Ulster 8-16 Leinster
Fri 20th April @ Ravenhill
Ulster’s play-off hopes look to be almost certainly over after losing to a powerful Leinster side in Ravenhill on Friday night. While the northern province could still mathematically claim 4th spot with an unlikely bonus point victory over Munster in two weeks’ time, a win the same weekend for either the Warriors or the Scarlets would deny Ulster. Even more worrying was the sight of Pedrie Wannenburg, Chris Henry and Paddy Wallace all leaving the pitch injured during Friday night’s loss.
Henry and Wannenburg’s withdrawals looked to be precautionary, but Wallace looked dazed, if not concussed, leaving the field. Fingers will be crossed across the country that those three recover for next Saturday’s Heineken Cup semi-final against Edinburgh. Meanwhile, Leinster were impressive without ever cutting loose. Kevin McLaughlin crashed over after some poor Ulster defence and Jonny Sexton added 11 points, including a smart drop goal. This win confirms top spot for Leinster with a game away to the Dragons remaining.
Here’s the highlights from Ravenhill:
Connacht 19-16 Aironi
Sat 21st April @ The Sportsground
Unfortunately, this game was not televised but it sounded like there was great excitement at the Sportsground. This win makes it 3-in-a-row in the PRO12 for Connacht, their best league run since 2004. Aironi, in their last ever away fixture, raced into a 16-3 half-time lead but Connacht gradually hauled themselves back with Rodney Ah You’s 74th-minute try, converted by Miah Nikora, leveling the game. The stage was set for replacement fullback Matt Jarvis to make himself the hero with a long-distance penalty, the final act of the game.
In case you missed it, I wrote a piece on Friday about the progress being made at Connacht. Check it out here. Next weekend, they travel to the Warriors, for whom a win would secure play-off status. A victory for Connacht would see them equal their record for most league wins in a season, set at 8 in 2004. If they were to deny the Warriors a losing bonus point, it would give Ulster a slim, slim chance of sneaking into the play-offs.
Here’s a video of Jarvis’ winning kick. Great scenes of celebration:
Scarlets 20-20 Munster
Sat 21st April @ Parc y Scarlets
At the end, Munster were clinging on as the Scarlets launched a desperate effort to find a winning score. A draw was a fair result after a game in which neither side managed to take control. The hosts opened the scoring through Sean Lamont’s superb team try but Munster responded swiftly, with Donnacha Ryan strolling through Rhys Preistland’s uninterested tackle to touch down. Simon Zebo was next over after taking Keatley’s intelligent inside pass and using his pace to finish.
Aaron Shingler’s second half score put the Scarlets right back in it, and Priestland’s 70th-minute penalty drew them level. The Scarlets looked the more likely winners in a wildly open last 5 minutes but the visitors held on. The draw means that Munster can’t overtake the 2nd-placed Ospreys for a home play-off. They are now guaranteed an away semi-final though, most likely against the Ospreys. Munster finish the regular season with the chance for revenge over Ulster in two weekend’s time.
Here’s a look at the PRO12 table with just one round of fixtures left before the play-offs: