RaboDirect Round-Up

Ulster 33-17 Munster

Friday 30th December @ Ravenhill

Tony McGahan won't have been pleased with Munster's performance. (c) Ivan O'Riordan.

Ulster managed to secure a try-scoring bonus point in  their comfortable win over a disappointing Munster on Friday night. You can read a full match report here.

Stefan Terblanche, John Afoa, Ian Humphreys and Ruan Pienaar were the try-scorers for Ulster. Humphreys kicked 10 points and Pienaar added a penalty. For Munster, 21-year-old wing Luke O’Dea and Johne Murphy scored tries. Ian Keatley added two penalties and a conversion.

This loss means Munster drop to 4th in the league. Worryingly, the Cardiff Blues in 5th have a game in hand over Munster and are only 3 points behind. Tony McGahan’s  men are back in Thomond Park next Saturday where they’re up against a Treviso side who have realistic playoff hopes.

Ulster’s 5 points don’t see them rise from 8th position but it does bring them closer to the playoff places. They’re now only 7 points behind Munster and if they can get a good run together then they’ll be in the shake-up come the tail-end of the season. Next up for them is a trip to Murrayfield on Friday to take on Edinburgh, a place behind them in the league. It’s the kind of match Ulster need to be winning if they want to compete for a playoff spot.

Here’s the four Ulster tries from the match on Friday night:

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You can watch the full Ulster vs. Munster match over on the RTE Player by clicking this link.

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Connacht 13-15 Leinster

Sunday 1st January @ The Sportsground

Reynecke and O'Halloran, pictured tackling Munster's Forgarty last weekend, were the Connacht try-scorers. (c) Ivan O'Riordan.

Connacht came within inches of beating Leinster as Mia Nikora’s last-gasp drop goal dropped just under the bar. Referee John Lacey had to consult the TMO to confirm that the ball hadn’t snuck over. It was a painful end to a brave Connacht effort in which they scored two tries to Leinster’s none. Joe Schmidt’s team didn’t hit the form of previous weeks but they will be relieved to have come away with the win.

Man of the Match Isa Nacewa was key as he kicked all 15 of Leinster’s points in a flawless display off the tee. Connacht will rue the fact that they don’t have as reliable a place-kicker. Matthew Jarvis missed two first-half penalties and Nikora was off target with a conversion and the drop-goal effort. Ethienne Reynecke and Tiernan O’Halloran were the try-scorers for Connacht. Both tries came with Leinster down to 14 men following the sin-binnings of, first, Leo Cullen and then Isaac Boss.

Leinster remain in a comfortable 6 point lead at the top of the PRO12 after this win. They’re away to the Blues on Saturday in what could be a tricky fixture. As mentioned above, the Blues are breathing down Munster’s necks for a playoff berth and they will be targeting a win on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Connacht’s 12th defeat in a row means they remain rooted in the bottom three of the table. Fortunately for them, the Dragons and Aironi are in similarly poor form. The Dragons do have a game in hand over Connacht and a win would mean the Dragons drawing level on points with Eric Elwood’s team. Connacht travel to Aironi on Saturday and this has to be the game that ends their losing streak. The Italians have won only 2 of their 16 matches in all competitions this season. Admittedly, Aironi will be thinking the same thing about Connacht, who’ve won 3 in 16.

Here’s the highlights from the Connacht vs. Leinster match:

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This is how the PRO12 table shapes up after the weekend’s action:

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Photos courtesy:  Ivan O’Riordan.

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