Leinster edge Warriors in dramatic match
PRO12 FRIDAY WRAP: Leinster took another step towards finishing on top spot come the end of this Pro12 campaign after getting the better of Glasgow Warriors in one of the most dramatic finales of the season at the RDS Arena.
Dominic Ryan and Rory O’Loughlin scored within the first ten minutes as the hosts enjoyed an electric start in their final home game of the regular season – an effort that included a record-breaking score.
Peter Dooley ensured a third came before the break, but Warriors fought back with Adam Ashe's try early in the second half while Lee Jones and Finn Russell crossed to put the Scots into the lead.
But it proved not enough in the most dramatic of circumstances as Leinster moved eight points clear ahead of Munster as Joey Carbery kicked the decisive penalty, with a home semifinal already guaranteed in their bid to lift the Pro12 trophy – all after the lights went out in Dublin.
Edinburgh scored three tries in the final ten minutes to snatch a thrilling 24-20 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons.
The referee awarded captain Grant Gilchrist a last-gasp try with the ball buried under a pile of bodies, as Edinburgh surged forwards from a scrum.
They had trailed for much of the match against a well-organised Dragons side, who led through tries from Pat Howard and Carl Meyer.
But Blair Kinghorn and Damien Hoyland hit back, before Edinburgh’s pack did the rest.
Gareth Anscombe scored 20 points as Cardiff Blues beat Italian side Zebre 30-24 in a thrilling Pro12 encounter.
Both sides opened up in the second half, with some sublime pieces of skill – but Anscombe was a cut above with both boot and ball-in-hand as Cardiff tightened their grip on seventh place.
Tomos Williams was also supreme for Cardiff as he scored, while Aled Summerhill scored one of the Blues’ best try of the season.
Cardiff finish their campaign against Newport Gwent Dragons next week, while Zebre host Benetton Treviso.
Leinster 31-30 Glasgow Warriors
It was the Warriors who were on the board first as Peter Horne kicked three simple points from the tee to make the most of his side’s early pressure.
The rest of the opening stages belonged to the Irish side though, as a beautiful pass from Noel Reid set Adam Byrne away, with Dominic Ryan the man finding the gap to cross after just a few minutes.
Following that came a moment of Pro12 history, as O'Loughlin crossed after confirmation from the TMO – the 652nd score of the season, the most the competition has ever seen.
Glasgow were not going to give up in their bid for a strong finish to the campaign however, with Horne once again kicking expertly from the tee to close the gap to 12-6 from the 10-metre line.
Leinster responded in kind though thanks to Ross Byrne's penalty, and a killer blow came five minutes before the end of the first half as Peter Dooley crashed down when he profited from a maul off the line-out.
That gave the hosts the half-time lead at the RDS, but it was to be cut very quickly after the break as Adam Ashe bundled over, once again rewarding a quick start to the half for the Warriors.
But Leinster's bid for a bonus point was not to go without its reward as Zane Kirchner crossed on the hour mark with Reid and Byrne once again pulling the strings at the RDS for the bonus point.
Still, Warriors kept pushing though, narrowing the gap to 28-23 as a superb break from Ali Price at halfway saw the ball eventually in the hand of Jones, with the wing making no mistake to set up a thrilling last 15 minutes.
And a superb turnaround was completed when the Scots took the lead for the first time since the opening minutes with some rugby deserving of taking the advantage.
Finn Russell was the man to finish off a brilliant move, stretching and holding on to slam the ball onto the turf, converting his own kick to move into a 30-28 lead, with just five minutes left to play.
Leinster showed exactly why they are top of the pile however, as Joey Carbery kicked a penalty with the clock rapidly ticking down, embarking on a one-point ball game.
But just as it looked as though Leinster would hang on to the win, Glasgow kicked a penalty deep into home territory, only for the turnover to lead to a huge slice of relief in Dublin.
Just as it seemed nothing else could add to the drama, the lights went out in the RDS Arena – with just 90 seconds left to play in a crucial finale.
