Warburton factor not enough
Sat, 15 Feb 2014 19:39
Munster back on top
The return of Wales captain Sam Warburton couldn’t save Cardiff Blues as a late flurry saw Glasgow Warriors snatch a 27-20 away win on Saturday.
Also on Saturday, Munster reclaimed top spot with a 36-8 bonus-point victory over Zebre and Connacht moved off the foot of the table with a welcome 11-7 win over Edinburgh.
We look at all of Saturday’s action!
Connacht 11-7 Edinburgh
Michael Swift's second-half try spared the blushes of teammate Craig Ronaldson as Connacht picked up their first Pro12 victory of 2014 with an 11-7 win over Edinburgh.
Trailing 3-7 at the break to Roddy Grant's early try for Edinburgh, the hosts could have found themselves five points ahead had Ronaldson converted more than the single penalty he managed in the first half.
But with the visitors reduced to 14 men following Cornell de Preez' second-half yellow, Swift dotted down to nudge them ahead before Dan Parks' penalty extended their difference.
It was far from a convincing performance from either side but the hosts did just enough to claim a much needed victory - just their second of their last 13 Pro12 matches.
Heading into the game, Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons had admitted his side may be a bit rusty having seen their previous Pro12 game against Newport Gwent Dragons postponed.
But there was certainly no sign of any sluggishness for the Scottish side at the Sportsground as Grant charged over for a try on seven minutes.
Much of it owed to the work of Nick de Luca, who with the ball turned over from Connacht, broke through a gap in their defence before feeding Grant in the corner.
South African-born flyhalf Carl Bezuidenhout, making his first start for Edinburgh, duly added the extras as Edinburgh found themselves 7-0 to the good.
Connacht were struggling to really click into gear as the Edinburgh defence held firm and errors plagued their efforts.
But with their scrum functioning with a degree of efficiency, they were awarded a penalty on 20 minutes which Ronaldson duly converted from in front of the posts.
It was then Edinburgh's turn to rack up the penalties, pinged for not rolling away and interfering at the line-out but Ronaldson missed both penalties either side of the half hour mark.
The flyhalf had another chance to pull his side back to within a point before half time from just inside the touchline but he again failed to split the posts leaving Edinburgh to take a 7-3 lead into the break.
The hosts maintained the pressure after the restart and after winning another penalty almost immediately, Ronaldson opted for a switch in tactics, kicking for touch this time.
Eoin Griffin managed to find the gap from the line out, passing to Ffion Carr but the move eventually lost momentum as Edinburgh turned things over.
But the pressure was not relieved on the Scottish outfit and with another penalty going against them, Du Preez was the man to suffer for repeated infringements, sent to the bin on 45 minutes.
Connacht made the man count almost immediately as following a series of pick and drives, Swift bustled his way over for an 8-7 lead, Ronaldson having missed the conversion.
Bezuidenhout had a chance to hit back but his penalty went just wide before De Luca again made another break for Edinburgh but they were pinged for crossing.
The game was finely balanced going into the final 15 minutes with the home side relieved to see replacement Parks slotting over a penalty on 68 minutes to extend their advantage to four.
And with Edinburgh failed to launch a late fightback, Connacht were left celebrating their first win over Scottish opponents in five attempts.
Pens: Ronaldson, Parks
Yellow card: Cornell du Preez (Edinburgh, 45)
Connacht: 15 Robbie Henshaw, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Dave McSharry, 11 Tiernan O'Halloran, 10 Craig Ronaldson, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Michael Swift, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Denis Buckley
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ronan Loughneym. 18 JP Cooney, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Dan Parks, 23 Darragh Leader
Edinburgh: 15 Jack Cuthbert, 14 Dougie Fife, 13 Nick De Luca, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Carl Bezuidenhout, 9 Grayson Hart, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 Mike Coman (captain), 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 WP Nel, 2 James Hilterbrand, 1 Wicus Blaauw
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Alex Allan, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Tomas Leonardi, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Sam Beard, 23 Harry Leonard
Referee: Claudio Blessano (Italy)
Assistant referees: Olly Hodges (Ireland), Mark Connolly (Ireland)
Cardiff Blues 20-27 Glasgow Warriors
Mark Bennett's last-gasp try provided just the dramatic ending Glasgow Warriors were searching for as they overcame a 10-point deficit early in the second half to shock Cardiff Blues 27-20.
