Kearney helps Leinster close in on top two
PRO12 SUNDAY WRAP: The returning Dave Kearney went over for a try double as Leinster cruised to a 40-14 win over Benetton Treviso at Stadio Monigo.
The result allowed the Irish province to close the gap on the Pro12 top two.
* In the other Sunday match Tiernan O'Halloran's late drop-goal propelled Connacht back to winning ways in the Pro12 as they snuck past Cardiff Blues 19-13 at Cardiff Arms Park.
We look at the Sunday matches!
Benetton Treviso 14-40 Leinster
The returning Dave Kearney went over for a try double as Leinster cruised to a 40-14 win over Benetton Treviso at Stadio Monigo to close the gap on the Pro12 top two.
Kearney was starting his first game since last October when he injured his ankle against Cardiff Blues and the wing showed that his finishing instinct has not be affected by the lay-off.
Rory O'Loughlin crossed for the opening score in the opening two minutes before Kearney's double, and efforts from Adam Byrne, Joey Carbery - also returning from injury - and Bryan Byrne helped the Leinstermen move within three points of second-place Ospreys.
Treviso got on the scoreboard through No.8 Robert Barbieri and wing Andrea Pratichetti but they still slipped to a 12th defeat in the 14 meetings between the sides.
With 11 players away on international duty, Treviso's much-changed line-up could not have asked for a worse start as they conceded a try with less than two minutes played - Ross Byrne cleverly dinking over the top following a line-out for O'Loughlin to collect and slide over.
Byrne duly added the extras before Leinster demonstrated their defensive capabilities as Mick Kearney and Jamison Gibson-Park both produced huge tackles in their own 22 to deny the Italians.
Treviso continued to pressure and Byrne was forced to produce a try-saving tackle on Pratichetti midway through the first half.
But the Italians were made to pay for not converting their territorial dominance into points as Dominic Ryan made an initial break in midfield and the ball was worked wide for Dave Kearney to score - Byrne adding the extras.
And 14-0 became 21-0 shortly after as Kearney again went over in the corner and Byrne stayed perfect from the tee.
To their credit, Treviso got on the board before half-time as Barbieri barrelled his way across the line to narrow the deficit to 14 points at the break.
A scrappy start to the second period was ended on 50 minutes as Adam Byrne notched the bonus-point try, when a solid scrum set the platform for the ball to be spread through the hands and the 22-year-old finished the move. Ross Byrne again nailed the tricky, touchline conversion for a 28-7 lead.
Pratichetti dotted down for a nicely-worked try shortly after but visiting fly-half Carbery, making his return from the injury sustained in Europe against Northampton Saints, had an instant impact after coming off the bench as he burrowed over the whitewash with 15 minutes left.
And there was still time for Bryan Byrne to grab a sixth try for Leinster as he benefitted from an inexorable driving maul to complete a 40-14 triumph that narrowed the gap on Pro12 table-toppers Munster to four points.
For Benetton Treviso
Tries: Paulo, Pratichetti
Cons: McKinley 2
Tries: O'Loughlin, Kearney 2, Byrne 2, Carbery
Cons: Byrne 5
Yellow card: Francesco Minto (Benetton Treviso, 70)
Benetton Treviso: 15 David Odiete, 14 Andrea Pratichetti, 13 Tommaso Iannone, 12 Alberto Sgarbi (captain), 11 Luca Sperandio, 10 Ian McKinley, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Robert Barbieri, 7 Dean Budd, 6 Marco Lazzaroni, 5 Teofilo Paulo, 4 Filippo Gerosa, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Federico Zani.
Replacements: 16 Davide Giazzon, 17 Nicola Quaglio, 18 Matteo Zanusso, 19 Francesco Minto, 20 Guglielmo Zanini, 21 Enrico Francescato, 22 Michael Tagicakibau, 23 Andrea Buondonno.
Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Rory O'Loughlin, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Dan Leavy, 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Richardt Strauss (captain), 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Andrew Porter, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Ross Molony, 20 Peadar Timmins, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Barry Daly.
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant referees: Rhys Thomas (Wales), Andrea Spadoni (Italy)
Cardiff Blues 13-19 Connacht
Tiernan O'Halloran's late drop-goal propelled Connacht back to winning ways in the Pro12 as they snuck past Cardiff Blues 19-13 at Cardiff Arms Park.
Connacht hadn't won in the league since December 3 and looked like heading for another defeat as hosts Cardiff led 13-0 with half-time approaching thanks to Gareth Anscombe's boot and a Nick Williams try.
But just before the break Matt Healy went over for the visitors and the boot of John Cooney levelled matters just after the hour mark.
Connacht then had two opportunities to seal the win only for Niyi Adeolokun and Healy to fluff their lines with the tryline in sight, but O'Halloran held his nerve with two minutes left before Craig Ronaldson added a penalty to silence their hosts.
Cooney had the first chance to trouble the scoreboard after Blues' Georgian prop Anton Peikrishvili failed to roll away, but the scrum-half's third-minute penalty was blown wide by the wind howling around Cardiff Arms Park.
But Anscombe made no mistake with his three-pointer after 11 minutes, and he doubles the home side's lead midway through the first half from 45 metres after Connacht flanker Jake Heenan was caught off-side at a ruck.
Both teams were looking to keep the ball in hand but as the half progressed Cardiff Blues began to press home the advantage and bagged the game's opening try on 28 minutes.
Centre Willis Halaholo, who was only starting following the late withdrawal of Steve Shingler, weaved his way through the Connacht defence and the Blues kept probing until No.8 Williams forced his way over, Anscombe adding the extras.
But two minutes before half-time the visitors got back in the game after several phases left wing Healy ran over with Cooney making the tough conversion out wide.
That meant Connacht trailed by just six points heading into half-time and five minutes after the break they reduced the deficit further as Cooney split the uprights following an Anscombe effort that rebounded off a post.
And Connacht's comeback was complete on 64 minutes as the hosts were pinged just inside their half and Cooney nailed the lengthy penalty, with defences having dominated much of the second period.
It could have been so much better moments later as full-back O'Halloran surged towards the Cardiff tryline, but right wing Adeolokun couldn't gather his pass.
And lightning struck twice with five minutes remaining as Healy was in space on the left wing only to drop the pass with the tryline in sight.
With two minutes to go Carty missed with a drop-goal attempt but O'Halloran showed him how it was done moments later before Ronaldson held his nerve from the tee to snatch victory for Connacht.
For Cardiff Blues:
Pens: Anscombe 2
Pens: Cooney 2, Ronaldson
Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan, 14 Blaine Scully, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Steve Shingler, 11 Rhun Williams, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams (captain), 8 Nick Williams, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Macauley Cook, 5 James Down, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Anton Peikrishvili, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Marc Thomas, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Seb Davies, 20 Sion Bennett, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Willis Halaholo, 23 Tom James.
Connacht: 15 Tiernan O'Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Stacey Ili, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 John Cooney, 8 John Muldoon (captain), 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Sean O'Brien, 5 James Cannon, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 JP Cooney, 2 Tom McCartney, 1 Denis Buckley.
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Ronan Loughney, 18 John Andress, 19 Naulia Dawai, 20 Nepia Fox-Matamua, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Tom Farrell, 23 Danie Poolman.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant referees: Elia Rizzo (Italy), Aled Evans (Wales)
TMO: Stefano Penne (Italy)