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O'Connell back with a bang

Sat, 23 Mar 2013 21:50
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Paul O'Connell marked his return to the famous red jersey in style as he scored a try to set Munster on their way to a comfortable 22-0 Pro12 victory over Connacht at Musgrave Park.

* Ian Madigan stole the show on Saturday as Leinster moved to the top of the Pro12 with a hard-fought 22-17 win over fellow high flyers Glasgow Warriors.

* In another Saturday match Alessandro Zanni returned from international duty to help fire Treviso to their first ever Pro12 victory over Cardiff Blues, triumphing 26-17 in a pulsating encounter at Stadio Monigo.

We look at all Saturday's drama!

Munster 22-0 Connacht

Paul O'Connell marked his return to the famous red jersey in style as he scored a try to set Munster on their way to a comfortable 22-0 victory over Connacht at Musgrave Park.

The British & Irish Lions lock was making his first Pro12 start since October and wasted little time in making an impression, touching down after just ten minutes.

O'Connell, who still harbours hopes of going on the 2013 Lions tour to Australia this summer, was joined on the scoresheet by Damian Varley, the hooker helping himself to two tries.

And flyhalf Ronan O'Gara kicked the rest of the points as Munster halted a mini-losing run that had seen them not win in their last three games, and recorded their first victory at Musgrave Park since downing Edinburgh on home soil back on February 9 in the process.

Connacht burst into life were stopped just metres short of the tryline as they looked to record a fourth-straight league victory for the first time since September 2002.

But Connacht have not won on Munster soil since 1986 and the home side soon woke up and after ten minutes of dominant possession O'Connell had the first score of the game following three reset scrums, O'Gara adding the conversion.

Things went from bad to worse for the visitors just three minutes later as Mick Kearney was sent to the sin-bin for a late tackle on Munster flyhalf O'Gara.

And the lock's dismissal was felt almost immediately as Munster went over just a minute later with Varley making the most of a powerful scrum, this time O'Gara failing to add the extras.

Connacht slowly started to get back into the game and two breaks from Danie Poolman and Kieran Marmion lifted the travelling contingent.

But as half-time loomed Connacht were pinged for being off their feet in the tackle and O'Gara knocked over the penalty for a 15-0 half-time lead.

Connacht brought on Mike McSharry after the restart for his 150th cap but it failed to turn the tide as Munster soon had their third try of the evening, and Varley his second, O'Gara adding the conversion for a 22-0 lead.

A raft of changes for both sides disrupted the flow of the game in the second half as Connacht tried their best to salvage something from the game.

And with ten minutes left captain Gavin Duffy looked like doing exactly that as he made a great break for the line, but Munster got men behind the ball to keep them at bay.

Munster weren't done there though and attentions quickly turned to grabbing that fourth try for a bonus point but it wasn't to be as Connacht held firm.

The scorers:

For Munster:
Tries:
O'Connell, Varley 2
Cons: O'Gara 2
Pen: O'Gara

For Connacht:
None

Yellow card: Mick Kearney (Connacht, 13)

Teams:

Munster: 15 Felix Jones; 14 Doug Howlett, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Doug Hurley, 10 Ronan O'Gara, 9 Cathal Sheridan, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Tommy O'Donnell, 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Damien Varley, 1 David Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Niall Ronan, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Ivan Dineen.

Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Danie Poolman, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Gavin Duffy (captain), 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon, 7 Willie Faloon, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 George Naoupu, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Nathan White, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Adrian Flavin, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Mike McCarthy, 20 Eoin McKeon, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Miah Nikora, 23 Fetu'u Vainikolo.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland, 56th competition game)
Assistant Referees: Michael Black, Brian MacNeice (both Ireland)

Benetton Treviso 26-17 Cardiff Blues

Alessandro Zanni returned from international duty to help fire Treviso to their first ever Pro12 victory over Cardiff Blues, triumphing 26-17 in a pulsating encounter at Stadio Monigo.

Zanni, along with Lorenzo Cittadini and Leonardo Ghiraldini, made his first start since Italy's final Six Nations match against Ireland last Saturday and opened Treviso's account.

A penalty try and the boot of flyhalf Alberto Di Bernardo, who kicked 16 points, also allowed the Italian outfit to keep themselves above the Blues in the Pro12 table.