When play eventually restarted Glasgow were in possession, but they couldn't quite do enough to force the points, left on the wrong end of a 61-point thriller.
Tries: Ryan, O'Loughlin, Dooley, Kirchner
Pens: Byrne 2, Carbery
Tries: Ashe, Jones, Russell
Cons: Horne, Russell 2
Pens: Horne 3
Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Rory O’Loughlin, 12 Tom Daly, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Ross Byrne, 9 Nick McCarthy, 8 Dan Leavy, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Mick Kearney, 4 Ross Molony (captain), 3 Mike Ross, 2 James Tracy, 1 Peter Dooley.
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Ian Nagle, 20 Peadar Timmins, 21 Jamison Gibson-Park, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Noel Reid.
Glasgow: 15 Tommy Seymour, 14 Leonardo Sarto, 13 Nick Grigg, 12 Sam Johnson, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Peter Horne, 9 Henry Pyrgos (co-captain), 8 Adam Ashe, 7 Chris Fusaro, 6 Tim Swinson, 5 Jonny Gray (co-captain), 4 Brian Alainu’uese, 3 Sila Puafisi, 2 Fraser Brown, 1 Alex Allan.
Replacements: 16 Pat MacArthur, 17 Gordon Reid, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Rob Harley, 20 Matt Fagerson, 21 Ali Price, 22 Finn Russell, 23 Alex Dunbar.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Rhys Thomas (Wales), Simone Boaretto (Italy)
TMO: Alan Falzone (Italy)
Edinburgh 24-20 Newport Gwent Dragons
Edinburgh made four changes to their side, including an entirely new front row with George Turner making his first start of the season at hooker.
The Dragons also made changes, with props Thomas Davies and Brok Harris drafted into the side – making the battle up front intriguing.
The Welsh side started brightly, winning an early penalty which they sent into Edinburgh's 22 – but the hosts regrouped and denied them by forcing a penalty of their own at the ruck.
But Edinburgh moved ahead shortly after, through a Jason Tovey penalty.
The flyhalf's kicking from hand was superb in the first half, as he kept the Dragons pinned back in their own 22.
But the Dragons remained firm, soaking up Edinburgh’s pressure – before scoring the first try of the match through wing Pat Howard, who dotted down in the left-hand corner after a sweeping move from right to left by the Dragons' backs.
And Edinburgh's first half got worse minutes later as Tovey was forced off with an injury, replaced by Duncan Weir, although he comes back later in the contest.
The visitors stretched their lead just before the break through an Angus O'Brien penalty, as they continued to march towards an away win.
And it got better after the break as fullback Carl Meyer scored their second try of the night.
Blair Kinghorn thought he had scored just after the hour-mark, but it was disallowed and the referee brandished a yellow card to Allan Dell for a no-arms clearance at the ruck.
But they showed plenty of spirit, and the fit-again Tovey supplied a delightful pass to Kinghorn to score with eight minutes left.
And it got better shortly after, with Tovey again pulling the strings and Hoyland finishing neatly before a late push forward saw the ball grounded late on.
Tries: Kinghorn, Hoyland, Gilchrist
Cons: Tovey 3
Tries: Howard, Meyer
Cons: O'Brien 2
Pens: O'Brien 2
Edinburgh: 15 Glenn Bryce, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Junior Rasolea, 11 Rory Scholes, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Nathan Fowles, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Viliame Mata, 5 Ben Toolis, 4 Grant Gilchrist (captain), 3 Simon Berghan, 2 George Turner, 1 Allan Dell.
Replacements: 16 Ross Ford, 17 Murray McCallum, 18 Kevin Bryce, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 John Hardie, 21 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Blair Kinghorn.
Dragons: 15 Carl Meyer, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Sam Beard, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Pat Howard, 10 Angus O’Brien, 9 Charlie Davies, 8 Ollie Griffiths, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Lewis Evans (captain), 5 Cory Hill, 4 Matthew Screech, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Thomas Rhys Thomas, 1 Thomas Davies.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Buckley, 17 Phil Price, 18 Craig Mitchell, 19 Rynard Landman, 20 Harrison Keddie, 21 Owain Leonard, 22 Geraint Rhys Jones, 23 Tom Prydie.