Tries from Robin Copeland and Lewis Jones, along with seven points from Simon Humberstone, had the Blues 17-7 ahead after 46 minutes - a converted Lee Jones score Glasgow's only response.
But scores from James Eddie and Bennett in the final 10 minutes, along with Finn Russell's 10 points from the kicking tee, gave Glasgow the win at Cardiff Arms Park.
The result moves the Warriors into third above Ulster in the standings after the Irish region saw their game postponed.
A dangerous Cardiff line-out earned the hosts a penalty within kicking distance, allowing Humberstone to add the first points of the match after seven minutes.
The Blues, bolstered by Sam Warburton and Gethin Jenkins, were hogging most of the possession and probing away at Glasgow's defence but they stood firm and a Rob Harley breakaway could have resulted in a try.
The Warriors had the chance to draw the scores level on 19 minutes but Ruaridh Jackson got his angles wrong and saw his penalty slide wide.
Just four minutes later and the visitors earned a penalty in a very similar position, this time it was Bennett who attempted the kick but he also failed to get Glasgow on the scoreboard as his effort hit the woodwork.
Then a mix-up in the Warriors defence gifted Cardiff the game's first try - Jackson trying to scoop the ball back but instead it found a Blues hand in Copeland, who went over to add a score which Humberstone converted.
Just before the break however Glasgow had an excellent position from a scrum outside Cardiff's 22 and managed to grab a try through Jones.
The rapid wing shrugged off several challenges and touched down for his first Warriors try a minute before half-time with Jackson converted to make sure his side went in just 7-10 behind.
But they were unable to carry that momentum through with them into the second period as it was the Blues who went further ahead on 44 minutes thanks to an opportunistic try from replacement Jones.
It looked like a high ball was heading straight into touch but the ball swirled and stayed just in with Jones providing the finish, checked by the TMO, with the conversion sailing over.
Gregor Townsend's side reduced the deficit to just a converted try on 53 minutes thanks to a penalty from Russell and he added another three points 10 minutes later to move the score onto 17-13.
A 67th-minute penalty for the Blues, successfully kicked by Gareth Davies, seemed to have put the hosts firmly in the driving seat for victory.
But Glasgow weren't finished just yet and dramatically drew level on 70 minutes thanks to a try from replacement Eddie, converted by Russell.
And the visitors completed the comeback three minutes from time as Bennett touched down after a great steal from the Blues scrum, with Russell's conversion finishing things off at 27-20.
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Copeland, Jones
Cons: Humberstone 2
Pens: Humberstone, Davies
For Glasgow Warriors:
Tries: Jones, Eddie, Bennett
Cons: Jackson, Russell 2
Pens: Russell 2
Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Richard Smith, 13 Isaia Tuifua, 12 Dafydd Hewitt, 11 Harry Robinson, 10 Simon Humberstone, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Robin Copeland, 7 Sam Warburton, 6 Ellis Jenkins, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Macauley Cook, 3 Scott Andrews, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins (captain).
Replacements: 16 Rhys Williams, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Patrick Palmer, 19 James Down, 20 Rory Watts-Jones, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Tom Williams.
Glasgow Warriors: 15 Niko Matawalu, 14 Lee Jones, 13 Richie Vernon, 12 Mark Bennett, 11 Rory Hughes, 10 Ruaridh Jackson, 9 Henry Prygos, 8 Josh Strauss (captain), 7 Tyrone Holmes, 6 Rob Harley, 5 Tom Ryder, 4 Leone Nakawara, 3 Ed Kalman, 2 Pat Macarthur, 1 Gordon Reid.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Jerry Yanuyanutawa, 18 Jon Welsh, 19 Jonny Gray, 20 James Eddie, 21 Chris Cusiter, 22 Finn Russell, 23 Folau Niua.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Brickell (Wales), Martyn Lewis (Wales)
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)
Munster 36-8 Zebre
Simon Zebo was back to his clinical best, dotting down twice in the first half as Munster beat Zebre 36-8 and returned to the top of the table.
