Ulster in stunning top-of-the-table win
Ulster got back into the winning mood after producing a stunning five-try display to run rampant in the Pro12 competition.
Ulster got back into the winning mood after producing a stunning five-try display to run rampant in the Pro12 and down formerly second-placed Scarlets 47-15 at Ravenhill on Friday.
Tries from South African Robbie Diack, powerhouse No.8 Nick Williams, Andrew Trimble, Neil McComb and a penalty try, as well as Springbok Ruan Pienaar's 16 points from the boot led the league leaders to a thoroughly deserved bonus-point win.
* In other Friday action Glasgow Warriors went second in the Pro12 after capitalising on 14-man Benetton Treviso to run in five tries at Scotstoun and chalk up a 41-7 victory.
* Dan Biggar notched all the points as Ospreys survived a considerable scare to down Zebre by the narrowest of margins and claim a 16-15 victory at the Liberty Stadium.
* It was the ever reliable Jonny Sexton who guided Leinster to a 31-16 victory over Edinburgh at Murrayfield.
We look at all Friday's drama!
Ospreys 16-15 Zebre
Dan Biggar notched all the points as Ospreys survived a considerable scare to down Zebre by the narrowest of margins and claim a 16-15 Pro12 victory at the Liberty Stadium.
Ospreys, captained for the first time by prop Adam Jones, trailed 8-6 at half-time and while a Biggar penalty and his own converted try gave them what appeared to be a decisive lead, Zebre, still without a win in the Pro12, hit back immediately.
Tito Tebaldi's try, to add to the score by the scrum-half he replaced, Alberto Chillon, gave the basement boys hope but try as they might, they could not edge back in front and Ospreys escaped with the four points.
Ospreys didn't have the bests of starts, even before kick off they were dealt a blow when Andrew Bishop was ruled out, meaning Jonathan Spratt was thrown into the starting XV.
And Zebre capitalised on the Ospreys' sluggish start, drawing first blood on 12 minutes when the hosts were penalised for not rolling away - visiting scrum-half Alberto Chillon stepping up to kick the three points.
That breathed some life into the Ospreys but after a rare break through the Zebre defence, Rhys Webb lost his footing and the chance was gone.
Dan Biggar, fresh from booting Ospreys to a commanding victory over Scarlets last time out, drew his side level on 22 minutes however after Zebre were penalised for not rolling away and he made no mistake from 45 metres.
Zebre were undeterred however and the Ospreys try-line was beckoning when Ryan Jones intercepted but that only handed the defending Pro12 champions a stay of execution.
On 28 minutes a fine push from the Zebre forwards got Chillon over the line to restore the bottom club's lead, although he could not add the extras and Biggar trimmed the gap to just two after some strong forward play from the Ospreys.
Desperate to take the lead before half-time, Ospreys raised their game and began to knock on the Zebre door, prompting visiting No.8 Dries van Schalkwyk to come in at the side and receive a yellow card for his troubles on 39 minutes.
But as the Ospreys forwards attempted to force their way over, Joe Bearman was held up over the line and as a result, Zebre took an 8-6 lead into the break.
Despite their lead, Zebre had struggled in the scrum in the first half and took the drastic action of changing their whole front row, bringing on Carlo Festuccia, Carlo Fazzari and Luciano Liebson.
But in the first scrum of the second half, the Ospreys earned another penalty, only for Biggar to miss the target from 35 metres out.
With 23 minutes remaining, Zebre were then given the chance to extend their lead when full-back Matthew Morgan was penalised but replacement Daniel Halangahu missed his kick from 40 metres.
And it came back to haunt the visitors when Zebre were pinged for being offside with 64 minutes gone, this time Biggar hitting the target to give his side the lead for the first time in the match.
That seemed to knock the wind out of Zebre's sails and just two minutes later, Tom Isaacs made the break for the Ospreys before handing over to Jones who in turn found the supporting Biggar to touch down.
