Tag Archives: Dave Kearney

PRO12 Previews

Blues vs. Ulster @ Cardiff Arms Park

Friday 17th February, 19.05 (BBC NI)

Gavin Henson

Henson returns from international duty to start for the Blues. (c) Mauro Quercia.

Ulster go to Cardiff looking to continue their push for a play-off spot. Sitting 5th in the table, Ulster are just a point ahead of the Blues. The Welsh side do have a game in hand over Ulster, so a win for the Irish province becomes even more important. Brian McLaughlin welcomes back three Irish internationals this weekend, as Paddy Wallace, Chris Henry and Tom Court have all been released from the Irish camp for this fixture.

In total there are four personnel changes to the side that earned a bonus point win over the Dragons last time out. Wallace replaces Adam D’Arcy, Henry is in for Mike McComish, Court starts ahead of Callum Black and Nigel Brady is preferred to Andy Kyriacou at hooker. Johann Muller is sidelined with a calf injury, so Henry takes the captaincy. Elsewhere, Ian Whitten moves from the centre out to the wing, with Stefan Terblanche shifting to fullback.

Cardiff welcome back three international players of their own. Scrumhalf Lloyd Williams, centre Gavin Henson and prop Scott Andrews have all been released from Welsh duty. Dan Parks starts at outhalf following his international retirement. Recently announced Munster signing Casey Laulala is out with hamstring trouble. This is not the most formidable Blues team, and Ulster come into the fixture with confidence and momentum. They are the more settled side. Verdict: Ulster by 5-7 points.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Ben Blair, 14 Richard Mustoe, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Gavin Henson, 11 Tom James, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Xavier Rush, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 Paul Tito (capt.), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Ryan Tyrell, 1 John Yapp.
Subs: 16 T Rhys Thomas, 17 Nathan Trevett, 18 Ryan Harford, 19 Maama Molitika, 20 Martyn Williams, 21 Richie Rees, 22 Ceri Sweeney, 23 Chris Czekaj.

Ulster: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Craig Gilroy, 13 Nevin Spence, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Ian Whitten, 10 Ian Humphreys, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Robbie Diack, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 Chris Henry (capt.), 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Nigel Brady, 1 Tom Court.
Subs: 16 Andi Kyriacou, 17 Paddy McAllister, 18 Adam Macklin, 19 Tim Barker, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Simon Danielli, 23 Adam D’Arcy.

Referee: George Clancy


Leinster vs. Scarlets @ The RDS

Friday 17th February, 19.35 (TG4)

Isa Nacewa and Fergus McFadden (kicking) are both in the Leinster team. (c) Ken Bohane.

Joe Schmidt’s team includes four players who were involved in Ireland’s loss to Wales in the opening round of the Six Nations. Sean Cronin, Eoin Reddan, Fergus McFadden and Dave Kearney all return to the Leinster starting fifteen. Jack McGrath gets his second start of the season at loosehead, while Rhys Ruddock comes in at No.8. In the backline, Eoin O’Malley joins McFadden in the centre.

Scarlets’ coach Nigel Davies also received the boost of returning international players. Veteran outhalf Stephen Jones and wing Liam Williams are joined in the backline by centre Scott Williams, who made a brief appearance against Scotland last weekend. Up front, prop Rhodri Jones has been released from the Welsh camp to start at loosehead. England international Ben Morgan will surely be sprung from the Scarlets’ bench at some stage.

Leinster come into this weekend 10 points clear of the 2nd-placed Ospreys. With the Welsh region at home to Aironi tonight, they will expect a bonus point win and hope to close that gap. However, Leinster are on an 11 game winning-streak and have named a strong side for this clash with the Scarlets. They should maintain their dominance of the PRO12 with another win. Verdict: Leinster bonus point win.

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 David Kearney, 13 Eoin O’Malley, 12 Fergus McFadden, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin (capt.), 5 Devin Toner, 4 Damian Browne, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath.
Subs: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Nathan White, 19 Leo Auva’a, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Brendan Macken.