After Tomasso D'Apice opened the scoring for Zebre, the Ireland wing crossed the whitewash twice to put Munster in control before half-time.
Further tries for Ger Slattery and Tommy O'Donnell secured the bonus point and Slattery was on hand to add a fifth later on, as Munster ended Leinster's overnight Pro12 lead.
It was Zebre who opened the scoring after 11 minutes, when Giovanbattista Venditti collected Brendon Leonard's neat switch and broke clear near the left touchline, before offloading to D'Apice.
The Italian hooker did the rest, crossing the whitewash to touch down, and despite Guglielmo Palazzani's missed conversion Zebre held an unlikely lead at Musgrave Park.
The in-form JJ Hanrahan hit back just a few minutes later with an accurate penalty, shortly before Donncha O'Callaghan, replacing his namesake Dave, entered the field to become Munster's most capped player of all time.
The hosts added to Hanrahan's penalty, and took the lead for the first time after 26 minutes, when Zebo grabbed his second try in as many games since returning from injury.
Munster spread the ball wide to the left wing and, with a numerical advantage in the outfield, Zebo finished neatly before Hanrahan sent over the conversion.
Shortly after the hour mark CJ Stander barrelled his way into the Zebre 22 but the away side held Munster up on their own line on three separate occasions.
However, the pressure soon told and once again it was Zebo with the finish, bisecting two defenders to touch down - but Hanrahan sent his conversion wide of the left upright.
Munster almost capped the half with a brilliant try, spreading the ball wide from inside their own 22 and breaking all the way up field with a series of smart offloads, but they couldn't convert the opportunity and headed into the break 15-5 up.
As in the first half, Zebre drew first blood in the second, as a Palazzani penalty reduced the deficit to seven points after just four minutes.
Munster's resurgence was led from the front, with the pack once again probing their way into Zebre's 22, but this time the resistance was more stubborn.
However, the hosts were handed an opportunity to pull clear when, after 62 minutes, Zebre captain Andries van Schalkwyk was sent to the sin bin for repeated infringements at the breakdown.
And from that offence Munster kicked for touch, collected the line-out and drove for the line, with replacement hooker Slattery touching down and Ian Keatley adding the extras.
The visitors continued to struggle in Van Schalkwyk's absence and only prevented a fourth try by holding up another powerful drive that had burst beyond the try-line.
But a sharp pick-and-go from O'Donnell was good enough to break the resistance after 70 minutes and secure the bonus point - Keatley converted.
And after Munster's powerful pack forced the visitors onto the back foot one last time, the ball was popped to Slattery to add another try in the corner, which Keatley expertly converted.
Tries: Zebo 2, Slattery 2, O'Donnell
Cons: Hanrahan, Keatley 3
Yellow card: Andries van Schalkwyk (Zebre, 62)
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Johne Murphy, 12 Ian Keatley, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Cathal Sheridan, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Duncan Casey, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Ger Slattery, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 John Ryan, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 Sean Dougall, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 Denis Hurley, 23 Andrew Conway.
Zebre: 15 Guglielmo Palazzani, 14 David Odiete, 13 Kameli Ratuvou, 12 Roberto Quartaroli, 11 Dion Berryman, 10 Ruggero Trevisan, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Andries van Schalkwyk (captain), 6 Filippo Cristiano, 5 George Biagi, 4 Michael van Vuren, 3 Dario Chistolini, 2 Tommaso D'Apice, 1 Andrea De Marchi.
Replacements:16 Lorenzo Giovanchelli, 17 Luciano Leibson, 18 David Ryan, 19 Emiliano Caffini, 20 Nicola Cattina, 21 Alberto Chillon, 22 Giulio Bisegni, 23 Giovanbattista Venditti.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Nigel Correll (Ireland), Dermot Blake (Ireland)
TMO: Jude Quinn (Ireland)
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