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Pienaar peerless as Ulster win

Fri, 03 Jan 2014 22:06
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Ospreys also on the move
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Ruan Pienaar's supreme kicking display was the backbone to a scintillating Ulster victory as they overcame Irish rivals Munster by 29-19.

The South Africa international missed just one kick in collecting 19 points - in stark contrast to opposing kicker Ian Keatley's four - while Jared Payne and Darren Cave touched down after two pulsating first-half moves.

* In the other Pro12 game on Friday Ashley Beck and Aisea Natoga grabbed first-half tries in a 17-12 Welsh derby victory for Ospreys.

A fine defensive display at Liberty Stadium not only kept Scarlets away from the whitewash, it saw Ospreys move into second place on the standings.

We look at Friday's games!

Ospreys 17-12 Scarlets

Ashley Beck and Aisea Natoga grabbed first-half tries in a 17-12 Welsh derby victory for Ospreys as a fine defensive display at Liberty Stadium kept Scarlets away from the whitewash.

Wales international Beck hit first while Natoga dotted down in first-half injury time - just after Rhys Priestland's first penalty and Scarlets' first score of the match.

Priestland added another three penalties in the second half but Dan Biggar mustered seven points from the tee in total to keep any hopes of a Scarlets comeback at bay.

Ospreys are something of a bogey side for Scarlets, who have won just one of their last 11 encounters with Steve Tandy's men.

The visitors were also looking to turn the tide on a five-game losing streak in all competitions - and were close to getting off to the perfect start.

After winning turnover ball and a penalty, Priestland decided to go for the sticks but failed to hit the target.

Then Scarlets flanker Josh Turnbull found the turf rather than a man with his pass and Ben John almost took full advantage, punting the loose ball ahead of him before running out of room to dot the ball down.

Bruising tackles forced Ospreys to cough up the ball before they could truly get going for the first quarter-hour - but then the hosts' backs truly sprang to life.

Rhys Webb snuck his way through the Scarlets line to spark a tremendous break and despite being hauled down inches away from the try-line, Beck scooped up the ball to cross the whitewash before Dan Biggar added the extras.

For all of Ospreys' attacking intent it was Scott Williams who was leading the charge for the visitors and he was unlucky not to force a score after a breakaway of his own.

Finally Scarlets got on the board through a Priestland penalty to seemingly take the initiative going into the break - but the hosts found time to hit again.

After working the ball upfield Ospreys were knocking on the door under the posts before Sam Davies at full-back found Natoga - who found acres of space to touch down, with Biggar converting.

The hosts were penalised near halfway early on in the second half and while Priestland's explosive kick had the distance, it lacked the accuracy by just missing left.

However Biggar was having no such problems and when presented with his own opportunity drilled through once more.

Both fly-halves are battling for a Wales jersey and Priestland was able to get a counter-punch in by booting between the posts to give Scarlets a glimmer of hope approaching the final 20 minutes.

And he continued to chip away at Ospreys' lead with another finely-struck kick, as Scarlets started to sense hope.

The momentum was with Simon Easterby's side but the hosts continued to repel incoming attacks - before shooting themselves in the own foot as Natoga deliberately knocked on to earn a yellow card.

But Ospreys' resistance was no less impressive with 14 men and despite one more Priestland penalty, they held firm to clinch the Welsh bragging rights and reaffirm their hopes of a Pro12 play-off spot.

The scorers:

For Ospreys:
Tries:
Beck, Natoga
Cons: Biggar, Davies
Pen: Biggar

For Scarlets:
Pens:
Priestland 4

Yellow card: Aisea Natoga (Ospreys, 69)

Teams:

Ospreys: 15 Sam Davies, 14 Aisea Natoga, 13 Ben John, 12 Ashley Beck, 11 Jeff Hassler, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Joe Bearman, 7 Sam Lewis, 6 Justin Tipuric, 5 Ian Evans, 4 Alun Wyn Jones, 3 Aaron Jarvis, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Duncan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Scott Baldwin, 17 Ryan Bevington, 18 Adam Jones, 19 James King, 20 Morgan Allen, 21 Tyler Ardron, 22 Tom Habberfield, 23 Richard Fussell.

Scarlets: 15 Gareth Owen, 14 Kristian Phillips, 13 Nick Reynolds, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Frazier Climo, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Rhodri Williams, 8 Rob McCusker (captain), 7 John Barclay, 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 George Earle, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Samson Lee, 2 Emyr Phillips, 1 Phil John.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Rob Evans, 18 Jacobie Adriaanse, 19 Johan Snyman, 20 Aaron Shingler, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Aled Thomas, 23 Jordan Williams.