Scarlets: 15 Dan Newton, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Gareth Maule (capt.), 12 Scott Williams, 11 Andy Fenby, 10 Stephen Jones, 1 Rhodri Jones, 2 Emyr Phillips, 3 Deacon Manu, 4 Sione Timani, 5 Dominic Day, 6 Josh Turnbull, 7 Johnathan Edwards, 8 Kieran Murphy.
Subs: 16 Craig Hawkins, 17 Phil John, 18 Peter Edwards, 19 Damian Welch, 20 Ben Morgan, 21 Liam Davies, 22 Adam Warren, 23 Viliame Iongi.

Referee: Nigel Owens


Treviso vs. Munster @ Stadio di Monigo

Saturday 18th February, 15.15 (RTE2)

BJ Botha has fine game in the loose copy

Munster's last game was the 51-36 win over the Saints. Botha, O'Mahony and Horan all return for this one. (c) Ivan O'Riordan.

Munster’s match with Aironi last weekend was called off due to the snowy conditions in Italy, but this one will be completely unaffected. Without a game, Munster dropped to 4th in the league. Still, they are only one point behind the Warriors in 3rd and have a game in hand. Munster will be hoping for a favour from Connacht in their clash with the Warriors. Tony McGahan will be eager to keep the pressure on the Ospreys, sitting in 2nd. A home semi-final in the play-offs is a realistic expectation for Munster.

McGahan has included returning Ireland squad members Ronan O’Gara, Donnacha Ryan and Peter O’Mahony in his side for this tie with Treviso. The other big news is that Felix Jones is named in the match day squad for the first time this season. He’s joined there by Tommy O’Donnell, also just back from injury. Mick O’Driscoll captains the side from second-row while Ian Keatley’s ankle injury means he is ruled out.

Treviso have made wholesale changes to the side beaten by Leinster last weekend. Fabio Semenzato and Willem de Waal form a new half-back partnership, while Tommaso Iannone comes in on the wing. There’s a new second-row of Corniel Van Zyl and Antonio Pavanello, while Paul Derbyshire is chosen at blindside. Munster lost 19-8 here last year so will certainly not be complacent. Having not played in just under a month, expect some rustiness from Munster. Verdict: Munster win by 10 points.

Benetton Treviso: 15 Ludovico Nitoglia, 14 Tommaso Iannone, 13 Ezio Galon, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Brendan Williams, 10 Willem De Waal, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Marco Filippucci, 7 Benjamin Vermaak, 6 Paul Derbyshire, 5 Corniel Van Zyl, 4 Antonio Pavanello (cap.), 3 Pedro Di Santo, 2 Franco Sbaraglini, 1 Matteo Muccignat.
Subs: 16 Enrico Ceccato, 17 Augusto Allori, 18 Ignacio Fernandez Rouyet, 19 Valerio Bernabò, 20 Gonzalo Padrò, 21 Gonzalo Garcia, 22 Edoardo Gori, 23 Alberto Di Bernardo.

Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Johne Murphy, 13 Danny Barnes, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ronan O’Gara, 9 Tomas O’Leary, 1 Wian du Preez, 2 Damien Varley, 3 BJ Botha, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 5 Mick O’Driscoll (capt.), 6 Dave O’Callaghan, 7 Peter O’Mahony, 8 James Coughlan.                                                                                                            Subs: 16 Denis Fogarty, 17 Marcus Horan, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Tommy O’Donnell, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Scott Deasy, 23 Felix Jones.

Referee: Neil Hennessey


Connacht vs. Warriors @ The Sportsground

Saturday 18th February, 17.30 (TG4)

Niall O'Connor penalty kick

Niall O'Connor continues at outhalf. (c) Sum_of_Marc.

