Munster monster Cardiff to stay top
Three first-half tries from Munster helped them overcome a struggling Cardiff Blues 31-10.
Three first-half tries from Munster helped them overcome a struggling Cardiff Blues 31-10.
The victory kept the Irish province top of the Pro12 table.
* In other action on Saturday wing Frazer Climo scored a try on his Pro12 debut, as Scarlets just held on to secure a 24-21 victory at Connacht.
* A stellar kicking display from Matthew Morgan and two quickfire second-half tries helped Ospreys overcome a stubborn Zebre side 30-20 at Liberty Stadium.
We look at Saturday's action!
Cardiff Blues 10-31 Munster
Three first-half tries from Munster helped them overcome a struggling Cardiff Blues 31-10 and keep them top of the Pro12 table.
Munster made it seven wins out of eight while eighth place Blues have now slipped to five losses to their three wins.
Felix Jones, Damien Varley and James Cronin all went over for tries in the first half for the visitors and they led 24-3 at the interval.
Andrew Conway added a fourth try for the Irishmen after the break before Kristian Dacey pulled one back for the Blues but in the end they were comfortably second best to Rob Penney's men.
After an evenly matched opening ten minutes, Blues fly half Simon Humberstone put the home side in front with a penalty conversion.
But the lead was short-lived and five minutes later full back Jones latched onto an inside pass from centre Casey Laulala and out-paced a lagging Blue's defence to cross over.
The 21-year-old flyhalf JJ Hanrahan converted to put the visitors 7-3 up in front of the 6,122-strong crowd.
And Munster wasted no time in stamping their authority and scored two tries in three minutes soon after.
A powerful driving maul sucked in the Blues defence and hooker Varley broke free through the middle of the ruck to cross over.
Three minutes after Hanrahan bagged his second conversion, prop Cronin ran over for the third of the day after Munster scrum half Cathal Sheridan charged down a Humberstone clearance kick from inside the Blues 22.
Fly half Hanrahan collected from the ruck and flung the ball out wide to Cronin who was able to cross over with a three man overlap in support.
Hanrahan made it 21-3 and then added a further three to the scoreboard with a penalty conversion two minutes from the interval.
The half-time break did little to halt Munster's ruthlessness and five minutes after the restart a slick pass from Laulala to Jones saw him burst through the defence and leave winger Andrew Conway a straight run home for try number four and Hanrahan adding the extras.
The Blues were quick to respond and bagged their first try of the day after 50 minutes.
A Blues line-out from five yards out from the visitor's try line was driven forward and hooker Dacey bulldozed over and Humberstone converted to make it 31-10.
The remaining 20 minutes saw the Blues up the pressure but they were unable to punch through a resolute Munster defence and the scoreline remain unchanged.
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Jones, Varley, Cronin, Conway
Cons: Hanrahan 4
Yellow cards: CJ Stander (Munster, 49), Mike Sherry (Munster, 71)
Cardiff Blues: 15 Tom Williams, 14 Richard Smith, 13 Gavin Evans, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Simon Humberstone, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Andries Pretorius, 5 James Down, 4 Macauley Cook, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Sam Hobbs (captain).
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Benoit Bourrust, 19 Thomas Young, 20 Rory Watts-Jones, 21 Luke Hamilton, 22 Tomos Williams, 23 Gareth Davies.
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Ivan Dineen, 11 Johne Murphy, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Cathal Sheridan, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Billy Holland, 4 Dave Foley, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Mike Sherry, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 James Coughlan, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Johnny Holland, 23 Denis Hurley.
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Greg Morgan (Wales), Justin Williams (Wales)
TMO: Paul Adams (Wales)
Connacht 21-24 Scarlets
Wing Frazer Climo scored a try on his Pro12 debut as Scarlets just held on to secure a 24-21 victory at Connacht.
The Scarlets headed to the Sportsground having won three of their last four Pro12 games and looked to be coasting to another victory as tries for Climo, hooker Kirby Myhill and Gareth Davies opened up a comfortable 24-9 lead shortly after half-time.
But despite not having tasted victory since the opening day of the season the home side refused to lie down and came roaring back with scores of their own from Matt Healy and Jason Harris-Wright.
This put Connacht to within three points of their visitors but despite some late pressure, and Scarlets' Gareth Owen being sent to the sin bin, they were unable to find another score and had to settle for the losing bonus point.
Connacht started the game much stronger and found themselves 6-0 ahead after ten minutes as Craig Ronaldson landed two penalties.
And Scarlets had to wait until the 21st minute to get their first points on the board as Aled Thomas reduced the deficit with a three-pointer of his own.
The away side were soon up against it as Jacobie Adriaanse was shown a yellow card but some desperate defending preventing Connacht from grabbing the first try of the game, the hosts having to settle for another Ronaldson penalty with their visitors a man light.
But disaster struck just before half-time as Climo touched down on his Pro12 debut, Thomas adding the conversion as Scarlets went into the break 10-9 ahead.
Scarlets started the second half like they ended the first and after Ronaldson had sent an early penalty wide for Connacht, the Welsh side burst into life as Myhill and Davies went over in quick succession - Thomas adding the extras both times.
But on 56 minutes Connacht got themselves back into the match as Healy intercepted the ball and ran the length of the field to score, Ronaldson adding the extras before being replaced by Dan Parks.
Scarlets then found themselves down to 14 men as flanker Aaron Shingler was shown a yellow card for tackling off the ball on 65 minutes.
And Connacht made immediate use of their man advantage as brilliant work from their pack saw Harris-Wright score.
Parks conversion however flew to the left of the posts and Connacht remained three points behind.
