Winning send-off for Cheetahs coach
PRO14 WRAP: The Cheetahs gifted Franco Smith the perfect swan song.
The Bloemfontein-based outfit made it three wins from three in his final game in charge, scoring a 40-16 triumph over Munster.
* In the other Friday matches Leinster prevailed in the battle of the two unbeaten sides at the RDS Arena, beating Edinburgh 40-14.
* And dominance up front underpinned Connacht’s comprehensive 38-14 victory over the Dragons.
All Friday’s reports!
Cheetahs 40-16 Munster
The Cheetahs gifted Franco Smith the perfect swan song as they made it three wins from three in his final game in charge with a triumph over Munster in Bloemfontein.
Tries from Retshegofaditswe Nche, Junior Pokomela, William Small-Smith, Joseph Dweba, Jasper Wiese and Rhyno Smith ensured the Cheetahs continued their 100 percent start to the new season.
Munster had also won their first two games before arriving at Stadium but three Tyler Bleyendaal penalties and a late Dan Goggin try were not enough to avoid defeat.
It is Cheetahs’ first-ever win over Munster in the Pro14 and means Smith hands over the reins to Hawies Fourie with the South African outfit top of Conference B.
With their tails up following a flawless start to the season, Cheetahs piled the pressure on their visitors from the off through their powerful pack and were soon rewarded.
Rhys Marshall was sent to the bin after multiple Munster infringements and Cheetahs bounced back immediately, with Nche powering over the line and Ruan Pienaar adding the extras.
Munster gradually fought their way back into the game and responded in the 20th minute after the hosts were penalised at the scrum, with Bleyendaal successfully converting the penalty.
The mistakes continued to mount up for Cheetahs and another Bleyendaal penalty closed the deficit to one point before the South African outfit bagged their second try through Pokomela.
But Munster ensured the gap would only be three points at the break after Bleyendaal added his third penalty of the game on the cusp of half-time when Cheetahs strayed offside.
Cheetahs restored their advantage soon after the break when Small-Smith capped off a fine move in the right corner after excellent hands from the backline, with Pienaar converting again.
With the hosts now sensing blood, they strengthened their grip on the game when Dweba picked up his fourth try of the season from the back of a driving lineout maul before the hour mark.
Wiese then capitalised on a tiring Munster to crash over for Cheetahs’ fifth try, before Munster grabbed a late consolation score through Dan Goggin, converted by JJ Hanrahan.
But it was Cheetahs who had the last laugh when Smith scored his fifth try of the season, racing under the posts after being put through the middle with the clock in the red.
Man of the match
The Cheetahs pack was impressive throughout but the standout performer was undoubtedly Dweba as the hooker crossed the whitewash yet again in another blockbuster showing.
Dweba was a nuisance from start to finish and after throwing a deadly accurate lineout, he was there to finish the move off to secure the bonus-point try.
Play of the day
Cheetahs’ second try just pipped their third to this prize. In-form Smith threatened for the first time with a strong run down the left before the ball was recycled and spread right.
The ball went through the hands of the backline, with Tian Schoeman, Pienaar and Small-Smith all playing a role in the build-up to give Pokomela the simple task of crossing the whitewash.
For the Cheetahs:
Tries: Nche, Pokomela, Small-Smith, Dweba, Wiese, Smith
Cons: Pienaar 4, Schoeman
Pens: Bleyendaal 3
Yellow card: Rhys Marshall (Munster, 8)
Cheetahs: 15 Rhyno Smith, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Benhard Janse van Rensburg, 12 Louis Fouche, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Ruan Pienaar (captain), 8 Henco Venter, 7 Junior Pokomela, 6 Gerhard Olivier, 5 Walt Steenkamp, 4 Sintu Manjezi, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nche.
Replacements: 16 Reinach Venter, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Sias Koen, 21 Jasper Wiese, 22 Tian Meyer, 23 Clayton Blommetjies.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Dan Goggin, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Shane Daly, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Nick McCarthy, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Jeremy Loughman.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 James Cronin, 18 Keynan Knox, 19 Darren O’Shea, 20 Gavin Coombes, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Calvin Nash.
