Leinster overhaul Munster to stay top
Brian O'Driscoll scored his first try of the season as Leinster came from behind to defeat Munster 22-18 and maintain their spot at the top of the PRO12.
Brian O'Driscoll scored his first try of the season as Leinster came from behind to defeat Munster 22-18 and maintain their spot at the top of the PRO12.
In a pulsating game between the league's top two sides, Ian Keatley had got his side into a deserved lead with four penalties before Ian Madigan levelled up the penalty count as the hosts gradually worked their way back into the game.
But making the most of Dave Kilcoyne's yellow card, Leinster made their pressure count in the second half with O'Driscoll getting the game's only try just short of the hour mark, converted by Madigan.
Keatley added two more penalties to Madigan's one but it was not enough as the Munstermen's poor away record to Leinster continued with their five consecutive loss.
Munster had been forced into a reshuffle as captain Peter O'Mahony reported a tight hamstring prematch with CJ Stander coming into the starting line up in his place.
But there was better news from the kick off, as they were awarded a penalty on four minutes after Leinster infringed at the scrum and Keatley notched up the first points of the game.
And it was a similar result just five minutes later as Munster's quicker attack again caused problems in the Leinster defence and Keatley obliged to make it 6-0.
The visitors were enjoying much more territory in the opening 20 minutes, and Keatley made it a hat-trick of penalties on 22 minutes to extend his side's lead.
But having won their last nine matches in all competitions, Leinster were showing no sign of panic and slowly started to work their back in as the half progressed.
Ian Madigan slotted over a penalty on 25 minutes to open his side's account but with Leinster's scrum creaking again, Keatley's penalty re-established the nine point lead.
Leinster went for a final push before the break and with Madigan slotting over one of two chances to leaves the scores balanced at 12-6.
And they carried on from where they left off after the break, with Eoin Reddan displaying sharp reactions at the back of the scrum to pick up the ball and break up the field into Munster territory.
The hosts managed to retain possession before Rob Kearney missed with a drop goal attempt, but Rolland brought play back for an infringement by Tommy O'Donnell and Madigan put away the penalty for 12-9.
And they drew level on 51 minutes as Madigan again provided the points with his boot as Munster were penalised for not rolling away.
All the momentum was now firmly with the hosts and Munster's rising penalty count finally proved too much for Rolland with Kilcoyne sinbinned before Shane Jennings found the gap to gain further territory.
And the breakthrough finally arrived just three minutes short of the hour mark, as Leinster made the most of the man advantage, Jennings again finding the space before offloading to O'Driscoll to run in.
Madigan added the conversion and Leinster took the lead for the first time in the match with 20 minutes remaining.
Munster were not about to roll over however, as they immediately went on the attack with Casey Laulala leading the charge with CJ Stander just held up on the line after a strong defensive effort from Leinster.
And the visitors did come away with a penalty with Keatley reducing the arrears to 19-15 with his fifth penalty of the night before his sixth three-pointer with a minute left on the clock made it a one-point game.
But JJ Hanrahan was penalised for crossing and Madigan slotted over his sixth attempt from seven to confirm victory.
Pens: Madigan 5
Pens: Keatley 6
Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip (captain), 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Michael Bent.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Jack O'Connell, 18 Ed Byrne, 19 Leo Cullen, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Zane Kirchner.
Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Denis Hurley, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Peter O'Mahony (captain), 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Dave Foley, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Duncan Casey, 17 James Cronin, 18 Alan Cotter, 19 Donncha O'Callaghan, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Duncan Williams, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Gerhard van der Heever.
Referee: Pascale Gauzere
Assistant referees: David Wilkinson, Michael Black
TMO: Simon McDowell
Cardiff Blues 28-23 Ulster
A classy kicking display from Cardiff Blues' Gareth Davies ensured the Welsh outfit walked away 28-23 victors against Ulster.
The 30-year-old flyhalf kicked seven penalties and one conversion and proved to be the difference between the two sides.
The win was a first in six match for the Blues who suffered against the Ospreys last week , losing 34-9 in the Welsh derby.
The Blues looked to have the game wrapped up at the break after ending the half 22-5 after Robin Copeland raced over the line following a clever pass from winger Alex Cuthbert.
The first five minutes looked worrying for the Welsh side as Ulster set the ball rolling with an early try from centre Darren Cave who made easy work Cardiff fullback Dan Fish.
When on the attack inside the Cardiff 22 Ulster's Paddy Jackson swung the ball to Cave who latched on with his finger tips and accelerated to the gap and Fish unable to stop the surging centre.
Jackson was unable to add the extras swinging the ball left of the posts.
The home-side cut the deficit five minutes later as Davies slotted home the first of the night's seven penalties.