Referee: Dan Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Wayne Davies (Wales), Cammy Rudkin (Scotland)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)
Cardiff Blues 30-24 Zebre
Cardiff Blues were without veteran skipper Gethin Jenkins, who was ruled out through injury – with fellow Wales international Rhys Gill taking over in the pack.
Aled Summerhill returned to start on the wing, while Tomos Williams and also starting in place of Lloyd Williams.
It was a special day for Zebre centre Tommaso Castello – who led the side for the first time.
But Castello and his side spent much of the first ten minutes on the back foot, with Alex Cuthbert and Willis Halaholo threatening – while Gareth Anscombe booted over their first points of the night with a penalty.
Zebre struggled for territory and with the Blues pouncing on them at every breakdown, more penalties seemed inevitable when Anscombe successfully kicked the second of the night.
And the flyhalf scored the opening try of the match mid-way through the first half as a superb pass from Ellis Jenkins and Nick Williams released him in the corner.
Anscombe may have dominated the first 20 minutes, but it was Summerhill who set Arms Park alight with a stunning try – bursting round the outside of a floundering defence, before standing up the fullback and diving over in the corner.
Williams was later sin-binned for a dangerous tackle, but Zebre struggled to take advantage as the two sides exchanged penalties.
Zebre pushed hard early in the second half and almost scored a fine try, as lock Federico Ruzza intercepted a loose pass inside his own half and sprinted clear.
He was eventually caught two metres short, and the Blues won a penalty.
But they did not have to wait long to score under the posts as a penalty try was awarded after repeated scrum infringements five metres out, with the Blues' Taufa’ao Filise in the sin-bin.
However, Zebre's bubble was quickly burst as a clearing kick was charged down by Williams, and the scrumhalf dived on the ball first to score the Blues' third.
Williams thought he had a second, and Cardiff's fourth, minutes later with a sensational individual score as he weaved his way through and dived over in the corner – but the referee spotted a knock-on earlier in the move.
And Zebre went up the other end and got their second of the match through Maxime Mbanda, setting a new record for the number of tries scored in a Pro12 season.
Their comeback appeared to be halted by Dario Christolini's red card for foul play, but Dries van Schalkwyk scored a late try to confirm they secured a bonus point.
For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Anscombe, Summerhill, T Williams
Cons: Anscombe 3
Pens: Anscombe 3
Tries: Penalty Try, Mbanda, Van Schalkwyk
Cons: Canna 2, Palazzani
Yellow cards: Taufa'ao Filise (Cardiff Blues), Nick Williams (Cardiff Blues), Sion Bennett (Cardiff Blues)
Red card: Dario Chistolini (Zebre)
Cardiff Blues: 15 Rhun Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Willis Halaholo, 11 Aled Summerhill, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Tomos Williams, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Ellis Jenkins (captain), 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Macauley Cook, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Taufa'ao Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Rhys Gill.
Replacements: 16 Kirby Myhill, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 James Down, 20 Sion Bennett, 21 Lloyd Williams, 22 Steve Shingler, 23 Matthew Morgan.
Zebre: 15 Edoardo Padovani, 14 Kayle Van Zyl, 13 Giulio Bisegni, 12 Tommaso Castello (captain), 11 Mattia Bellini, 10 Carlo Canna, 9 Marcello Violi, 8 Derick Minnie, 7 Jacopo Sarto, 6 Maxime Mbandà, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 Pietro Ceccarelli, 2 Oliviero Fabiani, 1 Andrea Lovotti.
Replacements: 16 Tommaso D'Apice, 17 Guillermo Roan, 18 Dario Chistolini, 19 Joshua Furno, 20 Andries Van Schalkwyk, 21 Guglielmo Palazzani, 22 Kurt Baker, 23 Matteo Pratichetti.
Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Nigel Correll (Ireland), Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)