Ospreys rock Ulster at Ravenhill
Ospreys handed Ulster their first home Pro12 defeat of the season when they secured a thrilling 16-12 win at Ravenhill on Friday.
Ospreys handed Ulster their first home Pro12 defeat of the season when they secured a thrilling 16-12 win at Ravenhill on Friday.
At Rodney Parade, Dragons came from behind to topple Treviso 23-14 and Scarlets snapped their losing run with a 25-15 win over Connacht at Parc y Scarlets.
In the final Friday fixture, Leinster continued their play-off surge thanks to a 26-11 victory over Cardiff Blues at Cardiff Arms Park.
We look at all Friday’s action!
Ulster 12-16 Ospreys
Prop Ryan Bevington proved to be the unlikely try-scoring hero as the Ospreys secured a dramatic 16-12 victory over Pro12 leaders Ulster, who suffered a first home league defeat of the season.
Bevington touched down with 13 minutes remaining for the defending Pro12 champions to edge his side in front and despite a late Ulster onslaught, the Irish province could not find a way back.
A fast-paced opening few minutes saw both sides showcasing their skills with ball in hand, but Ulster drew first blood when Ruan Pienaar punished the Ospreys for the tackler not releasing. The South African made it 3-0 - taking his personal tally to 66 points in the last five games.
The visitors then produced a good passage of play and won a penalty after Ulster's Lewis Stevenson booted the ball away from a ruck. Matthew Morgan levelled it up at 3-3.
The Welsh side, missing 16 players through injury and Six Nations representatives, were playing at a frantic pace and dominating possession but poor discipline - going in off their feet at the breakdown - allowed Pienaar to extend Ulster's lead to 6-3.
Again the Ospreys came back at Ulster, but after numerous phases they gave away a penalty at the critical moment, five metres away from the try-line. Their efforts were not totally in vain, Morgan squaring the match again at 6-6 with a penalty after 21 minutes.
Another marathon of 15 attacking phases followed for the Ospreys but they couldn't breach Ulster's defence and the home side cleared their lines, and started to enjoy more of the ball.
Paddy Wallace made a scything break which led to another Ulster penalty, again the Ospreys not rolling away on the deck and Pienaar made them pay, making sure his side went into half-time ahead 9-6 despite the
Ospreys having the lion's share of possession and being more adventurous in attack.
Alun-Wyn Jones made his return from a three-month long shoulder injury, coming off the bench after half-time. The 67-cap lock entered a game that had lost none of its pace since the first half.
Ospreys again took charge with the ball but it was proving energy-sapping trying to break through the Ulster defence for a try. Last year's Pro12 champions eventually settled for another penalty to draw level at 9-9 through Morgan.
Ulster came back at the Ospreys, producing wave after wave of attack. Pressure told and a sin-binning for Morgan Allen followed when he failed to release a tackled player. Debutant flyhalf Stuart Olding got his first league points to edge Ulster ahead 12-9.
Out of nowhere, the Ospreys scored a superb breakaway try finished by the most unlikely of players. A break from centre Tom Isaacs was finished by prop Bevington who ran in from the ten-metre line, chased all the way by Ulster's outside backs. Morgan converted to make it 12-16 with ten minutes left.
Ulster, chasing the win, threw caution to the wind in a frantic and tense last five minutes.
But it wasn't enough and despite a nervous last few moments, the Ospreys managed to get the ball out of play and record a huge win away from home against the league leaders.
Pens: Pienaar 3, Olding
Pens: Morgan 3
Yellow card: Morgan Allen (Ospreys, 64)
Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Luke Marshall, 12 Paddy Wallace, 11 Michael Allen, 10 Stuart Olding, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Robbie Diack, 7 Ali Birch, 6 Michael McComish, 5 Lewis Stevenson, 4 Johann Muller (captain), 3 Tom Court, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Ricky Lutton, 18 Andrew Warwick, 19 Dan Tuohy, 20 Neil McComb, 21 Paul Marshall, 22 Darren Cave, 23 Chris Cochrane.
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Tom Habberfield, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Jonathan Spratt, 11 Ben John, 10 Matthew Morgan, 9 Kahn Fotuali'i (captain), 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Morgan Allen, 5 James King, 4 Ian Gough, 3 Cai Griffiths, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Ryan Bevington.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Duncan Jones, 18 Dmitri Arhip, 19 Alun Wyn Jones, 20 Lloyd Peers, 21 Arthur Ellis, 22 Ross Jones, 23 Jamie Murphy.
Referee: Marius Mitrea.
Assistant referees: Paul Haycock, Nigel Correll.
TMO: Simon McDowell.
Newport Dragons 23-14 Treviso
Tom Prydie went over with 12 minutes remaining to help the Dragons complete a stunning comeback and deny Treviso 23-14.