However despite the strong start from the Ulster the momentum shifted in favour of the Welshmen who pounded Ulster's defensive line.
Mid-way through the first half Cardiff took the lead after Ulster were penalised for not moving from the tackle and Davies duly converted.
Minutes after being penalised, Ulster went down to 14 men after Dan Tuohy was binned for not releasing in the tackle.
Davies bagged his third penalty of the night and put Cardiff 9-5 ahead.
Cardiff came close to grabbing their first try of the evening with a remarkable 60m maul that Ulster were powerless to stop, and resulted in an easy penalty for Davies to convert after the visitors were penalised.
With the end of the half fast approaching Cuthbert scooped the ball up inside his own half and offloaded with a backhand flick to Robin Copeland who raced over the line for the day's only try, and Davies added the conversion.
A further penalty from Davies meant the Blues went into the break with a 22-5 lead.
Ulster faced a seemingly insurmountable uphill battle to get into the game. But from the off the boot of Paddy Jackson ensured visitors slowly clawed their way back into the game.
Jackson converted on 44, 48, and 57 minutes bringing the scoreline to 22-14. A reply on 65 minutes from Davies earned Cardiff some breathing space.
However a series of three penalties on 67, 72, and 75 minutes - all converted by Jackson meant that Ulster found themselves two points shy of Cardiff going into the final five minutes.
But as the Ulstermen piled on the pressure they gave away a penalty a minute before time which converted by Davies and pushed Cardiff five points clear.
The home side resisted a three minute onslaught from Ulster after 80 minutes passed before finally seeing out the win.
Pens: Davies 6
Pens: Jackson 6
Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Cory Allen, 12 Isaia Tuifua, 11 Chris Czekaj, 10 Gareth Davies, 9 Lewis Jones, 8 Robin Copeland 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 Filo Paulo, 4 Lou Reed, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins (captain).
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 James Down, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Simon Humberstone, 23 Gavin Evans.
Ulster: 15 Jared Payne, 14 Tommy Bowe, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Andrew Trimble, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Michael Heaney, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Chis Henry, 6 Stephen Ferris, 5 Dan Tuohy , 4 Johann Muller (captain), 3 John Afoa, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Tom Court.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Andrew Warwick, 18 Ricky Lutton 19 Iain Henderson, 20 Robbie Diack, 21 Sean Doyle, 22 Paul Marshall, 23 Craig Gilroy.
Referee: Marius Mitrea
Treviso 20-16 Edinburgh
Quickfire tries from Leonardo Ghiraldini and Alberto de Marchi saw Treviso stop the rot with a well-earned 20-16 PRO12 victory over Edinburgh.
Treviso clinched their first win in the PRO12 since late December, hitting back after trailing 9-3 at the interval with Ghiraldini and de Marchi dotting down within five minutes of each other.
Edinburgh salvaged a late bonus point when Cornell Du Preez went over at the death - Carl Bezuidenhout converting - but there was no time to complete a dramatic comeback.
Alan Solomons' troops may have lost their last two PRO12 away games but had collected two bonus points in doing so with narrow defeats at Scarlets and Connacht.
Meanwhile, Treviso were on an eight-game losing streak in all competitions and found themselves under pressure from the off, with scrumhalf Grayson Hart in particular looking menacing.
However, a penalty at scrum time following some cheap Edinburgh turnovers saw the hosts assume the front foot, Tobias Botes knocking over the first penalty of the match.
A ten-minute spell of Treviso pressure immediately followed but eventually, the visitors managed to wriggle free from their own 22 and started to assert their own authority.
The Italians were pinged in the ruck and Bezuidenhout took the opportunity to get Edinburgh off the mark with a three-pointer of his own.
Soon after the South African pulled a long-range penalty wide but chances continued to land in his lap after aggressive rucking by Ross Ford and David Denton forced Treviso into another mistake.
Bezuidenhout stroked the penalty through to edge Edinburgh into the lead and it wasn't just with the boot through which the fullback was making an impact, breaking through the lines - only to pop off a forward pass.
And they could have ended the half with the game's first try but Du Preez decided to go it alone in a three-on-two situation.
However, the play was pulled back for a penalty and Bezuidenhout made no mistake as Edinburgh headed into the break with a six-point advantage.
Edinburgh hands in a ruck allowed Treviso to get straight back into the match when the two teams returned as Botes made no mistake with the penalty.
And the momentum was well and truly swinging the home side's way after Lorenzo Cittadini wrestled his way to the whitewash under the close attention of Andries Strauss.
The TMO was called and on replay, Strauss had ripped the ball away from Cittadini's grasp at the last second.