He converted his own try but no sooner had the Ospreys faithful breathed a sigh of relief than Zebre scrum-half replacement Tito Tebaldi nipped over for a try, converted by Halangahu, to ensure the home side led by just a point at 16-15 with eight minutes to go.
That galvanised Zebre who pushed all the way for their first ever Pro12 win and were camped on the Ospreys try-line but they couldn't find a way through and had to settle for a losing bonus point.
Pens: Biggar 3
Tries: Chillon, Tebaldi
Yellow card: Dries van Schalkwyk (Zebre, 39)
Ospreys: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Ross Jones, 13 Tom Issacs, 12 Andrew Bishop, 11 Eli Walker, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Jonathan Thomas, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Jamies King, 5 Lloyd Peers, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Adam Jones (captain), 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Richard Hibbard, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Campbell Johnstone, 19 George Stowers, 20 Morgan Allen, 21 Kahn Fotuali'i, 22 Jonathan Spratt, 23 Richard Fussell.
Zebre: 15 Alberto Benettin, 14 Giovanbattista Venditti, 13 Roberto Quartaroli, 12 Gonzalo Garcia (captain), 11 Samuele Pace, 10 Paolo Buso, 9 Alberto Chillon, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Nicola Belardo, 6 Filippo Ferrarini, 5 Michael Van Vuuren, 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 David Ryan, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Andrea De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Carlo Fazzari, 18 Luciano Leibson, 19 Emiliano Caffini, 20 Daniel Halangahu, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Alberto Chiesa, 23 Ruggero Trevisan.
Referee: Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Neil Hennessy (Wales), Neil Perkins (Wales)
Ulster 47-15 Scarlets
Ulster got back into the winning mood after producing a stunning five-try display to run rampant in the Pro12 and down formerly second-placed Scarlets 47-15 at Ravenhill.
Scores from Robbie Diack, powerhouse No.8 Nick Williams, Andrew Trimble, Neil McComb and a penalty try as well as Ruan Pienaar's 16 points from the boot led the league leaders to a thoroughly deserved bonus-point win.
Scarlets could only hit back through a 67th-minute try from Josh Turnbull and a last minute dive under the posts from replacement Scott Williams while George North was stretchered off to compound their woes.
Scarlets started brightly as Ulster looked sloppy in the breakdown and were penalised which allowed Aled Thomas to put the visitors into an early 3-0 lead.
Ulster had not quite clicked into their usual fluent selves and a savvy percentage game was keeping the Pro12 leaders plugged in their own half.
But midway through the first-half Ulster were able to turn to their formidable scrum which forced the penalty and allowed Pienaar to level the scores up.
The game was opening up into a fabulous contest as a breathless passage saw Pienaar run before possession was exchanged twice as Jonathan Davies attempted to counter before Ulster regained the ball, broke, and lost it again.
And on 32 minutes a break from the ruck by Nick Williams which took everyone by surprise led to another Ulster penalty which Pienaar tucked away and four minutes later he scored another.
Ulster made the perfect start to the second half as Diack turned it over at the lineout and following an excellent passage of play the flanker was fed by Rob Herring to score his sixth league try.
Pienaar extended the lead to 16 points in the 48th minute before Nick Williams showed his immense power to drive over - and take four Scarlets men with him - for a 57th-minute try.
The No.8 was replaced moments later to a standing ovation at Ravenhill but soon after North was downed and following an extended stoppage was removed from the field on a stretcher.
Turnbull got Scarlets' first try of the evening, showing great pace and power to make it to the line in the 67th minute.
But a fantastic line run by Trimble from the far side five minutes later saw him burst through at pace and dive straight under the posts.
The conversion was taken quickly as Ulster pushed for the bonus-point try and were awarded a penalty try as an offside Thomas intercepted a try pass.
A fine evening for Ulster ended with McComb going over the whitewash with three minutes to go and a late score by Scott Williams did nothing to dampen their spirits.