Dafydd Hewitt and Lou Reed got themselves on the scoresheet for Cardiff, with Ceri Sweeney clocking up seven points, but it wasn't enough to halt a run which now consists of just one league win in their last five outings.

The Blues were first on the scoresheet when Sweeney notched a 12th-minute penalty but they were behind when Zanni went over just 60 seconds later.

The flank did well to avoid contact and swivelled his way into the corner with Di Bernardo adding the conversion.

But Cardiff fought their way back into the game and shortly before the half-hour mark centre Hewitt crossed, despite the challenge of Treviso's Brendan Williams. Sweeney added the extras for a 10-7 lead.

Treviso almost hit back immediately, but Ludovico Nitoglia fumbled unopposed just metres from the line when attempting to collect Manoa Vosawai's inside pass.

The hosts did level the scores five minutes before the break though. Di Bernardo opted to go for the posts from a penalty and justified his decision with a sweetly-struck effort.

And the flyhalf edged his side 13-10 in front with another three-pointer with his second penalty of the evening - the last act of the first half.

The second half took a while to get going but Cardiff retook the lead on 49 minutes when Reed barged his way over from close range.

The lock, on as a replacement just five minutes previously, was the grateful receiver of a loose lineout from Marc Breeze but still found his way to the line.

Di Bernardo had the chance to reduce the Italian side's arrears moments later with a penalty but skewed his effort wide.

However lock Michael Paterson's yellow card allowed the hosts a route back into the game, and Treviso took full advantage in the scrum when they were awarded a penalty try on 58 minutes when the Blues deliberately brought it down.

Di Bernardo did the honours from under the posts to swing the pendulum back in his side's favour at 20-17 and then opened up a six-point gap with 13 minutes remaining with a long-range penalty.

Scott Andrews summed up Cardiff's night with another yellow card, and while Di Bernardo missed that chance to finish the game off, he made no mistake moments later and secured an historic 26-17 victory.

The scorers:

For Benetton Treviso:
Tries:
Zanni, Penalty try
Cons: Di Bernardo 2
Pens: Di Bernardo 4

For Cardiff Blues:
Tries:
Hewitt, Reed
Cons: Sweeney 2
Pen: Sweeney

Yellow card: Mike Paterson (Cardiff Blues, 55)

Teams:

Treviso: 15 Brendan Williams, 14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Doppies La Grange, 11 Christian Loamanu, 10 Alberto Di Bernardo, 9 Fabio Semenzato, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Alessandro Zanni, 6 Dean Budd, 5 Corniel Van Zyl , 4 Francesco Minto, 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini (captain), 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Giovanni Maistri, 17 Michele Rizzo, 18 Jacobus Roux, 19 Antonio Pavanello, 20 Paul Derbyshire, 21 Simone Favaro, 22 Edoardo Gori, 23 James Ambrosini.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Jason Tovey, 14 Owen Williams, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Dafydd Hewitt ,11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Luke Hamilton, 7 Rory Watts-Jones, 6 Michael Paterson, 5 James Down, 4 Filo Paulo , 3 Benoit Bourrust, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Taufa'ao Filise.
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Thomas Young, 21 Robin Copeland, 22 Lewis Jones, 23 Gareth Davies.

Referee: Giuseppe Vivarini (France)
Assistant Referees: Claudio Passacantando, Simone Boaretto (both France)
TMO: Mauro Dordolo (France)

Leinster 22-17 Glasgow Warriors

Ian Madigan stole the show on Saturday as Leinster moved to the top of the Pro12 with a hard-fought 22-17 win over fellow high flyers Glasgow Warriors.

The 23-year-old scored all 22 of his side's points, including the winning try for the Irish region in the last ten minutes of the game that he converted himself to complete the come-from-behind victory.

In the absence of the injured Jonathan Sexton, Madigan has been a revelation for Joe Schmidt's side this season, kicking goals in metronomic fashion as Leinster remain unbeaten in the Pro12 in 2013.

But it was not just from the kicking tee that Madigan impressed against Glasgow, the effervescent stand-off carrying with real intent and breaking the gain-line seemingly at will.