Treviso however were undeterred and found a richly-deserved breakthrough after hooker Ghiraldini waltzed through Edinburgh lines for the score.
It did not take long for them to press home their advantage either with another stroke of front-row magic, Italian international de Marchi burrowing over to make it two tries in four minutes.
Botes converted and Treviso kept Edinburgh at bay until the clock went read and while Du Preez sealed another losing bonus point for his side, the hosts breathed a major sigh of relief.
Tries: Ghirladini, De Marchi
Cons: Botes 2
Pens: Botes 2
Try: Du Preez
Pens: Bezuidenhout 3
Treviso: 15 Luke McLean,14 Ludovico Nitoglia, 13 Michele Campagnaro, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Angelo Esposito, 10 James Ambrosini, 9 Tobias Botes, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Marco Filippucci, 6 Manoa Vosawai, 5 Corniel Van Zyl, 4 Antonio Pavanello (captain), 3 Lorenzo Cittadini, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Alberto De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Giovanni Maistri, 17 Matteo Muccignat, 18 Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, 19 Marco Fuser, 20 Valerio Bernabò, 21 Christian Loamanu, 22 Fabio Semenzato, 23 Alberto Di Bernardo.
Edinburgh: 15 Carl Bezuidenhout, 14 Jack Cuthbert, 13 Matt Scott, 12 Andries Strauss (captain), 11 Tom Brown, 10 Harry Leonard, 9 Grayson Hart, 8 David Denton, 7 Roddy Grant, 6 Cornell Du Preez, 5 Izak van der Westhuizen, 4 Grant Gilchrist, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Alasdair Dickinson.
Replacements: 16 James Hilterbrand, 17 Wicus Blaauw, 18 Ewan McQuillin, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Tomas Leonardi, 21 Sean Kennedy, 22 Sam Beard, 23 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne.
Referee: Nigel Owens
Zebre 25-25 Newport Gwent Dragons
Jevon Groves' late try rescued a 25-25 draw for Newport Gwent Dragons, denying Zebre a fourth ever victory in the PRO12 in the process.
Groves dotted down with three minutes to go - Jason Tovey converting - to level the scores after a Luciano Orquera penalty on 72 minutes had given the hosts a 25-18 lead.
It's the second time Zebre have drawn this season and while they remain at the bottom of the PRO12 table, they have pulled level on 20 points with fellow Italians Treviso.
After a scoreless opening 20 minutes at the Stadio XXV Aprile the floodgates were opened by Samuela Vunisa who ran over to give Zebre the lead.
An Orquera conversion was enough to ensure Zebre maintained their lead after Dragons' Tovey was unable to convert Dan Evans' try on 26 minutes.
Gonzalo Garcia gave Zebre a five-point lead with a penalty on 32 minutes but an Ashley Smith try and a Tovey conversion gave Newport Gwent Dragons the lead for the first time in the match.
The Dragons then extended their lead five minutes later when Tovey added a penalty to make it 10-15.
But Orquera responded with a penalty of his own just before the break to put Zebre within two at half-time.
After going down Leinster in their last outing Zebre were already performing infinitely better and threatening to claim their second win over a Welsh side in a month.
The Italian side had beaten Cardiff Blues 15-10 at the start of March and, as Orquera added another penalty after the break, it looked like they might be able to claim their fourth win of the season.
A missed Tovey penalty gave the home side even greater cause for optimism but the 24-year-old made amends minutes later with a 54th-minute penalty.
But Zebre weren't out of it and Orquera added a hat-trick of penalties in 15 minutes to give the Italians their biggest lead since the opening try.
With the clock winding down Zebre must have thought they had done enough but Groves ran over on 77 minutes and Tovey kept his cool to level the scores.
Pens: Garcia, Orquera 4
Tries: Evans, Smith, Groves
Cons: Tovey 2
Pens: Tovey 2
Zebre: 15 Guglielmo Palazzani, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Gonzalo Garcia, 11 Dion Berryman, 10 Luciano Orquera, 9 Brendon Leonard, 8 Samuela Vunisa, 7 Andries van Schalkwyk, 6 Filippo Ferrarini, 5 Marco Bortolami (captain), 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 David Ryan, 2 Davide Giazzon, 1 Salvatore Perugini.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'apice, 17 Matias Aguero, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Emiliano Caffini, 20 Filippo Cristiano, 21 David Odiete, 22 Giovanbattista Venditti, 23 Kameli Ratuvou.
Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Will Harries, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Taulupe Faletau. 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Lewis Evans, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Andrew Coombs (captain), 3 Duncan Bell, 2 Elliot Dee, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Bruce Douglas, 18 Nathan Buck, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Jevon Groves, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Jack Dixon, 23 Hallam Amos.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon