Last weekend saw the four Irish provinces in PRO12 action, with a mixed bag of results. We catch up on the four matches in our RaboDirect Round-Up.
Ulster 24-17 Scarlets
Friday 2nd December @ Ravenhill
Ulster ended their recent run of poor form with a win over the Scarlets at Ravenhill on Friday night. Their increasingly important talisman Stephen Ferris barged over for two tries. Scrumhalf Paul Marshall put in a lively performance while Ian Humphreys kicked 14 points.
Ulster endured a fairly disastrous opening quarter as they conceded two tries to the Welsh side. First, Pedrie Wannenburg gifted Sean Lamont an intercept try as he threw a shocking pass inside Ulster’s own 22. Then Scarlets debutant Vilami Iongi touched down after the Scarlets switched back down the blindside and caught Ulster off guard. Fortunately for Brian McLaughlin’s side, Stephen Jones missed both conversion attempts.
Humphreys got Ulster on the scoreboard with a penalty before the Scarlets’ young fullback Daniel Evans was yellow carded. Ulster made that advantage count as Ferris finished after fantastic play by Marshall. Humphreys missed the conversion to leave Ulster trailing 10-8 at half-time.
Humphreys added two more straightforward penalties after the break to put Ulster into the lead for the first time. He then extended that lead to 17-10 with another penalty from distance. With just over fifteen minutes left Ferris all but confirmed the win for Ulster after a blistering run down the right-hand side ended with a try. Humphreys converted to give Ulster a comfortable lead.
The Scarlets did give Ulster a nervy last few minutes after Kieran Murphy went over and Stephen Jones converted. But with only four minutes left, Ulster were strong enough to end the match in possession in the Scarlets half. This win sees Ulster stay in eighth in the league but they are now only seven points off the play-off places. More importantly, it will boost their confidence ahead of Friday’s Heineken Cup fixture, when they will need to aim for a bonus point win against Aironi at Ravenhill.
Here’s the two Stephen Ferris tries:
Connacht 13-15 Treviso
Friday 2nd November @ The Sportsground
Connacht’s run of defeats now stands at eight after Treviso left the Sportsground with four points on Friday night. With a Heineken Cup double-header against Gloucester up next for Eric Elwood’s side, the worry will be that the run of losses could extend into double figures. Connacht’s poor start to this match left them with a lot of ground to make up and they just didn’t have the quality to reel the Italian side in.
Treviso were first off the mark as Willem de Waal kicked an 11th minute penalty. Australian winger Brendan William then went over for a try, converted by de Waal. Treviso’s lead was extended even further as Tommaso Iannone won the chase to a loose ball to touch down. De Waal missed the conversion but the Italian side now had a 15-0 lead.
Connacht did respond after Italian international Fabio Semenzato was sent to the bin. Promising centre David McSharry barged his way through several defenders for his first try for the province. Niall O’Connor converted to bring Connacht back into the game. But the home team couldn’t come up with the try they needed. O’Connor struck two more penalties but that wasn’t enough to secure an elusive win for Connact.
Elwood’s team sit 10th in the table after this loss, with only the Newport Gwent Dragons and Aironi behind them. They are going to need something special to end this run in the coming weeks. All they can do is continue to work hard and hope that some reward will come. Gloucester visit the Sportsground on Saturday and that’s where the focus is now.
Here’s the highlights from the Connacht game. Apologies for the Italian commentary!
Leinster 52-9 Cardiff Blues
Friday 2nd December @ The RDS
You can read all about Leinster’s magnificent performance in our match report here. Following this win, Leinster are the outright leaders of the PRO12, one point ahead of the Ospreys. Joe Schmidt’s men visit Bath on Sunday in confident mood. It is hard to see Bath ending Leinster’s nine-match unbeaten run.
Here’s the highlights of the Leinster match:
Ospreys 19-13 Munster
Saturday 3rd December @ Liberty Stadium
Munster lost out to a heavily-depleted but plucky Ospreys side on Saturday evening. Read our full-length match report here. Munster missed the chance to overtake the Ospreys with this loss. Tony McGahan’s side remain in third position in the PRO12 table. They will need to improve for the Heineken Cup clash with the Scarlets in Llanelli on Saturday. The Scarlets welcome back their international players and look to continue their impressive HC form. It’s a massive match and the loss of Doug Howlett is a big blow for Munster.