Gregor Townsend's men arrived at the RDS in fine form having dropped just one possible league point over the past six rounds and it was the Scottish side that started the stronger.

After a cagey start an attacking line-out in the 11th minute gave Glasgow the perfect platform and Ed Kalman went over for his first-ever try in the Pro12 after superb work from Josh Strauss, slipping his tackler and offloading to the prop as Duncan Weir added the extras.

Two minutes later Madigan punished Scottish indiscipline and reduced his side's arrears but Weir had soon added a penalty of his own to make it 10-3 with 20 minutes gone.

The game then began to really open up as the Warriors' off-loading game, with the odd handling error thrown in, created an end-to-end encounter in stark contrast to Leinster's cagey 6-0 win in the reverse fixture back in November.

Another Madigan penalty in the 24th minute meant the Warriors were only 10-6 to the good but it was the visitors who struck next and in fine style.

DTH Van der Merwe wriggled his way free down the left flank, incredibly not stepping into touch before his inside ball found the supporting Peter Horne who went over for the try.

Weir's conversion made it 17-6 in the 34th minute and the challenge was there for Townsend's side to see if they could maintain that lead until half-time.

But within moments Leinster had reduced the deficit as Madigan again was on target from the kicking tee after the Warriors went off their feet in defence at the breakdown.

The Irish province were very much on the front foot as the half drew to a close, Andrew Conway and Madigan both making clean breaks that took them deep into Scottish territory.

But they could not open their try account before the interval, instead settling for a fourth Madigan penalty of the half that kept his side in touch at 17-12, Weir missing a drop goal for Glasgow as time expired.

After the interval it was Glasgow who had the first good chance, Madigan knocking on deep in his 22 to set up a great platform for the Warriors.

Winger Tommy Seymour nearly broke through but after the ball was recycled Nikola Matawalu's inside ball caught Moray Low unawares and the knock on allowed Leinster to clear their lines.

The game was being played in the same breathless fashion as the first, handling errors breaking up momentum but referee Nigel Owens happy to play long advantages as both sides looked to attack from every part of the field.

It was Glasgow who were still just shading proceedings and they signalled their intentions just before the hour mark by turning down a kickable penalty in favour of a kick to the corner.

But once again they failed to make their advantage count as Leinster replacement Jamie Hagan won a crucial turnover and again allowed Madigan to relieve the pressure with a clearing kick.

Both sides were being wasteful in good field position and it was Leinster's turn on 65 minutes to knock on in sight of the try line after yet another searing break from Madigan.

For all the chances in the second period the game entered the final ten minutes with no points on the board since the first half so the next score was always going to be key.

And it was Leinster, cheered on by an inspired RDS crowd, that drove forward after Madigan again used his pace to break clear from halfway.

And when the ball was recycled to the right a couple of phases later it was inevitably the fly-half who scampered over from close range after a smart sidestep.

And the youngster added the extras to put Leinster in front for the first time in the match at 19-17.

A 77th minute Madigan penalty increased the lead out to five points but still Glasgow came back and had the chance to win it but for some frantic try-line defending from Leinster as the clock ticked round to 80 minutes.

And when a long Horne pass out to Seymour was ruled forward the chance was gone and Madigan and co had grabbed a crucial hard-fought win.

The scorers:

For Leinster:
Try:
Madigan
Con: Madigan
Pens: Madigan 5

For Glasgow Warriors:
Tries:
Kalman, Horne
Cons: Weir 2
Pen: Weir

Teams:

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Eoin O'Malley, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Andrew Conway, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Issac Boss, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Quinn Roux 4 Leo Cullen (captain), 3 Michael Bent, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Jamie Hagan, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 John Cooney, 22 Brendan Macken, 23 Fionn Carr.

Glasgow: 15 Peter Murchie, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Alex Dunbar, 12 Peter Horne, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Niko Matawalu, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 John Barclay, 6 Robert Harley, 5 Alastair Kellock, 4 Tom Ryder, 3 Ed Kalman, 2 Dougie Hall, 1 Moray Low.
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 James Eddie, 20 Ryan Wilson, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Sean Lamont.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, B O'Connell (both Ireland)
TMO: Dermot Moloney (Irerland)

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