Blues and Edinburgh bag first wins
PRO 12 FRIDAY WRAP: Cardiff Blues and Edinburgh claimed their first victories of the season with victories over Munster and Scarlets, respectively while Newport Gwent Dragons squeezed past Zebre.
At Thomond Park, Dan Fish scored the winning try as Cardiff Blues battled past Munster 24-23 in a fascinating battle to secure their second win of the season. The fullback burst through to score with 12 minutes left just after Munster had seemingly gained control, and a strong defensive effort repelled the Irish side in the final minutes.
Meanwhile, Pat Howard's second try in two games was enough for Newport Gwent Dragons to secure a narrow 11-6 win over a battling Zebre side at Rodney Parade. Carlo Canna struck with a penalty early on, but Howard's finish followed by two Nick Macleod's penalties were enough to secure a first win for Kingsley Jones' men.
Elsewhere, Duncan Weir was the chief architect with the boot as Edinburgh claimed their first win season, 20-9 against Scarlets at Murrayfield. Weir scored 10 points off the tee but also created the opening score for wing Michael Allen with a delightful kick-through to add to a further effort from Magnus Bradbury.
All Friday's scores and scorers!
Munster 23-24 Cardiff Blues
Tom James crossed twice for the Blues in an open first half, but Munster gradually edged back and took the lead through Dave Kilcoyne's close-range try in the final quarter. However, Fish won it for the visitors after a slick move, to maintain their 100 percent start to the season after an opening-day win against Edinburgh.
Cardiff head coach Danny Wilson opted to stock up on experience for the trip to Cork by recalling veteran prop Gethin Jenkins, along with fit-again wing Alex Cuthbert. They shot out of the blocks and almost grabbed an early try through Cory Allen, but Darren Sweetnam's last-ditch tackle forced the Welsh centre into touch on the left wing.
However, they could not be kept out for long as James evaded several tackles after stepping inside to score his 50th Blues try.
Munster, roared on by the home crowd, hit back immediately after an intelligent kick over the top from Ian Keatley dropped into a dangerous area and Sweetnam latched onto it before off-loading to Andrew Conway to score.
After a breathless start, the intensity dropped with a tactical kicking game taking over before Gareth Anscombe slotted over a penalty. And the visitors stretched their lead even further before the break after centre Ray Lee-Lo made a powerful break with Munster's defence stretched, before slipping a neat pass inside to James to easily run in for his second.
Munster introduced flank CJ Stander after half-time, and his impact was immediate as he helped to win a penalty soon after getting involved. The Blues countered that by bringing on Wales captain Sam Warburton for his first appearance of the season following injury.
But it was the Irish side who gained the upper hand as they raised their intensity and speed of passing and were rewarded when the forwards won a penalty which Keatley slotted over to reduce the deficit to four points.
Forward power worked again just after the hour mark as replacement Kilcoyne bundled over from close range after they ground Cardiff down with a relentless drive. Anscombe had the chance to bring the Blues level minutes later with a long-range penalty but it fell agonisingly short.
But Wilson's men kept plugging away and eventually got through as Lee-Lo and Lloyd Williams combined to create space, and Fish burst through to touch down. Munster responded straight away as Keatley kicked another penalty to get the gap down to just one point with 10 minutes left, but the Blues' defence was impenetrable from there as they closed the game out for an impressive win.
Tries: Conway, Kilcoyne
Cons: Keatley 2
Pens: Keatley 3
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: James 2, Fish
Cons: Anscombe 2, Shingler
Munster: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Dan Goggin, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Ronan O'Mahony, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 Jack O'Donoghue, 7 Tommy O'Donnell, 6 Dave O'Callaghan, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Dave Foley, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 James Cronin.
Replacements: 16 Duncan Casey, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 Brian Scott, 19 Donnacha Ryan, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Tomás O'Leary, 22 Cian Bohane, 23 Stephen Fitzgerald.
Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Corey Allen, 12 Rey Lee-Lo, 11 Tom James, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Ellis Jenkins, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Macauley Cook, 4 George Earle, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins (captain).
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Rhys Gill, 18 S Andrews, 19 Josh Turnbull, 20 Sam Warburton, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Steve Shingler, 23 Matthew Morgan.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Newport Gwent Dragons 11-6 Zebre
It was a bright start from the hosts but Zebre fought back into the side with Canna on hand to slot over their first away points with the boot since January 2016.
A bust from lock Landman paved the way for Dragons to score the first try of the game after 17 minutes, the powerful forward offloading to Pretorius who shifted the ball for Pat Howard to canter home.