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Griffin Colby, Paul Mente (both South Africa)
TMO: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Leinster 40-14 Edinburgh
Leinster prevailed in the battle of the two unbeaten sides at the RDS Arena as a rush of tries either side of the break saw the Pro14 defending champions defeat Edinburgh.
Jamison Gibson-Park, Michael Bent, Caelan Doris, Scott Penny, Michael Milne and Rowan Osborne all crossed for the hosts to secure the bonus-point victory – their third in as many games.
Edinburgh had taken a 7-5 lead as Leinster were reduced to 13-men on the cusp of half-time, only for the Irish province to run riot after the break in Dublin to maintain their perfect start.
Leinster thought they had the opening try with just seven minutes gone, only for Scott Penny to see his score chalked off due to an obstruction in the build-up after a TMO review.
The video review played in the hosts’ favour on their next foray into the Edinburgh 22, though, with Gibson-Park dotting down after the ball bounced forward off James Lowe’s head.
Edinburgh responded strongly to going behind and after a penalty provided the Scottish side with territory, Dave Kearney did well to prevent a crossfield kick from finding a man in white.
The visitors continued to pile on the pressure in front of a raucous home crowd and after repeated scrum infringements, Bent was sent to the sin-bin as Leinster were reduced to 14-men.
Richard Cockerill’s side took advantage of their extra player soon after, with Farndale diving over the whitewash just after the half-hour mark following a clever switch pass from Nic Groom.
And the picture got even better for Edinburgh when Joe Tomane was also shown yellow for a late challenge on the try-scorer as Jaco van der Walt added the extras from the tee.
But despite being reduced to 13 men, Leinster roared back and regained the ball before winning a penalty, allowing the hosts to finish the half camped on the Edinburgh five metre line.
The defending champions continued to hammer away at the Edinburgh defence and eventually found a way through as Bent powered over, with Ross Byrne adding the extras.
With the momentum on their side, Leinster continued where they left off after the restart and extended their lead when Doris crossed the whitewash and Byrne converted.
Leinster now had the game by the scruff of the neck and their bonus-point try followed soon, with Penny the man to touch down with less than ten minutes of the second half played.
Further tries from Michael Milne and Rowan Osborne, the latter after a brilliant offload from Lowe, increased Leinster’s lead before Charlie Shiel added a consolation for Edinburgh.
Man of the match
Gibson-Park kept a calm head when Leinster were under the cosh and played a key role in their sensational second-half showcase.
He also showed his never-say-die spirit to chase down the ball and dot down for the opening try.
Play of the day
With their backs against the wall, Leinster proved why they are the defending Pro14 champions when they were reduced to 13 men after Edinburgh’s opening try.
Having wrestled the ball back from the visitors, they heaped pressure on the visitors and smashed away at the Edinburgh tryline until Bent scored the decisive try just before half-time.
Tries: Gibson-Park, Bent, Doris, Penny, Milne, Osborne
Cons: R Byrne 4, H Byrne
Tries: Farndale, Shiel
Cons: Van der Walt, Hickey
Yellow cards: Michael Bent (Leinster, 28), Joe Tomane (Leinster, 31)
Edinburgh: 15 Damien Hoyland, 14 Jamie Farndale, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 George Taylor, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Nic Groom (captain), 8 Nick Haining, 7 Luke Crosbie, 6 Mesulame Kunavula, 5 Murray Douglas, 4 Jamie Hodgson, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Mike Willemse, 1 Pierre Schoeman.
Replacements: 16 Cameron Fenton, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Murray McCallum, 19 Sam Thomson, 20 Ally Miller, 21 Charlie Shiel, 22 Simon Hickey, 23 James Johnston.