Treviso arrived at Rodney Parade in search of only their second win away from Italian soil this season in the Pro12 and looked to be well on their way after a flying start.
But after some poor early kicking from Steffan Jones, the Dragons woke up to record a vital victory to keep their hopes of European Cup rugby alive next season.
Treviso made the perfect start when South African centre Doppies La Grange went over for his first try in Treviso colours since his arrival from the Lions. Alberto Di Bernardo added the conversion to make it 7-0 to the visitors after just six minutes.
Jones, who endured a difficult night from the kicking tee, missed his first kick of the night mid-way through the half and Treviso made him pay.
Filippo Giusti had barely been on two minutes, replacing Robert Barbieri, when he crashed over for the visitors' second try. Di Bernardo was again on target with the conversion to stretch the lead to 14-0.
Di Bernardo could have stretched the lead further but missed his first shot at goal just before the half-hour, and almost immediately the Dragons responded as Jones hit the target.
Two more missed penalties from Jones meant the Dragons were unable to take advantage of a period of domination just before the half, but Prydie knocked over his first attempt to make it 14-6 at the break.
Jones was off-target again early in the second half, as the Dragons wasted another chance to get back into it.
However, they hit back a quarter of an hour into the second half when Ieuan Jones crossed the whitewash, Prydie's conversion bringing the home side back to within a point.
It got worse for Treviso when Christian Loamanu was sent to the sin bin, but the Dragons could not take advantage.
But as he returned, the Dragons struck again, Prydie this time the man to go over, converting his own try to make it 20-14 to the home side.
Prydie added another penalty as the match entered the closing stages, with the Dragons very much in the ascendancy.
Tries: I Jones, Prydie
Cons: Prydie 2
Pens: S Jones, Prydie 2
Tries: La Grange, Giusti
Cons: di Bernardo 2
Pens: Morgan 2
Yellow card: Christian Loamanu (Treviso, 58)
Newport Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Will Harries, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Tom Prydie, 10 Steffan Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Ieuan Jones, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Lewis Evans (captain), 5 Adam Jones, 4 Ian Nimmo, 3 Nathan Buck, 2 Hugh Gustafson, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Owen Evans, 18 Nathan Williams, 19 Josh Tyler, 20 Jevon Groves, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Ashley Smith, 23 Hallam Amos.
Treviso: 15 Brendan Williams, 14 Christian Loamanu, 13 Gideon La Grange, 12 Luca Morisi, 11 Ludovico Nitoglia, 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Valerio Bernabò, 6 Dean Budd, 5 Corniel Van Zyl (captain), 4 Marco Fuser, 3 Jacobus Roux, 2 Giovanni Maistri, 1 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet.
Replacements: 16 Franco Sbaraglini, 17 Matteo Muccignat, 18 Pedro Di Santo, 19 Enrico Ceccato, 20 Filippo Giusti, 21 Giulio Toniolatti, 22 James Ambrosini, 23 Andrea Pratichetti.
Referee: David Wilkinson.
Assistant referees: Jon Mason, Neil Perkins
Scarlets 25-15 Connacht
A fine kicking performance from 20-year-old flyhalf Owen Williams sealed a first win in three Pro12 matches for the Scarlets as they saw off Connacht 25-15.
Williams, making his first start in the Pro12, notched six penalties and a conversion to add to Johan Snyman's try for the Scarlets, who bounced back from a heavy defeat to Ulster last time out.
Connacht, meanwhile, paid the price for conceding too many penalties, handing Williams to chance to keep the scoreboard ticking over and guide Scarlets into fourth place and back into the play-offs.
Connacht flew out of the blocks and opened the scoring after just 34 seconds, South African wing Danie Poolman dotting down in the corner for his fourth try of the season.
Flyhalf Dan Parks was wayward with the conversion however and four minutes later Scarlets flyhalf Williams reduced the deficit with his first penalty of the night.
Parks was handed the chance to respond in kind sooner after but his kick struck the upright and that gave the Scarlets the opportunity to take the lead on 20 minutes.
Williams made no mistake and from there the Scarlets grew into the game, dominating proceedings up front and piling the pressure onto Connacht.
The visitors stood firm however and on 29 minutes, Connacht, after enjoying some territory of their own, moved ahead again when Parks hit the target with a drop goal.
In a topsy turvy first half however, the lead changed hands again as more indiscipline from Connacht handed Williams another shot at three points, one he duly accepted.
And after being pinged for not releasing, after another fine effort from Williams, who missed another kick from out wide and on half-way on the stroke, Connacht found themselves 12-8 down at half-time.
After a flurry of Connacht substitutions after the break, it was the Scarlets who struck the decisive blow on 53 minutes when second row Snyman rounded off some concerted Scarlets pressure by finding the gap to surge over.