Connacht’s losing bonus point against the Blues last weekend lifted them to 10th in the table, just a single point ahead of 11th-placed Newport-Gwent Dragons. As mentioned above, the Warriors come into this game looking to consolidate 3rd position, as well as hoping to close the gap on the Ospreys. Eric Elwood’s side haven’t won in the PRO12 since the 23rd of September, but with confidence boosted by the recent win over Harlequins, Connacht believe they can beat a weakened Warriors side.

Elwood makes just two changes to the team from last weekend’s defeat. Ray Ofisa is out with a knee injury so Eoghan Grace comes in at openside. Since joining from Exeter last summer, Grace has had limited opportunities, missing plenty of the season through injury. He will be out to prove himself capable at this level. The other change sees Henry Fa’afili come into the centre in place of Dave McSharry, with Eoin Griffin back on the bench.

Glasgow haven’t won in Connacht since 2007. Looking to reverse that trend, coach Sean Lineen has made just one change to the team that beat the Scarlets 19-9 last weekend, Pat MacArthur replacing Dougie Hall at hooker. Duncan Weir is on the bench after being an unused substitute in Scotland’s loss to Wales last Sunday. Scotland international Graeme Morrison captains the side from midfield. Glasgow will consider this a good chance to shake off their Galway hoodoo, but similarly, Connacht will see it as another chance to pick off a team missing their international players. Verdict: Connacht by 1-3 points.

Connacht:15 Gavin Duffy (capt.), 14 Fetu’u Vainikolo, 13 Kyle Tonetti, 12 Henry Fa’afili, 11 Tiernan O’Halloran, 10 Niall O’Connor, 9 Paul O’Donohoe, 8 George Naoupu, 7 Eoghan Grace, 6 John Muldoon, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Ronan Loughney, 2 Adrian Flavin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Subs: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Stewart Maguire, 19 Dave Gannon, 20 Mick Kearney, 21 Dave Moore, 22 Matthew Jarvis, 23 Eoin Griffin.

Glasgow: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Troy Nathan, 12 Graeme Morrison (capt.), 11 David Lemi, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Tom Ryder, 4 Rob Verbakel, 3 Jon Welsh, 2 Pat MacArthur, 1 Ryan Grant.
Subs: 16 Finlay Gillies, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 George Hunter, 19 Nick Campbell, 20 Duncan Weir, 21 Alex Dunbar, 22 Colin Shaw, 23 Calum Forrester.

Referee: Peter Allan


Photos courtesy:  Ken BohaneMauro Quercia, Ivan O’Riordan, Sum_of_Marc.

Leinster Cut Loose Against Treviso

Match Report

Leinster 42-8 Treviso

Thursday 9th February @ The RDS


Fullback Isa Nacewa was Man of The Match after a 20-point haul. (c) Ken Bohane.

Four tries in the last twenty minutes gave Leinster a comfortable win over Treviso at the RDS. Joe Schmidt’s side now lead the PRO12 by 14 points, although they have played a game more than the rest of the league. Isa Nacewa put in a Man of the Match performance as he showed his class in attack and defence. Ian Madigan at outhalf put in yet another promising display, while Fionn Carr and Shane Jennings showed Ireland coach Declan Kidney what he is missing.

In wet conditions, Leinster were made to work hard in the first-half. Nacewa opened the scoring from the tee after a superb kick chase by himself and Brendan Macken resulted in a turnover penalty. Treviso leveled the score when outhalf Alberto Di Bernardo took advantage of Leinster’s poor line speed to scuff over a drop goal.

It took twenty minutes for Leinster to get into their attacking stride but they did so to great effect as Madigan touched down. Carr made a strong carry from Isaac Boss’ pass and then Leo Auva’a supplied Madigan. The 22-year-old outhalf showed good strength to fend off Alberto Chillon as he broke through the Treviso defence for the first try of the game.