MacLeod missed the conversion but made amends 10 minutes later with a well-struck penalty that moved Dragons 8-3 ahead before his second three-pointer of the night further extended the lead.
Canna struck with a timely penalty just before half-time to bring Zebre within a score at the break, the 24-year-old pivot then missed a chance to bring the Italians within two points five minutes into the second half.
Neither side could really gain a foothold in the second half, with both sides slipping to 14 men at stages and defences continued to dominate throughout.
For Newport Gwent Dragons:
Pens: Macleod 2
Pens: Canna 2
Newport Gwent Dragons: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Adam Warren, 13 Tyler Morgan, 12 Sam Beard, 11 Pat Howard, 10 Nick Macleod, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Ed Jackson, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Lewis Evans (captain), 5 Rynard Landman, 4 Nick Crosswell, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Thomas Rhys Thomas, 1 Thomas Davies.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Buckley, 17 Sam Hobbs, 18 Lloyd Fairbrother, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 James Thomas, 21 Charlie Davies, 22 Angus O'Brien, 23 Geraint Rhys Jones.
Zebre: 15 Kurt Baker, 14 Lloyd Greeff, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Boni, 11 Gabriele Di Giulio, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Guglielmo Palazzani, 8 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 7 Maxime Mbandà, 6 Jacopo Sarto, 5 George Biagi (captain), 4 Quintin Geldenhuys, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea De Marchi.
Replacements: 16 Carlo Festuccia, 17 Guillermo Roan, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Federico Ruzza, 21 Carlo Engelbrecht, 22 Matteo Pratichetti, 23 Edoardo Padovani.
Referee: Lloyd Linton (Scotland)
Edinburgh 20-9 Scarlets
The home side produced a sloppy start as WP Nel was penalised for going off his feet at the breakdown but Scarlets spurned the early opportunity to get their noses in front on three minutes as Rhys Patchell missed his shot at goal.
It didn't take long for Scarlets to go ahead as Patchell fired over a penalty on 11 minutes to atone for his earlier miss and reward the early pressure from the Welsh club. Edinburgh improved as the half went on, mastering the tough conditions more than their Welsh opponents, and slowly got a foothold in the game.
Weir was twice the lucky recipient of Scarlets' indiscipline as he kicked two penalties to put Edinburgh ahead in the closely fought encounter. The conditions made running rugby increasingly difficult for both sides and mistakes started to creep in.
The next to offend at the breakdown was Edinburgh and Patchell fired over a 29th minute penalty to bring Scarlets level at 6-6. Weir was starting to have a real influence on the contest and it was his kick-through on the half hour that created the game's opening score for Allen.
Scarlets fullback Liam Williams made a mistake as he misjudged the kick, allowing Allen to scamper over the try-line and touchdown. Weir added the extras to put Edinburgh 13-6 ahead. The visitors pressed the self-destruct button in the final seconds of the half, first, second row Jake Ball was needlessly sin-binned.
And then seconds later, Williams produced an appalling kick that ricocheted off the legs of an Edinburgh player and into the hands of a grateful Bradbury who raced to the corner to score. Weir added the extras to leave the score at 20-6.
Bradbury was yellow carded within minutes of the second half starting as he was penalised for a dangerous tackle on David Bulbring. Phil Burleigh was next in the sin bin on 53 minutes for Edinburgh, illegally playing the ball on the floor, his departure allowing Patchell to knock over his third penalty of the evening.
Scarlets were much-improved in the final 20 minutes but they were unable to turn their territory and possession into points as Edinburgh bravely hung on. The visitors twice thought they had gone over in the final few minutes but Edinburgh defended stoutly to ensure they hung on for their first win of the season.
Tries: Allen, Bradbury
Cons: Weir 2
Pens: Weir 2
Pens: Patchell 3
Yellow cards: Jake Ball (Scarlets, 38); Magnus Bradbury (Edinburgh, 41); Phil Burleigh (Edinburgh, 52)
Edinburgh: 15 Glenn Bryce, 14 Michael Allen, 13 Sasa Tofilau, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Duncan Weir, 9 Nathan Fowles, 8 Magnus Bradbury, 7 John Hardie, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist (captain), 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Rory Sutherland.
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Kevin Bryce, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Hamish Watson, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Blair Kinghorn, 23 Solomoni Rasolea.
Scarlets: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Hadleigh Parkes, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Scott Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Aled Davies, 8 John Barclay, 7 James Davies, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 David Bulbring, 4 Jake Ball, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Ken Owens (captain), 1 Wyn Jones.
Replacements: 16 Ryan Elias, 17 Luke Garrett, 18 Peter Edwards, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Josh Macleod, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Dan Jones, 23 Aled Thomas.
Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)