness player of the match.
Just three minutes into the second half, Byrne crossed from a Rowan Osborne pass after tighthead Michael Bent had taken advantage of a defensive gap.
Ciaran Frawley converted for 19-3 and Leinster were looking comfortable. That was until their scrum began to concede penalties and Ospreys’ bench made a big impact.
Smith caught Dewi Cross with a high tackle in the 67th minute and the Ospreys pack piled through for Cracknell to dive in beside the posts.
Twenty-year-old replacement Thomas coolly converted and also added the extras to Watkin’s rumble for the line, following a furious chase and steal by flank Morris.
Victorious in Ireland on only two previous occasions since 2016, Ospreys snatched the result when Thomas followed through on his block, getting the better of Max O’Reilly.
Tries: H Byrne 2, J Osborne
Cons: Frawley 2
Tries: Cracknell, Watkin, Thomas
Cons: Thomas 3
Leinster: 15 Max O’Reilly, 14 Rory O’Loughlin, 13 Jamie Osborne, 12 Ciarán Frawley, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Harry Byrne, 9 Rowan Osborne, 8 Josh Murphy, 7 Scott Penny, 6 Scott Fardy (captain), 5 Devin Toner, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Seán Cronin 1 Peter Dooley
Replacements: 16 Dan Sheehan, 17 Marcus Hanan, 18 Thomas Clarkson, 19 Jack Dunne, 20 Seán O’Brien, 21 Hugh O’Sullivan, 22 Tim Corkery, 23 Andrew Smith
Ospreys: 15 Dan Evans (captain), 14 Dewi Cross, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Keiran Williams, 11 Cai Evans, 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 Sam Parry, 1 Rhys Henry
Replacements: 16 Dewi Lake, 17 Garyn Phillips, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Olly Cracknell, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Josh Thomas, 23 Joe Hawkins
Referee: Chris Busby
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher, Stuart Gaffikin
TMO: Olly Hodges