And no matter how much they tried Connacht couldn't find another score, winger Fionn Carr tackled into touch after running 60-metre.
And even though Owen saw a late yellow Scarlets held on for the hard-fought victory.
Tries: Healy, Harris-Wright
Pens: Ronaldson 3
Tries: Climo, Myhill, G Davies
Cons: A Thomas 3
Pen: A Thomas
Yellow cards: Jacobie Adriaanse (Scarlets, 25), Aaron Shingler (Scarlets, 66), Gareth Owen (Scarlets, 80)
Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Darragh Leader, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Craig Ronaldson, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoghan Masterson, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Aly Muldowney, 5 Craig Clarke (captain), 4 Michael Swift, 3 Nathan White, 2 Sean Henry, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Jason Harris-Wright, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Mick Kearney, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Frank Murphy, 22 Dan Parks, 23 Fionn Carr.
Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Frazier Climo, 13 Gareth Maule, 12 Adam Warren, 11 Nic Reynolds, 10 Aled Thomas, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Sione Timani, 7 Josh Turnbull, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 George Earle, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Kirby Myhill, 1 Phil John (captain).
Replacements: 16 Darran Harris, 17 Shaun Hopkins, 18 Ian Jones, 19 Jo Snyman, 20 Dan Thomas, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Josh Lewis, 23 Kristian Phillips.
Referee: Matteo Liperini (Italy)
Assistant referees: Paul Haycock (Ireland), Olly Hodges (Ireland)
Ospreys 30-20 Zebre
A stellar kicking display from Matthew Morgan and two quickfire second-half tries helped Ospreys overcome a stubborn Zebre side 30-20 at Liberty Stadium.
The home crowd were stunned when Filippo Cristiano touched down early on but Morgan, who finished with six penalties and a conversion, kept chipping away.
Paolo Buso and Gonzalo Garcia collected a penalty apiece before Tyler Ardron then Duncan Jones took the game away from Zebre in the second half - despite a try from Samuela Vunisa.
The Ospreys wasted no time in taking the challenge to their Italian opponents as fly-half Morgan slammed through a penalty to start the scoring.
And a try looked to be imminent as fluid interplay between both forwards and backs saw the Welsh region close in on the goal-line - but they had to settle for another Morgan penalty.
However, the 21-year-old lost his side's lead as Zebre's Dries van Schalkwyk intercepted his wayward pass.
The flank lost the ball a few metres away from the whitewash but in the ensuing scramble, Cristiano managed to dot down in the far corner before Buso kicked the extras.
Ospreys however continued to look dangerous and if not for a underthrown offload from full-back Richard Fussell, Tito Tebaldi would have been home free to crash over.
Zebre infringed at the breakdown to hand Morgan the chance to make amends on 23 minutes, and the half-back made no mistake from 40 metres out.
But in a to-and-fro battle, Buso drilled over a penalty of Zebre's own after Ospreys conceded their second penalty of the match at the scrum.
The Italian outfit had caused Welsh teams numerous problems in the Pro12 this year - beating Cardiff Blues for their first-ever Pro12 win and holding Scarlets to a draw.
And they further extended their advantage when a penalty - this time from Garcia - sailed between the posts.
Joe Bearman sparked the Ospreys back into life, breaking the first tackle out of the scrum, before the home side elected for Morgan to do the business once more from the kicking tee.
And he made it five penalties out of five in the last action of the first half to make sure Ospreys entered the break with a two-point lead.
Ospreys appeared with a fresh sense of purpose in the second half and a slick combination from Hanno Dirksen - on his first start since November 2012 through injury - and Fussell had Zebre rocking.
And the play was finally finished off when Ardron bustled his way over for the score, though Morgan failed with his conversion.
In a matter of moments Ospreys touched down again as a Morgan breakaway launched a breathless attack eventually finished by prop Jones.
There was to be real hope for the visitors after No.8 Vunisa ploughed over the line just after the hour-mark, Garcia converting to make it a one-score game.
But another penalty brought another opportunity for the eagle-eyed Morgan, booting over five minutes before full-time as Ospreys made sure of a hard-fought victory.
Tries: Ardron, Jones
Pens: Morgan 6
Tries: Cristiano, Vunisa
Cons: Buso, Garcia
Pens: Buso, Garcia
Yellow card: Samuela Vunisa (Zebre, 69)
Ospreys: 15 Richard Fussell, 14 Hanno Dirksen, 13 Jonathan Spratt (captain), 12 Ben John, 11 Jeff Hassler, 10 Matthew Morgan, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Tyler Ardron, 5 James King, 4 Lloyd Peers, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Scott Baldwin, 1 Duncan Jones
Replacements: 16 Matthew Dwyer, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Dan Suter, 19 Graham Knoop, 20 Arthur Ellis, 21 Rhys Webb, 22 Sam Davies, 23 Tom Issacs
Zebre: 15 Dion Berryman, 14 David Odiete, 13 Roberto Quartaroli, 12 Gonzalo Garcia (captain), 11 Giulio Toniolatti, 10 Paul Buso, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Andries van Schalkwyk, 6 Felipe Cristiano, 5 Michael van Vuren, 4 Augustin Knights, 3 David Ryan, 2 Andrea Handles, 1 Salvatore Perugini
Replacements: 16 Thomas D'Apex, 17 Andrea De Marchi, 18 Luciano Leibson, 19 Emiliano Caffini, 20 Nicola Cattina, 21 William Palazzani, 22 Alberto Chillon, 23 Henry Ceccato
Referee: Leo Colgan (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Martyn Lewis (Wales), Craig Evans (Wales)