Tries: Diack, Williams, Trimble, Penalty try, McComb
Cons: Pienaar 2, Jackson 3
Pens: Pienaar 4
Tries: Turnbull, Warren
Yellow card: Aled Thomas (Scarlets, 76)
Ulster: 15 Adam D'Arcy, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chris Henry (captain), 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Louis Stevenson, 3 Adam Macklin, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Callum Black, 18 John Afoa, 19 Neil McComb, 20 Roger Wilson, 21 Michael Heaney, 22 Paddy Wallace, 23 Ricky Andrew.
Scarlets: 15 Dan Newton 14 George North, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Jonathan Davies (captain), 11 Kristian Phillips, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Rob McCusker, 7 Johnathan Edwards, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 Richard Kelly, 4 Sione Timani, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Rhodri Jones, 18 Deacon Manu, 19 Tomas Vallejos, 20 Craig Price, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Scott Williams, 23 Adam Warren.
Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Brian Macneice (Ireland)
TMO: Marshall Kilgore (Ireland)
Glasgow Warriors 41-7 Benetton Treviso
Glasgow Warriors went second in the Pro12 after capitalising on 14-man Benetton Treviso to run in five tries at Scotstoun and chalk up a 41-7 victory.
Fullback Stuart Hogg was the star of the show with two tries while Tommy Seymour, DTH van der Merwe and replacement Nikola Matawalu also went over for the home side.
Francesco Minto scored for the Italians in a brave display where they were always up against if from just the sixth minute when Manoa Vosawai was sent off.
The match got off in perfect fashion for Glasgow as they were awarded a penalty right in front of the posts after just four minutes which the superb Ruaridh Jackson gratefully slotted over.
Things went from bad to worse for the visitors however as moments later as flanker Vosawai was shown a red card for a spear tackle on Ali Kellock.
But Treviso responded well with some excellent phases of quick ball but Glasgow were constantly moving the play wide to exploit the extra space in the Italians' defence.
However, it was in the scrum where Glasgow made their presence felt and won their second penalty which Jackson scored on 20 minutes.
And five minutes later the Warriors scored their first try of the game as Hogg passed to Seymour who chipped forward for van der Merwe to pounce on the ball.
The score opened to 20-0 as moments later Hogg was fed by Ryan Wilson and he showed his finishing skills to go over.
But Seymour scored the try of the evening as he plucked the ball from the air to turnover and sprinted 90 yards to go straight under the posts just before half-time.
The second half started scrappily for both teams and Treviso took advantage as lock Minto went over and Kris Burton converted.
The game remained disjointed as Treviso tried to keep the ball moving but were committing too many handling errors to keep their Scottish opponents up against the wall.
But Warriors were also struggling to maintain pressure with the ball in hand and van der Merwe knocked on from a promising position 20 minutes into the second half as they searched for a bonus point.
As the game entered the last ten minutes the bonus point was looking further away than most expected at half-time until Matawalu finally broke through on 74 minutes.
The Fijian evaded his man on the wing to score and looked to have inspired Hogg who grabbed his second of the night moments later to round off an excellent performance which started the year in perfect fashion.
For Glasgow Warriors:
Tries: Van der Merwe, Hogg 2, Seymour, Matawalu
Cons: Jackson 3, Weir 2
Pens: Jackson 2
For Benetton Treviso:
Red card: Manoa Vosawai (Benetton Treviso, 6)
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 DTH Van der Merwe, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Henry Pyrgos, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Rob Harley, 6 Josh Strauss, 5 Al Kellock (captain), 4 Tim Swinson, 3 Moray Low, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Ryan Grant.
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 German Araoz, 19 Tom Ryder, 20 James Eddie, 21 Nico Matawalu, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Peter Murchie.
Treviso: 15 Luke McLean, 14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Christian Loamanu, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Andrea Pratichetti, 10 Kristopher Burton, 9 Edoardo Gori, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Manoa Vosawai, 5 Corniel Van Zyl, 4 Francesco Minto, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (captain), 1 Michele Rizzo.