Side entry at a ruck by the Italians allowed Nacewa to knock over another penalty, giving Leinster an 11-3 half-time lead. Treviso came out from the break extremely fired up and took the game to Leinster for the opening 15 minutes of the half. Another Nacewa penalty gave Leinster respite but Treviso came again. After switching down the blindside, replacement prop Pedro di Santo took advantage of a bad defensive decision by Nathan White to put front-row partner Matteo Muccignat over. Di Bernardo missed with the conversion.


Fionn Carr was a stand-out performer on the wing. (c) Ken Bohane.

Realising they had a game on their hands, Leinster reacted the way they know best, through all-out attack. A searing break from Carr resulted in Richardt Strauss bashing over from a few metres out. Nacewa converted that try then scored the next one himself. Switching swiftly to the blindside, the Fijian released substitute Dave Kearney down the left-hand touchline and took the winger’s return pass to cross the whitewash. The fullback was on target once again with the conversion.

The Leinster scoring continued as Treviso lost all hope. Nacewa was at the centre of the next try as he pierced through the Italians’ defence from a floated Madigan pass. The fullback drew the last defender and popped inside to replacement scrumhalf John Cooney, only on the pitch a minute. Nacewa added the extras from under the posts.

With the Leinster bench emptied by now, several of the youngsters showed up well in a very open final ten minutes. Some lovely touches from Noel Reid in the centre put Madigan in position to feed Carr with a cross-kick. The pacy winger was left one-on-one with second-row Francesco Minto and there was only ever going to be one outcome. Carr stepped the desperate tackle and scored in the left-hand corner. A well-struck Madigan conversion topped off an accomplished Leinster display.

With both sides missing their international players, this game had the potential to be a damp squib. Leinster’s exciting attacking play ensured that a satisfied RDS crowd and a satisfied Joe Schmidt. His attention now turns to the visit of the Scarlets in a week’s time. Schmidt will be encouraged by what he saw from young players like Collie O’Shea and Brendan Macken. The strength in depth of this Leinster squad is evidently increasing.

Leinster: 15. Isa Nacewa (Carr, 75), 14. Darren Hudson, 13. Brendan Macken, 12. Colm O’Shea (Reid, 67), 11. Fionn Carr (Kearney, 64), 10. Ian Madigan, 9. Isaac Boss (Cooney, 69), 8. Leo Auva’a (Ruddock, 56), 7. Shane Jennings, 6. Kevin McLaughlin (capt.), 5. Devin Toner, 4. Damian Browne (Flanagan, 64), 3. Nathan White (Hagan, 56), 2. Richardt Strauss (Sexton, 69), 1. Heinke van der Merwe (McGrath, 64).                                                                                                            Subs: 16. Tom Sexton, 17. Jack McGrath, 18. Jamie Hagan, 19. Mark Flanagan, 20. Rhys Ruddock, 21. John Cooney, 22. Noel Reid.


Photos courtesy: Ken Bohane.


Here’s the highlights of the game:

Final Ireland Training Squad Announced

Ireland take on Wales at the Aviva on Sunday. (c) Ross Wynne.

Declan Kidney and his management team today announced a 32-man squad for the final week of training before Sunday’s Six Nations opener with Wales at the Aviva. Kidney will pick his match day 22 for Sunday from this extended training squad. 23 of last week’s 24-man senior training squad have been retained, with only James Coughlan dropping out.

Dan Tuohy, Simon Zebo, David Kearney, Eoin O’Malley, Brett Wilkinson, Chris Henry, Denis Hurley and Rhys Ruddock have all been promoted from the Wolfhounds squad. Munster’s Peter O’Mahony is the only of last week’s ‘additional players’ included this week.

Here’s a look at the latest squad:

Ireland Training Squad

Forwards (17): Rory Best, Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Mike Ross, Tom Court, Brett Wilkinson, Paul O’Connell (capt.), Donncha O’Callaghan, Donnacha Ryan, Dan Tuohy, Stephen Ferris, Peter O’Mahony, Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien, Chris Henry, Jamie Heaslip, Rhys Ruddock.