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Ian Davies, Jon Mason (both Wales)
TMO: Derek Bevan (Wales)

Ulster 29-19 Munster

Ruan Pienaar's supreme kicking display was the backbone to a scintillating Ulster victory as they overcame Irish rivals Munster by 29-19.

The South Africa international missed just one kick in collecting 19 points - in stark contrast to opposing kicker Ian Keatley's four - while Jared Payne and Darren Cave touched down after two pulsating first-half moves.

Pro12 leaders Munster were valiant in their fightback but, despite Ivan Dineen's try just before half-time followed by Dave Kilcoyne and James Coughlan after the break, could not claw their way back in it.

Rob Penney's men may be running riot at the top of the Pro12 this year but Ulster had only lost one game at home in 11 months.

And they set about proving why they are such a force at Ravenhill in the first three minutes after a penalty from the breakdown handed scrum-half Pienaar the opportunity to slot through three points.

Ulster's tempo quickened even further when Payne poked through a grubber kick for Craig Gilroy to chase, and a penalty was awarded with the try-line looming after Dineen failed to play the ball.

And it was another sumptuous grubber which finally unlocked the Munster defence, Paddy Jackson's perfectly-weighted kick allowing Payne to storm through and dive onto the ball before it trickled out of play.

Pienaar made sure of the conversion but Keatley could have dragged the visitors back into it almost immediately, instead pushing a penalty wide of the posts.

And when Munster were caught offside in midfield Pienaar - who continued to be favoured from the tee instead of fly-half Paddy Jackson - replied by thumping a huge kick between the uprights.

While his South African counterpart was having joy with the boot, Keatley was having trouble after he skewed a routine penalty to the right.

His team were also finding it hard to stop their Irish rivals and the menacing Andrew Trimble was the one to surge through this time, before Jackson weaved from left to right before being hauled down.

Prop John Afoa was there to try and finish a stunning move off but despite shrugging off two tackles, his foot scraped into touch.

But Ulster would not have to wait long to make their pressure count when Payne stormed into space, offloading to Trimble who cut back inside from the right.

Centre Cave then cut across him in support and he crashed over the line to tie up a breathtaking move.

The game was in danger of running away from the Pro12 table-toppers but in the dying stages of the first half Dineen skipped through for the try following a Keatley offload, who again missed the posts with a conversion attempt.

Keatley's rotten luck continued after the break after a long-range penalty veered away at the last and clonked off the left upright.

After kicking a penalty in touch however Munster continued their comeback attempt, Kilcoyne turning the corner of a rolling maul to bundle his way through for the try.

The successful conversion was a much-needed boost for Keatley and suddenly, Munster were right back in the match.

Following a penalty at scrumtime Ulster had the chance to stem the tide by scoring themselves but the near-faultless Pienaar failed to kick through from both a difficult angle and distance.

However he made good with a penalty in front of the posts soon after as Munster faced the last 20 minutes with an 11-point deficit to overcome.

The way to respond quickly was by racking up another try and Penney's troops duly did through another maul as this time No.8 Coughlan barrelled over.

Ravenhill's nerves were eased when Pienaar extended the lead to seven points with another swish of his right boot.

But when Dan Tuohy was penalised five metres away from the whitewash Munster kicked to touch and only heroic Ulster defending prevented the bonus-point try for the visitors.

The away side failed to reach the whitewash and in the ensuing five-metre scrum Mark Anscombe's men flushed Munster out.

And in the last minute Paul O'Connell was yellow carded following his knock-on, for Pienaar to clinch a memorable triumph for Ulster with another deadeye kick.

The scorers:

For Ulster:
Tries:
Payne, Cave
Cons: Pienaar 2
Pens: Pienaar 5

For Munster:
Tries:
Dineen, Kilcoyne, Coughlan
Con: Keatley 2

Yellow card: Paul O'Connell (Munster, 79)

Teams:

Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Chris Henry, 6 Robbie Diack (captain), 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 John Afoa, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Calum Black, 18 Declan Fitzpatrick, 19 Lewis Stevenson, 20 Nick Williams, 21 Sean Doyle, 22 Paul Marshall, 23 Michael Allen.

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Ivan Dineen, 11 Ronan O'Mahony, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Cathal Sheridan, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O'Mahony (captain), 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Duncan Casey, 17 John Ryan, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Dave Foley, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Johnny Holland, 23 Johne Murphy.

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Dudley Phillips, Nigel Correll (both Ireland)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

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