We briefly look at how the four Irish provinces got on in last weekend’s RaboDirect PRO12 action…
Glasgow 17 -9 Ulster
Friday 25th November @ Firhill
Ulster followed up last weekend’s Heineken Cup defeat to Leicester with another away loss in Glasgow. Similarly to the Leicester match, the opening half saw Ulster enjoy good territory without capitalising on it. With only one try in their last three matches, this Ulster squad look short on genuine firepower at the moment. Glasgow’s Duncan Weir opened the scoring with a penalty to which Ian Humphreys replied soon after with a three pointer of his own. Weir kicked two further penalties before Humphreys missed a sitter to leave the Warriors with a 9-3 half-time lead.
Humphreys made up for that miss soon after the restart as he kicked a penalty for Ulster. 10 minutes later, Humphreys tied the game at 9-9 with another penalty. However, the outhalf was wide with his next two efforts at goal and Ulster were left rueing those misses as ex-Connacht back Troy Nathan went over for a try after good play between himself and winger David Lemi. Weir missed the conversion but wrapped the game up for Glasgow with a drop goal in the last minute.
This defeat leaves Ulster sitting 8th in the league. They now lie 9 points adrift of the play-off places. Brian McLaughlin and his coaching team must work on how Ulster convert territory and try-scoring chances into scores as this has let them down in their last three matches, even as they beat Clermont 16-11. Next up is the Scarlets at Ravenhill on Friday night. The Welsh side are flying at the moment and Ulster will need to improve if they are to get their PRO12 campaign back on track.
Treviso 20-30 Leinster
Saturday 26th November @ Stadio di Monigo
Leinster did just about enough to beat Treviso in Italy on Saturday. Fergus McFadden took over the kicking duties and knocked over 15 of Leinster’s points. Leo Auva’a, Fionn Carr and Eoin O’Malley scored the tries in a match where a determined Treviso never let Leinster pull away. The Italians will be furious with themselves about the opening ten minutes which left them playing catch up for the rest of the match. Leinster will also be thankful for Tobias Botes’ three missed kicks in the second half.
No. 8 Auva’a crossed the tryline within 30 seconds of the kickoff as he took outhalf Ian Madigan’s inside pass and powered through the feeble Treviso defence. The covering Brendan Williams didn’t even attempt a try-saving tackle as Auva’a strolled over untouched. McFadden added the easy conversion. Botes kicked a penalty for Treviso soon after but then Leinster struck again. Madigan showed good vision with a skip pass for O’Malley to make the outside break. The centre drew in the covering defence and hit Carr on his inside shoulder for the winger to score. Again, McFadden converted. 14-3 to Leinster after only 8 minutes.
However, Treviso gradually grew into the game and three Botes’ penalties, with one in reply from McFadden, left the score at 17-12 in Leinster’s favour at the interval. Botes hit another penalty after half-time but McFadden again replied. By now Treviso were troubling the Leinster defence and the Italians levelled the game in the 50th minute. A good scrum platform allowed replacement No.8 Manoa Vosawai to power through Gordon D’Arcy from five metres out. Botes inexplicably missed the conversion from just to the right of the posts.
McFadden put Leinster back in front 3 minutes later after Treviso were penalised for not rolling away. Then O’Malley came up with some magic to all but end the Italians’ hopes when he burst through on a good line from Madigan’s pass. McFadden converted from under the posts. Treviso failed to muster the score that would grab them a losing bonus point.
Leinster stay 2nd in the league with this win, still level on 30 points with the Ospreys above them, but trailing on points difference. The Cardiff Blues come to the RDS on Friday night. The Welsh side are sitting in 5th, a point behind Glasgow but with a game in hand. They will be looking for a win to catapult themselves into the playoff places.
Highlights of Leinster vs. Treviso are here.
Connacht 6-17 Ospreys
Saturday 26th November @ The Sportsground
Connacht slumped to their seventh loss in a row on Saturday as the Ospreys secured the four points in a poor match. The difficult conditions in Galway made it difficult for both sides as Eric Elwood’s men failed to end their losing streak. Matthew Morgan followed his heroics against Treviso in the Heineken Cup with the important contribution of 12 points for the Ospreys in this match. Connacht did threaten the Ospreys tryline but, even with Ian Gough in the bin, they failed to convert their chances and that cost them dearly here.
Mia Nikora gave Connacht the lead 15 minutes in with a successful penalty. Morgan soon equalised for the Ospreys. The 19-year-old outhalf then went over for a try half an hour into the game. Scrumhalf Rhys Webb offloaded to Morgan who stepped Connacht captain Gavin Duffy to go in under the posts. Morgan converted his own try. Nikora hit back for Connacht with a penalty to leave the score 10-6 at half-time.
Ospreys second-row Gough was binned early in the second half but still Connacht failed to come up with the try that their dominance suggested was coming. Despite their high work-rate and determination, Elwood’s side made too many mistakes in possession. Gough returned without Connacht having got a single score. With the Ospreys scrum getting on top, Richard Fussell created the opening for substitute Sonny Parker to extend their lead. Morgan converted the try from straight in front of the uprights. With twenty minutes still left on the clock, Connacht failed to ignite any sort of comeback and the Ospreys saw out their 17-6 win.
Connacht remain in 9th place after this loss but they haven’t won a match since the 23rd of September. They host Treviso next Friday and that is a must-win game for them. Treviso are two places above Connacht in the table, four points ahead, so it is imperative that the western province target a win to end this losing streak.
Munster 34-17 Edinburgh
Saturday 26th November @ Thomond Park
You can read about Munster’s impressive win over Edinburgh in the match report here.
Munster are 3rd in the table after this win, two points behind the Ospreys and Leinster. They travel to Wales next Saturday to take on the Ospreys in what should be good quality top of the table clash.
Photos courtesy: M+MD, boocal, Stuart Crawford