Backs (15): Conor Murray, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Ronan O’Gara, Gordon D’Arcy, Paddy Wallace, Fergus McFadden, Eoin O’Malley, Keith Earls, Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble, David Kearney, Simon Zebo, Rob Kearney, Denis Hurley.

Kidney will hope Sean O'Brien is at his destructive best this weekend. (c) Ross Wynne.

After the initial burst of criticism aimed at Kidney’s conservatism, this squad actually has a relatively fresh look to it. While it would still be a surprise to see someone like Zebo or O’Mahony actually make the match day squad, it’s encouraging that Kidney has followed through on his assertion that any players who performed well for the Wolfhounds would be considered for the senior side.

If Kidney had originally named this selection as his Six Nations squad, there would have most likely been a positive reaction. That said, there are certainly still areas of the squad that some will disagree with. The inclusion of Donncha O’Callaghan over Mike McCarthy would appear not to be based on form. James Coughlan’s absence might also provoke some dissent.

However, the time for discussions on who should have been included in the squad is now over. This is the pool of players from which Kidney will (or most likely already has) select his match day 22 for Sunday. That announcement will come at lunchtime on Wednesday. Whatever way Kidney goes, it’s going to be a fascinating match with Wales. The anticipation is rapidly building.


Photos courtesy:  Ross Wynne.

Four on Form

RaboDirect PRO12 Round 10 Matches

With all four of the Irish provinces in action last weekend, we once again look at four Irish players who stood out in their provinces’ matches. Leinster had a big win over Cardiff, Ulster beat the Scarlets, Connacht narrowly lost at home to Treviso and Munster were beaten by the Ospreys. So who are this week’s Four on Form?

Stephen Ferris

Ferris featured in Four on Form three weeks ago after Ulster’s Heineken Cup win over Clermont and the world-class blindside is back again this week after his performance against the Scarlets last Friday night. Ferris was his usual self, making massive ground for his side and putting in his usual amounts of big hits. His two tries were the difference for Ulster as they won 24-17.

Ferris’ first try was a simple enough finish after Paul Marshall had done all the hard work. Still, the try did showcase Ferris’ pace as he beat the covering defender on the outside. It’s nigh on impossible to stop Ferris from five metres out with the amount of space he had. The Scarlets defence, with one man in the bin, had no chance.

Ferris’ pace was again on display for his superb second try. From a lineout on the left-hand side, Ian Humphreys skipped to Darren Cave who hit Ferris in the wide right-hand channel. Ferris took the ball just as he crossed the Scarlets ten metre line. Rhodri Williams looked to have Ferris covered but the young replacement made the mistake of going in high on Ferris. The Irish international slammed Williams into the ground with a huge fend, then stepped the shameful covering tackle of Viliame Iongi.

Yet another top-quality display from Ferris who is becoming more and more indispensable to this Ulster side. They will expect another big game from him this Friday in the Heineken Cup when they entertain Aironi at Ravenhill.

Check out both of Ferris’ tries over in our RaboDirect Round-Up from last weekend.

David Kearney

Kearney makes a break against Glasgow earlier in the season. Photo via M+MD

Kearney has impressed for Leinster every time he has been given an opportunity by Joe Schmidt this season. In last weekend’s 52-9 win over Cardiff Kearney went over for two tries to top off an accomplished and hugely promising performance. And while Kearney clearly has the potential to improve, it is also clear that he is already playing at a high enough level to be in competition for Leinster’s Heineken Cup squad.

In Leinster’s win over the Blues on Friday night, Kearney was easily the best winger on the pitch. He completely outshone the Welsh international wing Tom James as well as his teammate Fionn Carr. Kearney has played a good deal of his rugby at full-back and like his older brother, he is very comfortable under any ball kicked his way. Kearney is not afraid to come off his wing in search of the ball either. With these attributes allied to his pace and finishing ability, Kearney is a dangerous player.