Leinster: 15 Hugo Keenan, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Joe Tomane, 11 James Lowe, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Caelan Doris, 7 Scotty Penny, 6 Max Deegan, 5 Scott Fardy (captain), 4 Devin Toner, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Ronan Kelleher, 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Michael Milne, 18 Vakh Abdaladze, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Josh Murphy, 21 Rowan Osborne, 22 Harry Byrne, 23 Jimmy O’Brien.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: George Clancy (Ireland), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Sen Brickel
Dragons 14-38 Connacht
Dominance up front underpinned Connacht’s comprehensive victory over Dragons in the Pro14, their first triumph in Wales since February 2017.
Andy Friend’s side bullied the hosts with their pack to the fore, a rampant rolling maul yielding three tries and forming the backbone of their second successive bonus-point win.
Dragons started well but struggled badly in the second half. Their line-out fell to pieces and they remain without a win over an Irish province since beating Connacht two years ago.
The two sides were evenly matched in the early stages although Dragons came within a whisker of an opening score when Taine Basham tried to snipe home from five metres, coming up just short.
Sam Davies, on home debut, pulled his penalty wide after Eoghan Masterson was caught offside.
Dragons hit the front just before the half-hour mark. Morgan charged in on the angle, using Jordan Williams as a decoy and hitting the inside shoulder with intent, rumbling over from 20 metres.
Connacht pulled level seven minutes later when Gavin Thornbury gathered from a line-out and powered over the whitewash, Conor Fitzgerald adding the extras.
The visitors took advantage of a creaking Dragons line-out to take the lead, Fitzgerald’s sparkling miss pass playing Matt Healy into space who grubber kicked through and slid over.
Injury haunted the Irish province in the first half, both Tiernan O’Halloran and Healy carried off with knocks inside the first 35 minutes.
And Connacht were down to 14 moments before the interval when debutant John Porch was yellow-carded for bringing down Ashton Hewitt under a high ball.
But none of that stopped them pressing home their advantage after half-time, an eight-man shove barrelling Finlay Bealham to the try line, Fitzgerald again unerring from the tee to make it 24-7.
Connacht’s forward dominance continued throughout the second half and as they went in search of the bonus point Shane Delahunt looked to have scored but grounded the ball short of the line.
Another rolling maul saw Cillian Gallagher dot down, while replacement scrum-half Kieran Marmion ran in the fifth after sharp work on the dummy switch by Gallagher.
Connacht were reduced to 14 men after fisticuffs in the far corner and that allowed Dragons to end on a high, Jenkins offloading superbly for Basham to dive over.
Man of the Match
There were a few contenders, all in the green of Connacht. Their front row were outstanding – Tom McCartney was tigerish at the breakdown and powerful with ball in hand.
But it was Conor Fitzgerald who conducted the symphony from fly-half, kicking 11 points and pushing his pack into the right areas throughout.
Play of the Day
Sumptuous handling was in short supply at a sodden Rodney Parade.
That made Connacht’s second try all the more impressive – Fitzgerald’s raking miss pass took Owen Jenkins totally out of the game. Healy still had work to do and his grubber was perfectly judged.
For the Dragons:
Tries: Morgan, Basham
Cons: Davies 2
Tries: Thornbury, Healy, Bealham, Gallagher, Marmion
Cons: Fitzgerald 5
Yellow card: Paul Boyle (Connacht, 85)
Dragons: 15 Jordan Williams, 14 Owen Jenkins, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Ashton Hewitt, 10 Sam Davies, 9 Rhodri Williams (captain), 8 Lewis Evans, 7 Taine Basham, 6 Huw Taylor, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Joe Davies, 3 Leon Brown, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Brok Harris.
Replacements: 16 Ellis Shipp, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Max Williams, 20 Harri Keddie, 21 Tavis Knoyle, 22 Jacob Botica, 23 Jack Dixon
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 John Porch, 13 Kyle Godwin, 12 Peter Robb, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Conor Fitzgerald, 9 Caolin Blade, 8 Paul Boyle, 7 Jarrad Butler (captain), 6 Eoghan Masterson, 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Gavin Thornbury, 3 Finlay Bealham, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Paddy McAllister.
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 Ultan Dillane, 20 Cillian Gallagher, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Tom Farrell, 23 Stephen Fitzgerald.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Federico Vedovelli (Italy)
TMO: Charles Samson (Scotland)