Williams continued his fine evening by added the extras to hand Scarlets a 19-8 victory and he further extended his side's lead with his fifth penalty of the night on 63 minutes.
With eight minutes remaining Williams continued his fine night with yet another penalty with Connacht again infringing just in front of their posts.
But back came Connacht in search of a bonus point and that became much more of a possibility when second row Mike Swift made the break and offloaded to replacement front row Ronan Loughney to score.
Another replacement, flyhalf Miah Nikora, was on target with the conversion to trim the deficit to ten with four minutes to go but Connacht could not find the further score they needed to gain a losing bonus point.
Pens: Williams 6
Tries: Poolman, Swift
Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Andy Fenby, 13 Nick Reynolds, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Kristian Phillips, 10 Owen Williams, 9 Aled Davies, 8 Kieran Murphy, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Rob McCusker (captain), 5 Johan Synman, 4 George Earle, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Shaun Hopkins, 18 Deacon Manu, 19 Jake Ball, 20 Lewis Rawlins, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Gareth Maule.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Kyle Tonetti, 11 Fetu'u Vainikolo, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Nathan White (captain), 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Willie Faloon, 20 John Muldoon, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Gavin Duffy.
Referee: Matteo Liperini
Assistant referees: James Jones, Alan Jenkins
Cardiff Blues 11-26 Leinster
Leinster strengthened their grip on a play-off place after tries from Isaac Boss and Jordi Murphy eased them to a 26-11 victory at Cardiff Blues for a third Pro12 win on the bounce.
Despite losing Tom Denton to a yellow card, the visitors led 23-3 at the break thanks to Boss and Murphy and 13 points from the boot of Ian Madigan.
The Blues began the second half with a bang - Jason Tovey crossing the whitewash - but Leinster hit back through the boot of Madigan.
The 23-year-old flyhalf's penalty proved the final word on the contest, ending Cardiff's two-game winning run in the league and lifting Leinster up to second, within nine points of leaders Ulster.
Leinster won the first meeting between the two sides this season 59-22 and were ahead after five minutes when Madigan slotted the game's first penalty for a 3-0 lead.
Dafydd Hewitt thought he had made a dangerous burst into space only to be pulled back for a forward pass but the Blues got themselves on the scoreboard when flyhalf Rhys Patchell sent over a penalty of his own.
The 19-year-old, who is expected to make his Wales Under-20 debut this month, passed up the chance to nudge Cardiff Blues ahead when he missed with a second penalty attempt on 17 minutes.
The Blues were handed a man advantage soon after when Tom Denton was yellow-carded following a tackle on James Down but it was Leinster who were next to add to their haul.
After Cardiff conceded a penalty just inside their own half, Madigan stepped up and his kick just managed to creep over to put Leinster 6-3 up.
Blues fullback Tovey then knocked on close to his own line and while Leinster's attempt to cross the try-line was repelled, Madigan took his haul to nine points with a third penalty.
Restored to full strength with Denton's return, Leinster pressed on and got the try they were looking for before the break when scrumhalf Boss finished off a powerful surge.
Madigan converted to put Leinster 16-3 up and added a further two points on the stroke of half-time after Murphy picked the ball up off the back of the scrum to send the visitors in at the break 23-3 up.
Patchell spurned the chance to reduce the deficit after the break with an unsuccessful penalty attempt but sustained pressure in the Leinster 22 resulted in Tovey touching down.
Patchell failed to add the extras but did slot a penalty as the Blues closed the score to 23-11 and when the flyhalf scampered over the comeback looked to be on - only for play to be called back for a knock on.
Madigan opened up the gap again with his penalty of his own to halt the Cardiff resurgence but failed with a drop goal attempt soon after as Leinster saw the game out.
For Cardiff Blues:
Pens: Patchell 2
Tries: Boss, Murphy
Cons: Madigan 2
Pens: Madigan 4
Yellow card: Tom Denton (Leinster, 20)
Cardiff Blues: 15 Jason Tovey, 14 Owen Williams, 13 Gavin Evans (captain), 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Rory Watts-Jones, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 James Down, 4 Macauley Cook, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Rhys Williams, 1 Sam Hobbs.
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Nathan Trevett, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Luke Hamilton, 20 Josh Navidi, 21 Alex Walker, 22 Ceri Sweeney, 23 Richard Smith.
Leinster: 15 Dave Kearney, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Andrew Goodman, 11 Darren Hudson, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Tom Denton, 4 Leo Cullen (captain), 3 Michael Bent, 2 Aaron Dundon, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Thomas Sexton, 17 Heinke Van Der Merwe, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Ben Marshall, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 John Cooney, 22 Noel Reid, 23 Fionn Carr.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon
Assistant referees: Sean Brickell, Martyn Lewis