His two tries on Friday night displayed some of Kearney’s qualities. The first came as he touched down from a Jonathan Sexton dink over the Cardiff defence, showing good awareness to get up flat for the kick. The second showcased his work-rate, pace and nose for the tryline. The Irish Wolfhounds international did brilliantly to pick from the tackled Isa Nacewa and break two tackles to dive over, especially considering the lung-busting run he had made in support of Sean Cronin’s initial break.

Kearney will now hope he can break into Leinster’s match-day squad for the Heineken Cup and pick up where he left off. Intermittent appearances in the PRO12 may not be enough for a player of Kearney’s undoubted talent. Leinster have a lot of competition in their squad for the two wing positions and Kearney will have to continue to seize every chance he gets.

You can see Kearney’s tries in the RaboDirect Round-Up too.

Paul Marshall

When Ruan Pienaar injured his hamstring against the Scarlets back on the 29th of October, Ulster fans could be forgiven for thinking that their side would be seriously weakened until the South African scrumhalf returned from injury. However, while Brian McLaughlin’s side have missed the World Cup winner’s experience, the form of his replacement Paul Marshall has heavily softened that blow.

Marshall put in another energetic display for Ulster as they beat the Scarlets on Friday. The 26-year-old was a live-wire all night for Ulster and his service was as crisp as usual. Marshall also showcased his sniping ability as he made several clean breaks around the fringes of rucks. Despite weighing in at only 79kg, Marshall never shirks his defensive responsibilities either.

His break for the first Stephen Ferris try was an obvious highlight of the entire match. Marshall is always on the look-out for holes at the edges of rucks and after spotting one down the Scarlets’ blindside he didn’t need to be asked twice. His chip over the last defender was sublime and he was unlucky to be caught from behind. The Ulster Academy graduate then showed great presence of mind to throw the ball back towards his team-mates.

With Pienaar now back from that injury, Marshall was replaced by the South African with just under a quarter of the match remaining. With Aironi visiting Ravenhill on Friday night, it would be cruel for Marshall to be dropped. However, it would be madness for McLaughlin to leave the star that is Pienaar on the bench for such an important match. Pienaar has experience at outhalf and it might be worth McLaughlin’s while considering replacing the inconsistent Ian Humphreys rather than dropping the in-form Marshall.

David McSharry

While Connacht have been on a run of defeats that now stands at eight-in-a-row, their 21-year-old centre McSharry has put in string of strong performances which bely his lack of experience. The Dublin-born McSharry joined Connacht from the Leinster Academy at the start of this season and the move has paid off handsomely as the Irish underage international has become one of Connacht’s most important players.

The 94kg centre was part of the Ireland U20 World Cup squad which travelled to Argentina in 2010, alongside his current team-mate Eoin Griffin. Last season, McSharry was playing for UCD in the Ulster Bank League where he did enough to convince Eric Elwood that he could step up a level. Elwood’s punt on McSharry has been fully rewarded with a series of confident, physical performances leading up to McSharry being named Man of the Match last Friday as Connacht lost at home to Treviso.

McSharry went over for his first try for Connacht in that game, showing his strength to burst through several defenders. The centre is one of Connacht’s only potent threats in a backline that has failed to ignite so far this season. In defense McSharry is already a leader for Connacht, always physical in the tackle and hard-working too. Even against the likes of Toulouse in the Heineken Cup, McSharry’s defensive efforts have stood out.

It’s a bad time for Connacht rugby fans right now. With the aforementioned run of defeats leading into a difficult-looking double header with Gloucester in the Heineken Cup, there are not too many positives for them to grasp at. McSharry is certainly one of them and news this week that he and Eoin Griffin have extended their contracts until 2014 will be a big boost for the western province.

Photos courtesy: Jukka Zitting, M+MD

RaboDirect Round-Up

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.