Replacements: 16 Franco Sbaraglini, 17 Matteo Muccignat, 18 Alberto De Marchi, 19 Antonio Pavanello, 20 Dean Budd, 21 Simone Favaro, 22 Tobias Botes, 23 Alberto Di Bernardo.
Referee: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: David Changleng, Graeme Marshall (both Scotland)
Edinburgh 16-31 Leinster
Leinster recalled their big guns for this crunch Pro12 clash with Edinburgh but it was the ever reliable Jonny Sexton who guided his side to a 31-16 victory at Murrayfield.
Rob Kearney, Brian O'Driscoll and Luke Fitzgerald all returned for Leinster in an all Irish XV but it was Sexton whose 16-point contribution proved decisive.
For it was tries from Sexton, the impressive Gordon D'Arcy and replacement Ian Madigan, as well as a penalty try, handed Leinster the five points and moved Joe Schmidt's side up to third.
There was little to choose between the two sides in the opening exchanges as Edinburgh, who had lost their last four in all competitions prior to kick-off, sought to avenge their 22-16 defeat in September.
After a tense opening that saw some resolute Edinburgh defence, it was the hosts who drew first blood as they won a penalty from a Leinster scrum and Greig Laidlaw made no mistake from in front of the posts on 18 minutes.
The European champions didn't take long to hit back however and Sexton had his first points of the night on 20 minutes.
An absorbing contest saw both teams enjoy plenty of possession but errors crept in when it matter and on 34 minutes came the decisive moment of the match.
With the Leinster forwards sniffing blood and mauling five metres from the line a penalty try was awarded and David Denton was sent to the sin bin, leaving Edinburgh desperate for the half-time whistle.
But after Sexton added the extras, Leinster came right back at Edinburgh and crossed the try-line again just four minutes later after a patient build-up, Sexton again converting to hand the visitors a commanding 17-3 lead.
To their credit, Edinburgh didn't capitulate and managed to scramble a penalty just before the half-time break, which Laidlaw duly knocked over, giving the hosts hope at 17-6 down at the interval.
Edinburgh stabilises after the break and kept Leinster at bay until Denton returned to the field and after a few strong phases from the hosts, 22-year-old fly-half Piers Francis dropped a goal to trim the gap to eight.
But on 57 minutes, the visitors effectively killed the game off when replacement flanker Shane Jennings ghosted through the Edinburgh defence and offloaded to Sexton who duly crossed for the try before adding the conversion.
Edinburgh refused to buckle and concede the try bonus point however and Francis began to pull the strings, leading Leinster to take desperate measures which saw No.8 Jamie Heaslip sent to the sin bin on 65 minutes for killing the ball under the posts.
Leinster were undeterred however and Ian Madigan, on at full-back for Kearney, grabbed their fourth try of the night on 69 minutes, finished off an fine flowing move by the visitors.
Sexton took his tally to 16 points for the night with the conversion but to their credit, Edinburgh came back again and prop Willem Nel showed handling skills befitting of a dazzling back to dart over for a try.
Francis added the extras and Edinburgh went straight up to Leinster's try-line again but the visitors forced a penalty, booted clear and ran the clock down to complete an impressive win.
Pens: Laidlaw 2
Tries: Penalty try, D'Arcy, Sexton, Madigan
Cons: Sexton 4
Yellow cards: David Denton (Edinburgh, 34), Jamie Heaslip (Leinster, 65)
Edinburgh: 15 Greig Tonks, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Ben Atiga, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Greig Laidlaw (captain), 8 David Denton, 7 Dimitri Basilaia, 6 Stuart McInally, 5 Sean Cox, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Andy Titterrell, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Steven Lawrie, 17 Robin Hislop, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Perry Parker, 20 Netani Talei, 21 Richie Rees, 22 James King, 23 September Visser.
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Jonathan Sexton, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Leo Cullen (captain), 3 Mike Ross, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Shane Jennings, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Andrew Conway.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Peter Allan (Scotland), Bob Nevins (Scotland)
TMO: Jim Yuille (Scotland)